Ontario Benchers Lose Their Extravagant $75,000 Annual Dinner

I received from a friend, Banack Bencher News #114. This newsletter is sent out by Ontario Bencher, Larry Banack. What caught my eye was the following provision:

The Treasurer has cancelled the Law Society’s traditional end of term dinner which had recognized the hard work of Benchers and the sacrifice of our families. This will save about $75,000.00 [emphasis added]. This small step will hopefully be a prelude to more significant savings to reduce the high cost of self-regulation. It is in conjunction with the CEO quest for improvements to achieve operational and cost efficiencies to ensure that the Law Society will be on a sound financial footing for the future.

If you’re like me, then the fact that one dinner for Benchers had a price tag of $75,000.00 totally blew your mind.

What are earth were they thinking of in years past?

That they were entitled?

Mr. Banack’s comment about, the “hard work of Benchers and the sacrifice of our families” certainly has the scent of entitlement – which is even more incredible in the midst of a Senate entitlement scandal!

No one forced any Bencher to run for office. If giving back to the profession and being paid an honorarium is not enough for Benchers, then they have no business running for office.

Kudos to the Treasurer and the CEO for showing leadership, restraint and some savvy public relations thinking.

Cutting $75,000.00 does not make a dent in the Law Society’s approx. $100 million budget that exploded under the Law Society’s former CEO and former Benchers (many of whom are still Benchers today). But it does give the membership renewed hope that the new sheriff in town is serious about the Law Society’s finances.

I hope that CEO Robert Lapper will be given all necessary support to take a hard look at all that our Law Society does – and to question why things are being done, and how they are being done.

Nothing should be off the table.

Nothing should be sacrosanct.

Fiscal responsibility has been sorely lacking for too many years so I’m glad to see that efficiency and cost savings are finally back in vogue at the Law Society in this province.

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Comments

  1. Ginger Goodwin

    kowalski seems to be enamoured by bread and circuses. without any context, to condemn on the face of it, a practice without the relevant facts is questionable if not foolhardy. his showboating and dog parading columns are very simply getting worse over time. no applause or laughter now, if there ever was. marginal at best. luxuriating, basking and preening in the conventional wisdom of the day with a touch of of a 3 stooges’ prank : off the stage, time for the hook.

  2. Mitch, the end-of-term dinner was not just for benchers and spouses or significant others. It was also held to thank many of the Law Society stakeholders and members of the judiciary who also contribute in meaningful ways to the activities of the Law Society. Most of the guests are not benchers.

    I can say that the internal memo I sent to benchers announcing my intention to cancel the event was well-received by benchers, new and old. I believe that all of them recognize that this gesture is a statement about Convocation’s commitment to ensuring that the Law Society finances remain on solid footing.

    You are right that the LSUC’s annual budget approaches $100 million, but to say it “exploded” is really hyperbole, in my respectful view. Our membership has exploded in recent years. We now regulate over 44,000 lawyers and 5,000 paralegals. Interestingly our staff per membership ratio has remained steady over those years. The increase in our budget is related to the increase in membership and a few big-ticket items, like mortgage-fraud prosecutions, which are complex and expensive, but I am sure you will agree, necessary to protect the public interest.

  3. Thanks for the clarification Mr. Treasurer.

    Even if the group is larger, the Law Society should never be footing the bill for such an extravagant affair. To put it into perspective, the cost of this party is far above the median salary of Canadians – this kind of lavish spending must end.

    Member fees must be used cautiously. If LSUC was a government agency, a similar use of public funds for such a party would never be permitted. LSUC should show similar restraint with member fees.

    While I appreciate that the membership is grown I don’t believe there is a direct correlation between more members and such a massive budget. Better efficiency could accommodate the growth.

    As for mortgage fraud, some of that expense is used in bringing Benchers (with no experience in real estate) up to speed on the issues so that they can adjudicate the matter. This is wasteful and a better process needs to be created.

    Often LSUC seems to shrug its shoulders and say “it costs what it costs” then increase membership fees to cover those additional costs. I see very little consideration among Benchers for the cost of anything at LSUC. The membership is seen as a bottomless pot of funds.

    There seemed to be no appetite – until now – for a focussed and disciplined approach to cost-saving and efficiency.

    I’m very happy that you and our new CEO are on this.

    I hope that there is a target (say 5% savings year-over-year) and appropriate tactics, to get LSUC running leaner.

    You may be aware that Nova Scotia’s Law Society appears to be aggressively re-evaluating its role and its costs. It may prove to be a good model to follow.

  4. what a come down for chicken little. seems the sky is not falling —- again….

  5. Malcolm L. Heins

    Kowalski should get his facts straight when referring to the Law Society Budget.

    Between 2001 and 2012 lawyers’ annual fees only went up 2.5% in face of cumulative inflation of 26.%. The increase in the $ amount of the total budget, which increased 38.3% in that period, was on account of the increase in the numbers of regulated lawyers – up 44%, and the need to bolster the regulatory mandate of the Society in face of increasing complaints and complex prosecutions.

  6. Ginger,

    Your comments would carry much more weight if you had the courage to use your real name.

  7. Mr. Heins,

    Thank you for your comment.

    A more impressive accomplishment would have been, “no fee increases over the past ten years and a reduction in costs over the same period despite the challenges of complex prosecutions.”

    LSUC needs a CEO with a vision that is more than “stay the course.”

  8. Ginger Goodwin

    Mitch here is a pseudonym for you courtesy of Viz April 2913 p. 40: Dalai Larga: n. In a public house, a man who, when suitably bitten by the brewer’s horse, spouts endless words of wisdom. (Roger’s Easter Profanisaurus)