Why am I running
Simply put, I’m running because I know I have the skill, experience and passion to address the changing face of the legal profession. I am the immediate past president of the Ontario Bar Association, an organization representing 15,000 lawyers, judges and law students. I am an experienced corporate governor. I have worked directly with the LSO at a high level for years. I am a leader in legal technology and practice innovation. I believe to my core that the legal profession should remain self-regulated.
The LSO budget calls for $142.54 million in gross expenditures, and projects that the deficit will rise to more than $8.7 million this year, from more than $7.5 million last year. The budget is spent on “operations in support of the law society’s strategic priorities, core functions and the priorities of Convocation”. A close review of ‘strategic priorities’ through the lens of the public interest needs to happen. Questionable expenditures like the 1.2 million dollar public awareness campaign are worthy of scrutiny. To the extent that fees due from lawyers are exacerbating access to justice problems, a review of fee allocation and payment should similarly be undertaken.
Access to justice
This is the socio-legal crisis of our time. With over 70% of legal needs NOT being met by legal professionals, and those that are waiting interminable lengths and spending small fortunes, the crisis of Access to Justice is at a tipping point.
Absent a new approach to delivering legal services, coupled with intense and maintained pressure on government to modernize the courts, the public we serve will continue to languish and where possible, find their answers from unregulated and often substandard sources.
Legal professionals need the space, support and guidance necessary to address the challenge. No longer can the answer be that legal professionals work for free, as has been the suggestion since before I was called and is largely the solution offered today.
Dozens of U.S. jurisdictions have certain minimum expectations regarding a legal professional’s ability to effectively use technology. Email, word processing, PDF software are no longer a choice. They are the basic tools of the trade and the public should know that the profession considers familiarity with these simple tools to be a part of what it is to be a competent legal professional. No one is asking that we all learn how to code, but without basic technological competence we are doing ourselves and those we serve an inexcusable disservice.
There must be a call for all of us to recognize the increasingly important role technology plays in the practice of law.
Equality, Diversity & Inclusion
This isn’t just a human value, it is a relevance value. How can a profession trusted with guarding the rule of law - the equal application of all just laws to all, equally - carry out that role effectively and with credibility when that profession does not reflect those whom they purport to represent in that struggle? The simple answer is that they can’t. Our profession must work harder and faster to ensure that the face of the profession reflects the diverse, pluralistic society in which it exists. In so doing we not only meet basic concepts of justice, fairness and equity, but we unlock previously denied abundance of thought, perspective and experience. It is a trite truth that groups with diversity of thought, belief, experience, culture are more successful than homogeneous groups. We must embrace this challenge simply because it’s right, and in so doing garner the benefits that are bestowed.
The recommendations set out in the Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group need to be implemented in the near term. It is a road-map of minimums that we should treat as a starting point and direct concerted effort toward.
The bylaw amendment allowing entity based regulation has been brought to convocation for information purposes and accepted. It sits in limbo while opportunities to have a more dynamic, responsive legal profession are missed. In the age of process automation designed to increase efficiency and eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort on repeated tasks and project management, the ability to regulate the organization responsible for creating and operating those systems is essential. No one wants a single legal professional to be regulatory grist for the mill of the regulator by virtue of them following a process put in place by the entity in which they work. Not only is it unfair, but it fails to address the cause of the problem giving rise to the regulatory intervention. However, the additional burden on practitioners occasioned by the regulation must be a key consideration when developing the regulatory process.
legal Education & Pathways to Licensing
Until a substantive tripartite conversation takes place between the academy, the regulator and the profession, crushing education costs, barriers to licensing and the realities of market forces will be discussed in splendid isolation with no solution in sight. There can be no answer to one question without an answer to all questions. They are inextricably intertwined. The regulator is an integral partner in generating the solutions, communicating them to all stakeholders and shaping their policies and approaches to support the new reality that is the profession of law in Ontario.
These barriers to practice are impacting access to justice and as such the LSO has a duty to address the problem with all the resources at its disposal.
Solo and Small Firms
Increasingly there is a disconnect between what small firm practitioners are expected to do for their clients, the economies around those expectations and the regulatory landscape in which the lawyer works. Small and solo practitioners are community leaders. They are problem solvers and system navigators. They are trusted advisors with people they know and call neighbours. A voice is needed at convocation that can speak to the reality of that practice setting and the supports that are required to serve the public. It is in the public interest for the regulator to not only tell lawyers what they can’t do, but to make space for what they can. A LSO responsive to the unique and important function that the small firm lawyer plays in the legal fabric of our province is overdue and necessary.