I am pleased to put my name forward as a candidate for Bencher. I have been a member of Devry Smith Frank LLP for the past 7 years, and was a sole practitioner for 24 years prior to that. My practice areas are real estate, estate planning and estate administration.
Early in my career I was privileged to have several kind and helpful mentors from whose advice and wisdom I benefitted greatly. I have followed their example, and it has been my pleasure to serve as a mentor for law students and young lawyers. This has been a truly rewarding experience.
This is the first time that I have run for Bencher. At this stage in my career I see this as an opportunity to give back to our profession and to invest in the next generation of legal professionals. If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will advocate for our profession and work diligently to maintain your trust.
What Inspired You To Run For Bencher This Year?
There is a need for more solicitors in Convocation. Solicitors need more representation in the body where important decisions which impact their practices are made.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
Access to justice. Effective governance of the legal profession in the public interest requires ensuring that the public has access to competent and effective legal advice and representation.
Lawyers in sole practice and small firms are most often the first point of contact for individuals requiring the services of a lawyer. Convocation must be prepared to continue to invest in tools and mentoring programs for these lawyers, be a leader in the innovation which will permit the next generation of lawyers to meet the needs of members of the public who require legal advice and representation.
What would be your first priority upon election?
To get to know my fellow Benchers and build positive working relationships with them.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
Three issues immediately come to mind.
First, it is my hope that we will make significant progress in making legal services accessible to the public. I applaud the Benchers for the significant progress made to date, and I look forward to the opportunity to build on what they have done.
Second, our responsibility for licencing obligates us to ensure that lawyers are properly trained and equipped to provide competent service and advice. The Law Society’s mandate is described in the LSO web site as follows:
“The Law Society of Ontario governs Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct.
The Law Society has a duty to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.”
We must constantly revisit the articling, LPP, Bar Admission and CLE programs in order to ensure that we are fulfilling our mandate.
In addition, there is a need for a formalized mentoring program. I believe that in the current climate it is imperative that young lawyers have a formal system of access to more experienced members of the bar, and I am committed to work to implement such a program.
Third, there is a need for more solicitors in Convocation, and I look forward to being a voice for them as decisions are made which affect their practice areas.
What’s the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
I will answer this question from the perspective of a solicitor. The real estate market in the GTA has been very active for many years. The majority of solicitors practicing residential real estate practice are sole practitioners or members of small firms.
There is a need for Benchers who understand the pressures and challenges of these practices and the responsibilities of operating what is in fact a small business. The Society must be prepared to continue to invest in tools, programs, and incentives for them, and minimize unnecessary regulation.
There are unique issues facing real estate practitioners. There is an urgent need for consultation with the various stakeholders in the real estate industry regarding the obligations which they continue to place on the real estate bar. These include government, financial institutions, mortgage brokers and realtors. Governments in particular place unreasonable responsibility on lawyers to interpret and police their regulations, collect and remit taxes, and ensure compliance with complex legislation. Convocation does not have authority over these bodies, but does have significant persuasive power to influence their decisions and policies.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
No, I do not support this requirement. We cannot allow a core value of our profession – the sanctity of independent thinking – to be overrun by a well-meant but ill-defined requirement.
It has been painful for me to conclude that I cannot support the Statement of Principles as presented by the Society. It is far too vague, and the terms are not sufficiently defined. Many members worry that it amounts to “compelled speech.” This initiative has caused a rift in our profession, and that is not helpful.
We must work together with members of our profession and other stakeholders, including major consumers of legal services, to make the changes necessary in order to have a truly diverse and inclusive profession. However, in doing so we must recognize that a profession which does not permit differences of opinion and perspective is not truly diverse and inclusive. Education, broad consultation with the profession and open discussion forums will do more to achieve the stated goals than requiring licensees to check a box.
If elected, I will do my utmost to: listen to your concerns, honour your confidence and work on building consensus on this important issue.