Candidate bio description
So, a little about me. I have been practicing law for 30 years and have built a small family law firm in Kanata, Ontario, that employs four lawyers. I still feel it is a privilege to practice law and I plan to do so for many years to come. Centered in Ottawa, my practice extends through most of Eastern Ontario from Pembroke and Perth through to Brockville and Cornwall. I am a member of various and diverse legal and mediation/ADR groups including the Advocates’ Society. For over ten years I was a regular columnist for the Lawyers Weekly. I had the privilege and fun of writing articles under the sobriquet, “In the Trenches”.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
It might approach hyperbole to suggest that, “I am mad as hell and not going to take it any more”, however that sentiment captures my distress and disquiet at how the Law Society is morphing into something far different than a self-regulating body that protects the public. That must stop and I want to help. I am running because I want to see the Law Society return to fundamentals including a focus on the core functions of regulating lawyers and protecting the public while living within our means.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
There is no "one" biggest issue facing the legal profession. At the start of the 21st century we have come to something of a crossroads that sees us face a myriad of issues including access to justice, reducing the both the size and spending at the Law Society, an articling/law practice model that ensures competent practitioners, the impact of technology in all its various guises and all of those issues and more approached from a thoughtful and non-ideological perspective. There has been rather too much focus on ideology of late and not on discharging the Society's core mandate of protecting the public and regulating the profession.
What would be your first priority upon election?
To work with my fellow Benchers to ensure that we engage in rational and thoughtful discussions not driven by specific politics or ideology. I am committed to seeing the Statement of Principles (SOP) removed as a mandated requirement. Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity are laudable ideals that should be fostered and encouraged but not in the form of mandated speech. As a requirement from the governing body SOP amounts to compelled speech and is a patently ideological intrusion into the practice of law.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
• Revoke the Statement of Principles (SOP) Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity are laudable ideals that should be fostered and encouraged but not in the form of some mandated Statement of Principles (SOP). As a requirement from the governing body SOP amounts to compelled speech and is a patently ideological intrusion into the practice of law. For the first time in its over two hundred year history, the Law Society has blatantly politicized the practice of law. It is neither a political nor a proselytizing organization. SOP must go!
• Reduce both spending and the size of the Law Society We have to get a handle on the rampant spending at the Law Society. The Society has a bloated infrastructure and is running huge deficits to maintain such largesse. The fact is that overspending, deficit financing, has been going on now for years. There is no reason to be running a deficit. We ought to focus on fiscal responsibility and living within our means. It is deeply disturbing that the Society’s budget has more than doubled in just under twenty years and it is shocking that our Law Society fees have increased by 30% in the last three years alone. Enough!
• Reignite the access to justice dialogue Access to justice is a complex issue that ought to be approached in a rational, practical, non-ideological and thoughtful way. We owe a duty to the public to ensure that there is ready access to the legal system. For a myriad of reasons the pressures on the legal system have grown exponentially over the past 40 years while government spending on the very same legal system has not. With apologies to Mark Twain, this issue is akin to the weather, everyone talks about it but no one ever does anything? That must change and the Law Society owes the public a duty to address this issue now and head on. A first step would be to have the Law Society help educate the public about the realities and costs of practicing law in the 21st century.
• Refocus on the Law Society’s Core Mandate The Law Society must return to fundamentals including focusing on its core functions of regulating lawyers and protecting the public. Before spending money on this initiative or that social justice initiative, the Law Society should get the fundamentals right.
• Reform the articling/law practice model The articling/law practice model must be overhauled so that those choosing to practice law can do so competently and professionally. We owe a duty to the public to ensure that everyone who undertakes the practice of law is properly equipped to do so. Medicine has a residency program that helps ensure doctors are properly trained. We must ensure that the articling system can produce a like result for lawyers.
• Revamp and Retool the discipline process As anyone who has ever received the dreaded “Personal & Confidential” letter from the discipline arm of the Law Society will know, the way the Society goes about discharging its discipline functions is sorely in need of reform and a comprehensive overhaul.
• Recognition that the majority of members, oops, licencees are from solo or firms of less than ten lawyers We small and solo practitioners are the majority. We are seemingly overlooked or ignored by what I dare say is a Torontocentric world. This is not a “slam” at Toronto or a “dig” at our colleagues in the office towers of Bay Street but rather a plea for balance in the Society’s deliberations and focus.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
Perhaps less of a focus on Toronto and more of a thought to what it is like for the rest of us practicing in Ontario. We small and solo practitioners are the majority. We are seemingly overlooked or ignored by what I dare say is a Torontocentric world. This is not a “slam” at Toronto or a “dig” at our colleagues in the office towers of Bay Street but rather a plea for balance in the Society’s deliberations and focus.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
Revoking the Statement of Principles (#StopSOP) Last year a group of like-minded lawyers came together over their shared opposition to the Statement of Principles (SOP). I am one of those lawyers. I am against compelled thought and mandated speech. I firmly believe that the vast majority of lawyers are against compelled thought and mandated speech. It is beyond imagining how the Society is forcing lawyers to proffer some ideology regardless of how benign or meritorious. The devil is very much in the details and, as every lawyer ought to know, details, like facts, matter. Who knows what the Society may want us to believe or say or do next year or the year after that? Much like the White Queen, who effortlessly believes six impossible things before breakfast, that might work in Wonderland but it has no place at the Law Society. The very notion that there is some singular statement of principles that we must espouse is alien to a strong and independent Bar. My concerns about the SOP are three fold. First, the very notion of a mandated ideology is so vile and contrary to our age old traditions of liberty and independence that it defies credulity how anyone would suggest such a thing. Second and much like any such trope, the diversity, inclusivity and equity proponents cannot get past formulating a useful definition much less a practical implementation. It is all well and good to say one is for these ideas; it becomes quite another matter what that translates into in practice. Whose notion of equality? To achieve “equality” do we preference one group over another? Aren’t we all equal before the law. Third, the best of intentions often lead to unintended and negative consequences. Barriers are not breached through mandated thought. Some say simply, “oh just tick the damn box and say you are for diversity, inclusivity and equity”? This was effectively one speaker’s suggestion at a recent Runnymede debate. How disingenuous. How does such an attitude promote the Rule of Law and protect the public. It flies in the face of one of the Society’s core functions and brings the administration of justice into disrepute. I can also hear people asking, “what’s the “big deal” Well, if the Law Society mandated that we had to publish “approved” religious views for all the world to see would the reaction be the same? It is simply no one’ business what we believe. It is certainly not the business of the Law Society, one’s clients’ or the public-at-large. What one thinks or does not think about a deity or deities or the complete absence of same is off-limits and so too should be the Statement of Principles. One can easily imagine something like that happening 100 years ago. What’s the difference today? Happily, we have evolved to where such intrusions are not countenanced. We cannot sit idly by when the very same overreach is at work. The answer cannot lie in the alleged virtuousness of the end, in this case a Statement of Principles, for, without a doubt, one would have been met with the same moral certitude a century ago about religion. Mandated thought reduced to a “statement” for which there is some punishment for non-compliance is inherently vile. It is simply wrong. At no time in over 200 hundred years has the Law Society sought to mandate what we believe and profess to our clients. I do not make it a practice to ask prospective clients about their personal politics because even racists ought to have access to the legal system. How is the racist who wants a divorce going to view me when I trot out my personal Statement of Principles?