Candidate bio description
I was called to the Bar in 2016 and hung out my shingle in 2017. I practice primarily in the areas of criminal and landlord/tenant law, with a budding portfolio of cannabis cases. My clientele is diverse in every sense of the word. I regularly appear at the Landlord and Tenant Board, Ontario Court of Justice, Superior Court of Justice, and Divisional Court. I graduated cum laude from the University of Ottawa in 2015. I articled at a top-tier Bay Street litigation boutique. The formative years of my career were derailed by depression and struggles with mental health. I was fortunate to have support from my family as well as a caring and supportive firm. It was a humbling experience to hit my personal rock bottom. The process of healing is non-linear, which has been a life lesson about the importance of being patient and kind (both with myself and others). I am frequently called upon by the media as a trusted source for their news stories. My cases and legal commentary have been featured by local, national, and international media outlets including Associated Press, BNN Bloomberg, Canadian Press, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Lawyer, CityNews Toronto, CP24, CTV Television Network, Global Toronto, Globe and Mail, GrowthOp, Huffington Post, Law Times, Ming Pao, NOW Magazine, Sing Tao, StarMetro Vancouver, Toronto Star, VICE News, Winnipeg Free Press, and the Zoomer Report. In my spare time, I enjoy watching professional wrestling.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
I am an independent voice with lived experience as a young brown Muslim woman. I work on the front line of providing access to justice for regular people. I do not pretend to have answers to all of the problems facing our profession, but my perspective will add value at Convocation. I am running for Bencher because I want to serve my community. In the words of Audre Lorde, "When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
We should all be deeply concerned about barriers to entry and practice. It is mind-blowingly expensive to attend law school. The cost of licensing can also be prohibitive for students and recent calls who are not subsidized by employers. This is detrimental to the public interest. The exorbitant cost of tuition undermines access to justice in several ways. It limits the pool of law school candidates to those with access to money and/or credit. It also restricts job options for graduates, since debt makes it less feasible to take on low-paying public interest work. While the LSO cannot control tuition rates, there are ways to encourage law schools to stop price gouging students. For instance, collaborating to develop models of education involving (paid) practicums that count towards articling. At the same time, we need to consider ways to reduce pressure on recent calls. There are lawyers seeking employment who are unable to take on contract work or agency gigs because they cannot afford insurance and licensing fees. It's a perverse and vicious cycle of not being hired due to lack of experience, and not being able to gain experience due to expenses associated with practicing law. The legal field is finally closing its chapter of blatant and overt discrimination. We must now turn to more insidious roadblocks to access to justice. I worry that our earnest conversations about equality, diversity, and inclusion will be rendered meaningless if we do not address barriers to entry and practice.
What would be your first priority upon election?
If elected, my first priority would be to listen, observe, and gather my bearings at Convocation. In my relatively short time as a practicing lawyer, I have learned the significance of gleaning wisdom from individuals with more experience. At the same time, I am not shy to ask questions. More concretely, I would support an initiative to publish certain LSO forms and webpages into languages other than French and English. I am surprised this has not already been done.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
In keeping with the LSO mandate of protecting the public interest, I would spend the next four years advocating for programs that support lawyers and paralegals. The public is best served by happy, healthy, and competent legal practitioners. LSO members should not be afraid to seek guidance on ethical questions or practical problems. We need affordable CPD, strategic support for members on parental or other leaves of absence, practice management solutions for solo and small firms, work-sharing arrangements, precedent databases, subsidies for lawyers below certain income thresholds, and improved access to mental health initiatives. I cannot promise to achieve all (or even any) of these reforms, but I can commit to raising such considerations at every possible juncture.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
I am a downtown girl. My office is located in the heart of Chinatown, which is a stone's throw away from several courthouses and tribunals. There are so many opportunities to be seized. At the same time, Toronto is extremely intense. It is expensive to survive, which creates pressure to take on increasingly heavy workloads. There are continuous demands from all sides: clients, opposing counsel, the courts. As a result of the foregoing, one of the most pressing concerns for the profession is burnout. It is difficult to maintain work-life balance. It is also challenging for new lawyers to break into the market, which creates a different kind of stress. I think that increased mentorship and work-sharing options could benefit Toronto lawyers and paralegals. The practice of law does not have to be zero-sum.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
I think the Statement of Principles requirement is a good first step, but it is also the least we can do. As a general rule, we should be cautious about symbolic gestures as a substitute for concrete action. Those who doubt the reality of systemic racism in the legal profession need a history lesson. For instance, Indigenous peoples were literally prevented from hiring lawyers until 1951. Meanwhile, receiving professional training resulted in losing Indian status, which meant giving up the right to live on reserve, vote in band elections, or inherit property from indigenous lands. The legal field was effectively off-limits for Indigenous students, on pain of being stripped of one's identity. We no longer see such flagrant discrimination, but the damage has not been rectified. We still do not have Indigenous representation in law proportionate to the general population, to say nothing of over-representation in provincial and federal carceral institutions. The disparity in numbers does not reflect a lack of talent or ability, but rather a lack of opportunity to pursue legal careers. The Statement of Principles is simply a reminder to stay alert and attuned to matters of equality, diversity, and inclusion. If we allow any sort of conscientious objector status, members exercising that option should be required to pay an administrative levy to fund diversity initiatives.