Dear Fellow Members of the Law Society of Upper Canada:
I am running for Bencher because I have loved practicing law these last 20 years, and believe I can make an important contribution to the legal profession through service as a Law Society Bencher.
I will bring the important perspective of the small practitioner to Convocation’s deliberations. For close to 20 years, I have conducted a sole litigation practice. I work every day to bring the justice system to ordinary people. I, like you, am their advocate. I believe so very strongly in our system of justice. Those who receive, as we have as lawyers, must give back. We have a rich tradition in Ontario of outstanding lawyers and judges who have given their time in service to the profession and the administration of justice. I wish to do the same on your behalf as a Bencher. My platform revolves around two principal themes: (1) the sustainability of Legal Aid; and (2) the promotion of assistance and mentorship for younger lawyers.
In November 2006, a distinguished Task Force of Benchers published a Report on the Independence of the Bar. The Task Force emphasized that the rule of law cannot exist without independent lawyers. We instinctively know this to be true, but do not always think of the implications. For the rule of law to function, there must be access to lawyers. The lawyer of choice must be there. I therefore wish to focus on a subject which poses a threat to access to independent lawyers, the sustainability of Legal Aid. I have been a member of the Legal Aid Area Committee in civil and criminal cases for the past 16 years. I have seen first hand the importance of the Legal Aid Plan to the administration of justice. If we are to ensure fair trials for accused persons in criminal cases, and members of the public receive access to justice in family law and other cases, legal aid must be available for those in financial need. Legal Aid finances have deteriorated rapidly and the rates paid to lawyers have been capped for many years. This system is under threat. Without a sustainable funded program, lawyers cannot serve the public by providing counsel the public needs to make the justice system work. It is the responsibility of the Law Society to hold the Government to account and to advocate strongly on behalf of the Legal Aid Plan. As a Bencher, I will do that.
On April 4, 1997, at the age of 86, John Arnup expressed to Convocation his longstanding view: “I believe there is an urgent need to provide legal assistance, as a matter of human rights and common decency to people in Ontario who need that assistance. The good ship Legal Aid is leaking and leaking badly, and it may be in danger of sinking. But I am not going to abandon ship myself. I thought it was time that John Arnup stood up and be counted. I am going to stand on that ship until it either is rehabilitated or it goes down beneath the waters, but I am not going to give up.”
If elected, I will express that same view.
As regards the promotion of mentorship, being a sole practitioner I have never hesitated to pick up the phone to contact more senior counsel for advice. I have never been turned down. I have never been told the lawyer didn’t have time to speak with me. Young lawyers need to know that senior members of the profession will discuss the difficult legal and ethical issues which inevitably arise in practice. While mentorship programs exist, they are not well known. Through its communications with the profession, the Law Society can play a more active role in publicizing existing mentorship programs. As a Bencher, I will also be a strong advocate for the addition of voluntary initiatives which promote the tremendous value of mentorship in the profession.
I ask for your vote and invite you to contact me with suggestions. Thank you for your attention, and please vote for me on Bencher Election Day.
Tel. (416) 360-5444
Fax (416) 365-7702