As part of our commitment to transparency and accountability, Legal Aid Saskatchewan conducted a review of our private bar lawyer services and payments process in order to identify gaps and opportunities for improvement. The goal was to streamline the system and present best practices, for things such as standardizing approvals and payments. Standardized processes ensure efficient and consistent decision-making, response and payment to our valued private bar service providers, while remaining accountable to our mission.
Summary: This document provides a status update as of October 2023, including what work has been done with policies and what work is upcoming (such as a technology and process review, and the creation of a private bar satisfaction survey).
Summary: This review supports Legal Aid Saskatchewan's strategic initiatives identifying system, policy and process improvements that enhance service to the private bar, address staff concerns and improve oversight and accountability.
Why did Legal Aid Saskatchewan (LAS) review the private bar billing process?
The private bar billing process has not changed for several years, while the number of private bar accounts keeps increasing. By reviewing the private bar billing process, LAS had the following objectives in mind:
Serving our private bar lawyers better. Some lawyers are frustrated by the lack of clear, standardized billing and payment policies and procedures related to "exceptional circumstances," the slowness at times of payments, and the "cut to accounts" reduced to tariff. The bar would like timely and consistent decision-making.
Supporting our staff. Staff are finding it difficult to keep up with the increase in private bar billings, a process which is manual and paper based. Processing private bar accounts can be made more efficient, reducing staff time.
Becoming more accountable. Management would like to ensure better oversight and reporting to the government and taxpayer.
Did LAS consult with the private bar during the review?
The consultant carrying out the review, Jawad Kassab, interviewed members of the private bar chosen by LAS and Court Appointed Council management based on several factors, including length of service, geographic location, area of law, size of practice. Members of the private bar were also invited to notify LAS if they wanted to be interviewed.
These interviews provided an opportunity for the private bar to share billing concerns and to suggest how billing might be improved. The private bar voice was critical to identifying billing challenges and proposing solutions/recommendations found in the report.
How did LAS consult with management and staff during the review?
The consultant, Jawad Kassab, interviewed key management and staff connected to the private bar billing process, including the CEO, CEO’s admin assistant, General Counsel, Practice Management Counsel, Director of Finance and IT, Accounting Clerks, and the Director of Operations. The consultant held a Legal Directors' focus group to ensure the Legal Director voices were captured in the billing review.
Management and staff were invited to contact LAS if they wanted to be interviewed.
What kind of changes can I expect with implementation of the report’s recommendations? Will I be paid less for the work I do? Will my accounts be cut more often?
The LAS review concluded in June 2022 with specific recommendations. The recommendations focus on:
People and Org Design – ensuring LAS has dedicated and adequate resources (staff, management) to support the private bar
Policies – ensuring clarity and understanding of LAS private bar policies by management, staff and private bar
Processes – simplifying and digitizing LAS billing and payment processes to create efficiency and effectiveness for management, staff, and private bar
Technology – using technology to increase speed and accuracy of billings and payments
Accountability – reducing risk by clear lines of accountability (who is responsible for what)
Performance Measurement – ensuring all LAS billing and payment activity is measured and reported on so that success can be celebrated, and improvements initiated
Private Bar Satisfaction – valuing and celebrating the private bar lawyers who facilitate access to justice for Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable
The recommendations are not focused on paying lawyers less or "cutting" accounts more often. The recommendations clarify billing policies and processes, improve systems and structures of accountability.
Will the private bar be kept informed as the implementation progresses?
LAS’s CEO, Jayne Mallin, announced the beginning of the implementation process by email in October 2022. LAS will keep the private bar informed as implementation progresses through a series of three virtual online sessions, as well as email communications, including Qs & As. LAS would like to hear from you should you have any questions or concerns [insert contact info].
How long will the implementation last?
The implementation kicked off on October 4th, 2022 and is scheduled to be completed by June 30th, 2023. This end date may be extended if needed to ensure a smooth implementation.
Who do I contact if I have questions and would like more information?
Should you have any questions regarding the implementation, please don’t hesitate to contact CEO Jayne Mallin, email@example.com, or Director of Private Bar Services Cameron Schmunk, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check back here for policy review consultation opportunities.
Should you have any questions regarding the implementation, please do not hesitate to contact Legal Aid Saskatchewan's CEO, Jayne Mallin, at email@example.com, or the Director of Private Bar Services, Cameron Schmunk, at firstname.lastname@example.org.