Civil Litigation, The Profession

LSO should address hole in cost protection market: Lesage

By Kirsten McMahon, Managing Editor

Toronto litigator and bencher candidate Michael Lesage says the doors are shutting to sole practitioners and small firms across the province when it comes to purchasing legal cost protection — but this could present an opportunity for the Law Society of Ontario (LSO).

“I used to be able to call and purchase cost protection on a few files a year,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I have a small and varied practice, so this worked well. I didn’t have to submit every single one of my files or maintain a certain minimum volume."

This is no longer the case, says Lesage, who practises insurance, business law, personal injury, malpractice and other liabilities with Michael’s Law Firm.

“My experience is that if you’re opening at least 20 files a quarter, then you can get coverage no problem. However, if you operate a small firm like me, and only need coverage for five or 10 files a year, you’re well below their minimum threshold.

“This is just one more example of how it is becoming less economical to run a small firm,” he says. “Basically, you’re faced with the choice to team up with larger firms on files you could handle yourself and split the fees, or you run the file without cost protection insurance and expose clients to unnecessary financial risk.

“It’s certainly an unpleasant and unwelcome development,” Lesage adds.

He says this is ultimately an access-to-justice issue that will increasingly affect small firms across Ontario, but the LSO could act proactively and take the lead.

“In other jurisdictions and industries, group insurance plans are available to members. The LSO could partner or develop relationships with one or more of these insurance providers so that lawyers like me could represent clients adequately and pursue access to justice on their behalf,” Lesage says.

He says he's running for bencher because it's time for a change.

"Faced with an ineffectual Ministry of the Attorney General, bottlenecks within the courts, having called too many lawyers to the bar, and having failed to adapt to technological change, Convocation debates whether it prefers tea over crumpets," Lesage says.

His election platform highlights a handful of pressing issues the province’s regulator should be addressing, including:

  • Embracing simple cost-saving technologies (i.e. e-filing and online viewing and service of legal documents)
  • Increasing civil expenses that currently result in a loss to lawyers, the public and justice writ large
  • Lowering annual fees which are higher than what professionals in other industries pay

Forty lawyer benchers will be elected — 20 from inside Toronto and 20 from outside. The deadline for voting is April 30, 2019 at 5 p.m.

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