FOLA urges LSO benchers to support ‘sustainable’ funding of courthouse law libraries

By Amanda Jerome

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 25, 2022 @ 10:48 AM

Law360 Canada (October 24, 2022, 2:51 PM EDT) -- The Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA) issued an open letter to benchers at the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), urging them to “support full and sustainable funding” of courthouse law libraries, “now known as practice resource centres, or PRCs,” when they vote on the budget this week.

It is “imperative,” the letter stressed, that benchers “understand and support” the Legal Information and Resource Network (LiRN) and that the LSO’s budget “provide sustainable funding that accounts for annual increases of collection and staffing costs (which include inflationary pressures and other subscription increases, such as the 10 to 12 per cent hike in loose leaf fees we are seeing).”

The letter, written by FOLA chair Douglas Judson, stressed that “law librarians, library staff, and the collections of PRCs across the province enable legal professionals to access the resources required to do their job and to provide quality service to clients across Ontario.”

Douglas Judson, Federation of Ontario Law Associations

Douglas Judson, Federation of Ontario Law Associations

Judson explained that LiRN is a “not-for-profit corporation responsible for centrally supporting and coordinating the county and district law library system.” The network is made up of 48 PRCs across the province and its mandate is to “ensure that the services and programs of PRCs meet the evolving needs of licensees and the public.”

“LiRN is funded through the annual licensing fees collected by the law society from lawyers,” the letter, issued Oct. 18, added.

Judson noted that the “importance of PRCs has been affirmed on multiple occasions over their long history, including as recently as May 26, 2022, when Convocation approved the Final Report of the Competence Task Force, which states that ‘the competent provision of legal services requires access to legal information.’ ”

He also stressed that “qualitative data collected for the Competence Task Force report found that library users attach tremendous value to legal information and library services.”

“Legal information services play a key role in the development, maintenance, and enhancement of licensee competence. The report also points out that ‘[a]s sole practitioners and small firms provide the overwhelming majority of legal services to individuals, families, and very small businesses, these practices are crucial in providing access to justice and their viability should be a priority for the Law Society,’ ” the letter explained.

Judson also emphasized the access to justice implications of supporting law libraries by noting that LiRN helps make “practice more viable and affordable, particularly outside of larger centres and larger firms.”

“The practice and legal information resources supplied through bulk purchasing by LiRN affords access to valuable online information that are otherwise unaffordable to sole and small practicing lawyers,” he wrote, noting that “services provided by Thomson Reuters (Westlaw), Lexis Nexis, and vLex alone would cost a sole practicing lawyer almost $8,300 per year if purchased individually.” (The Lawyer's Daily is published by LexisNexis Canada.)

Judson stressed that FOLA members believe that “law libraries are essential and critical to their practices.”

“Well stocked, staffed, and sustainably funded PRCs enable all legal professionals to carry out the legal research required of them on behalf of their clients and pursuant to their obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct. PRCs also serve as a vital resource for disseminating local practice directions and court information,” he added.

Jennifer Wing, an LSO spokesperson, told The Lawyer’s Daily that the budget “will be included with the other Convocation agenda materials that will be posted today on The recommended budget addresses law library funding.”

“Convocation will discuss the budget at the meeting and make their decision,” she added.

Based on incorrect information from The Federation of Ontario Law Associations, a previous version of this story stated that the LSO would be voting on the budget in November. It will in fact be voting this week.

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