Small Firms and Sole Practitioners
The LSO needs to be responsive to the needs to small firms and sole practitioners while not losing focus on the original mandate of the Society to regulate lawyers and protect the public interest. Effectively regulating lawyers does not mean additional bureaucratic process.
The LSO must instill confidence in their members who predominately practice in small firms – that their voice is heard.
Financial Accountability to members is of paramount importance. This includes holding the line on membership fees and ensuring that the LSO budget balances.
In my view there is no need to have deficits. In addition, the LSO needs to be vigilant in understanding the potential cost to members of any by-laws and regulations imposed. LSO programs should be reviewed regularly to ensure efficacy and cost effectiveness.
Diversity in the Profession
I have a clear first hand understanding of the requirement for diversity in the profession, and the need to work to break down barriers that may exist for entry to the profession. My family is from Trinidad and my ethnic origin includes Lebanese and Syrian ancestry. The LSO needs to foster efforts to remove barriers and encourage diversity in the profession, however, simple statements required to be signed by members will not fulfill this goal. The LSO should encourage meaningful mentoring within the profession and provide CPD credits, or other incentives for those that undertake this. I am in favour of promoting and encouraging diversity in the election of benchers but am not in favour of mandating representation.
The Pregnancy Leave benefits for lawyers provided by the LSO should be reviewed. Women only receive the benefits if they have gross billings of less than $50,000 in the preceding 12 months; this is a restrictive threshold that excludes many women.
With many students unable to find traditional articling roles the LSO should look for ways be creative in its approach to Licensing. The LPP should be carefully reviewed for effectiveness. The LSO must also be diligent in guarding against the exploitation of students.
The LSO must be vigilant in prosecuting lawyers for significant offences. However, they must strike a balance between protecting the public interest and proportionality in disciplinary measures, especially when dealing with sole practitioners and small firms. I recently had a discussion with a sole practitioner whose license was suspended on an interim basis by the LSO, while he had a non-violent criminal case pending in court. In my view taking away their ability to earn a living was not a proportionate response as he essentially was found guilty before his case was heard. I would also work to streamline complaints which are frivolous. I believe a lawyer’s time and energy is better spent attending to their clients’ needs rather than responding to unmeritorious accusations.
The Nuts and Bolts
In 25 years as a litigator I have obtained skills of problem solving, respectfulness and pragmatism. I will bring these skills to the role as bencher. I believe that benchers have a difficult job to do but through honest effort and vigorous debate we can come to decisions to address the challenges facing the legal profession in Ontario. I encourage any colleague to contact me directly to further discuss the issues or their concerns. If elected I promise to engage colleagues in the issues and gain broad input before voting on controversial issues. I would be grateful for your consideration and support. For further information my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my direct line is 416-323-3614.