LawPro – campaign contributions 2015 – A Rant

The pinch of sending out a cheque to LawPRO for mandatory errors and omissions insurance coverage in early February is still palpable. In part this may be because it is the biggest cheque I write every year for law office expenses. For 2015 the sum was $3,861. Perhaps you can relate.

To put that in some perspective it is equivalent to 1,544 500mil cans of Smithwicks ale, or a little over 4 tallboys a day, every day of the year. I wish I paid less in E&O insurance so that I might buy a few more Smithwicks.

The newspapers recently reported that LawPRO was a contributor to the Liberal by-election campaign of G. Thibeault in the Sudbury riding. LawPRO gave Glenn the maximum corporate donation for this campaign, $9,975. or the equivalent of almost 4,000 cans of Smithwicks.

You might ask why would Glenn want 4000 cans of Smittys? The question is specious. A more compelling question is: what the heck is LawPRO doing sending Glenn almost 10 grand? And tangentially, who else is on the receiving end of these political donations from LawPRO, and for how much? Feel free to convert whatever answers you might get to these questions to the cost of tangible items of a discretionary nature that you may fancy so as to better relate to the quantum.

Here’s my beef. The mandatory payments I am obliged to make to be a L1 licensee should not be used to fund political campaigns. Best I can figure, to be a member of this honourable profession of law in Upper Canada I am compelled to purchase E&O insurance coverage from LawPRO. Compelled as in ‘no choice’.

It may not surprise the reader to learn that being required to buy E&O insurance from LawPRO is a notion I can abide. That said, the million dollar minimum coverage has long struck me as being a bit rich for many lawyers.

What I have trouble abiding is how some portion of my mandatory premium payments find their way to support political candidates in their election campaigns. In my view neither the Law Society of Upper Canada nor LawPRO should use its mandatory member fees to support candidates in political election campaigns.

At some general level, I believe there ought to be a clear distinction between the functions of a regulatory body and an occupational advocacy group.

LSUC is our regulatory body. LawPRO is a wholly owned subsidiary of the LSUC (far as I know). And I imagine that a subsidiary of a regulatory body ought not to have a greater range of functions than the regulatory body itself. In other words, if the regulatory body cannot do something, the subsidiary company ought not to be able to do it either. And as a general proposition I do not believe that regulatory bodies should participate in the political arena by supporting particular candidates for office.

For clarity, I have no problem whatever with lawyer groups with voluntary membership getting actively engaged in the political process. If the Ontario Bar Association, or the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association or any other professional group with optional membership wishes to support political candidates with donations, go for it. But the LSUC and LawPRO are fundamentally different and should avoid political contributions.

Another concern is the lack of openness or transparency (to use fashionable terminology) by LawPRO as it concerns these political payments. I’d like to know about these practices from the source and not from some newspaper report. I regularly read the material that LawPRO and the Law Society put out. I have never seen either openly acknowledge that it makes campaign contributions to certain politicians or political parties. And, not that it’s conclusive, but a search of LawPRO’s web site yields no matches for “political campaign contributions”.

Let me close by saying my beef is not that LawPRO funds went to Glenn Thibeault or to the Ontario provincial Liberal party. While I carry a brief for neither, I wish both Glenn and the current Ontario government well. I’d like to believe that our local community may benefit from having a sitting MPP on the government side. But in my view no candidate and no party should get funding from professional bodies that burden me with compulsory payments.

 

by Michael Hennessy