Editorial: LSUC on wrong path with treasurer pay

It would be easy to argue that now isn’t the time to increase the Law Society of Upper Canada treasurer’s honorarium.

With dark economic clouds looming and federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty revising his budget plans, it’s obvious that the LSUC’s timing in increasing the next treasurer’s honorarium to $175,000 from $108,000 this year is bad.

The law society had likely been considering the increase previous to the recent barrage of bad economic news.

Still, with many Canadians set to receive minimal wage increases in the coming months and the possibility of more job losses, boosting the next treasurer’s remuneration by 62 per cent comes at the wrong time.

Still, it’s worth considering whether, beyond the issue of timing, the treasurer should receive a more generous honorarium anyway.

As a report to Convocation noted, Treasurer Laurie Pawlitza works more hours than her predecessors did.

In fact, she devoted 1,859 hours to treasurer’s activities in her first 12 months in the role. That works out to nearly 36 hours per week for a role that’s not meant to be a full-time job.

Pawlitza is certainly busy. In a memo to the finance committee, she noted she gave 99 speeches and attended 600 LSUC-related meetings during the first 12 months. At the same time, it’s clear that the treasurer’s role and the scope of the LSUC’s work are growing in complexity.

The introduction of the continuing professional development requirement, for example, shows that the law society is doing more to regulate the profession. Undoubtedly, the treasurer must take an active role in those changes.

It’s clear, then, that the treasurer provides value to the profession that can justify an increase. But given that the treasurer’s honorarium isn’t meant to replace the billable hours a person would otherwise earn or represent a salary, there’s a reasonable argument that the law society shouldn’t be providing remuneration on the basis of hours worked.

The LSUC isn’t necessarily doing that even with the increase but it’s nevertheless trying to bring the honorarium more into line with the demands of the job.

On a broader level, the increase is reflective of many organizations’ efforts in recent years to compensate people more fairly given the increasing complexity of their jobs.

At the same time, after years of austerity during the 1990s, many employers, particularly in the public sector, decided to play catch-up.

There’s nothing wrong with that in general, but it’s clear that with the economic slowdown, large deficits, and a public aversion to tax hikes (or, in this case, increases to law society fees) to pay for more generous remuneration, we can no longer afford to continue the way we have.

On the issue of treasurer remuneration, the LSUC could have at least phased in the increase. In addition, if it truly believes it’s necessary to increase what the treasurer receives given the changing role, it should consider Bencher Julian Falconer’s suggestion of putting the LSUC’s highest elected official on a salary.

In the meantime, it’s worth asking whether society can keep on the path of bureaucratic creep and the resulting cost increases it has been on for the past few years.
— Glenn Kauth
For more information, see "LSUC treasurer gets $67K boost."

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