Roster Update

Tariff modernization update

July 13, 2022 — Summer has arrived in Alberta! We hope you are enjoying the season far. Here at LAA, we’ve been making good progress on modernizing the tariff. Let’s bring you up to speed.

What’s happening with the tariff?

In May of this year, LAA and the Government of Alberta announced that LAA had been given the go-ahead to propose a fully modernized framework for the tariff to replace the current, outdated structure. LAA intends to propose a new framework for the tariff to the Ministry in October 2022 – if approved, we would seek to implement the new tariff for April 1, 2023.

The tariff rate of $92.40 is not in the scope of this initiative. The tariff hourly rate is and will continue to be the sole responsibility of the Ministry. No matter what tariff framework is proposed, the hourly rate will remain the same.

LAA is directed to stay within the current funding envelope – the proposal of a new tariff framework to the Ministry will not include a request for an increase in funding. The goal is to maximize the funding that LAA does have through the proposed modernized tariff framework.

However, that doesn’t mean that LAA won’t pass on important feedback about the tariff rate and our findings when building the financial model and comparing our tariff to other provincial tariffs. It’s just that LAA can only submit changes to tariff structure – not changes to tariff rates. As mentioned above, that is ultimately the decision of the Ministry – but the tariff still needs to be modernized now. We can’t wait any longer.

So, what’s the point of modernizing then?

You may be wondering what the point of all of this is if we’re not responsible for changing the rate.

A modernized and simplified tariff framework will still make a difference in your practices even if the hourly rate does not increase. This renewed tariff is intended to do more than just deal with how our roster are compensated for doing LAA work. We also strive to:

  • Simplify certificate management and handling.
  • Make it easier to bill under the tariff.
  • Ensure adequate compensation for substantive work required and performed on a file.

In other words, it needs to be much easier to work with LAA – your valuable time (and compensation for that time) needs to be spent on the client, not on overcoming administrative hurdles within the LAA systems.

What has LAA done so far?

This tariff review is long overdue. We are sure you’ve heard some rumors about what might be happening (or what is not happening). So, what stage are we at?

Our consultation plan throughout the summer involves several consultation committees to help LAA build out a solid proposal for a new tariff that will be accepted by the Ministry and our roster partners.

Most importantly, we have gathered two Roster Committees (one criminal and one family/immigration) comprised of 8-10 representatives from the Alberta bar and various lawyer associations that we can meet with on a regular basis throughout the summer.

We are on a tight deadline for a proposal to the Ministry, so we can’t discuss every possibility for a new tariff and we can’t expect this first revision to 100 per cent address all identified issues with the tariff. There are tariff structures that are currently working for other Legal Aid plans across Canada, and we have consulted/considered those frameworks and how they can work for Alberta too.

At this stage, only initial consultations have been done with the committees to discuss some basic concepts that could be included in a new tariff framework like in other legal aid plans, such as:

  • Proper categorization of offences/legal issues by complexity and/or jeopardy (i.e., no more level 1).
  • Block fees that can build on one another as files evolve and reflect work required on a file.
  • Streamlined hourly case management and administration of additional hours for complex cases.

There will be ongoing consultation with these committees and with all our roster partners across Alberta as we move toward September.

Current step: financial modelling

We are currently gathering our financial data and financial modelling to present some real-life examples of what a new tariff framework and compensation under the new tariff could look like.The first step will be to share this financial modelling – it will also allow us to have a frank conversation about potential financial impacts that the roster is concerned about.

While the hourly tariff rate cannot be increased with the new tariff, the current outdated structure of the Tariff results in too many compensation ‘absurdities’ to be truly sustainable for Alberta’s Legal Aid plan or our roster members. A major goal of the new tariff framework has to be to balance or normalize these absurdities. in effect, redirecting and redistributing LAA’s funding to ensure reasonable compensation for complexity of work performed.

Consider the following example:

Or how about this example:

See what we mean?

The tariff structure itself simply does not provide any reasonable compensation for the hard work you are doing for disadvantaged Albertans. Additional hours are discretionary – meaning they aren’t promised and take significant administrative time to properly request. There is no consistency for our roster nor is there any stability for Legal Aid Alberta.

A new tariff framework will solve these issues. It is not about saving money for LAA or the government, it is about ensuring access to justice for Albertans and providing quality counsel who are adequately compensated for the hard work they are doing and not the number of administrative steps they take.

Next steps

Throughout July and August, we will be continuing to consult with our internal and external committees on the financial modelling and real-life examples to show what a new tariff framework could mean for the ‘bottom lines’ of all our roster – from the sole practitioner with no assistant to the medium/large firm with support staff. From those who take one certificate a year to those whose practices are primarily LAA clients.

Of course, we want to present these examples to you as well and ensure you are involved in the conversation.

How you can get involved

We will be hosting online learning events soon so you can see the financial models and examples, and discuss the tariff structure with us. Keep an eye on your inbox for invitations to sign up.

Roster Management Strategy Committee

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