The Law Society of Ontario launches the second phase of its communications campaign this month, in a special push to reach lawyers and paralegals.
The campaign, which began May 6, is an extension of the “our society is your society” ads, published across the province over the past seven months on buses, subway cars and CP24. The new phase addresses not only members of the public but also licensees, says LSO Treasurer Malcolm Mercer.
The new campaign focused on lawyers and paralegals is called “Your Source,” which Mercer says updates lawyers and paralegals on law society resources such as continuing professional development sessions, the Coach and Advisory Network mentorship program, practice management guidelines, legal research technology, mental health resources from the Member Assistance Program and the confidential coaching provided by the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel.
“We think that it’s important that lawyers and paralegals understand the resources and supports that the LSO provides for them — that’s true for their practices and it’s true so we can better ensure that the public receives competent and appropriate services,” Mercer says. “We think it’s useful to provide more information so we know what’s available. On the the public side, the public doesn’t have sufficient information on legal resources, whether that’s how to find a lawyer or paralegal or how to find legal information. When people have legal problems — divorce, child custody, need small claims court representation — they don’t know where to start and we want to help change that.”
The public-facing aspect to the campaign, titled “start here,” was outlined in the law society’s 2015-to-2019 strategic plan. The law society said in that plan that it wanted to drive “heightened engagement” and create “greater accountability, transparency and collaboration.”
A past law society survey found that “most people in Ontario are not familiar with the Law Society and its regulatory role,” prompting the professional regulator to take several steps, including swapping its historical name, The Law Society of Upper Canada, to the revised Law Society of Ontario.
It also launched a new website. Mercer says that most visitors to the new site and directory are members of the public.
“It’s gratifying and significant that such a high percentage of visitors to the law society website are from the public,” says Mercer. “That’s a good sign that we are starting to reach the public and they see value.”
The regulator has invested significant resources in the public awareness campaign, budgeting $600,000 in 2018 and 2019 for a total of $1.2 million — and more resources could come before the board of directors after this summer, according to the LSO’s 2019 budget.
Some candidates who ran in a recent election for the law society’s board were critical of the LSO’s spending, as the organization’s total budget reaches $142.5 million. In an annual report this month, the law society said that a “post-campaign survey showed positive response to the campaign with a clear understanding that the Law Society is there to help members of the public.” However, Mercer says, it is still early.
“The truth is that this is a project that is going to be evaluated once it's completed. It’s best not to draw premature conclusions,” Mercer says. “It’s for the new Convocation to . . . reach conclusions. We haven’t done the work yet to benchmark and assess it yet and we will.”