Candidate bio description
François Baril is a partner in the Gowling WLG Ottawa office. His practice is focused on litigation, with an emphasis on health care, including professional liability, professional discipline and regulatory issues. François also practises in the area of competition law. He advises both foreign and Canadian clients on all aspects of competition law, including merger clearance, distribution issues, pricing issues, investigations and enforcement actions. François has appeared before a number of different courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, the Tax Court of Canada, all levels of the Ontario Court, the Yukon Supreme Court and Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. He has also appeared before a number of federal and provincial administrative tribunals. His trial experience includes civil jury and non-jury cases, as well as criminal cases and arbitrations before the International Chamber of Commerce. François has been with Gowling WLG since his time as an articling student in 1996, aside from a period in 2003-04 when he took leave to work for a large U.S. firm in Washington, D.C. During that time, he acted for Canadian softwood lumber producers and other international clients involved in trade litigation with the U.S. He returned to Gowling WLG in the fall of 2004. François was an instructor at the Law Society of Upper Canada Bar Admission Course for several years. He is a part-time professor at the University of Ottawa, where he teaches competition law and lectures on trial advocacy. François is a past president of the AJEFO (Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario). He is also a past president of the Vanier Community Services Centre. Benchmark 2019 – Litigation Star Chambers 2018 – Notable Practitioner, Health Law Lexpert 2018 Leading Practitioner, Health Law Member of the Supreme Court Advocacy Institute Part-time professor of competition law at University of Ottawa since 2005 Member of the CCLA CPD Accreditation Committee since 2014 Frequent speaker at various CPD events.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
Through my involvement with the AJEFO I have worked for the last tens plus years to improve access to justice for francophones in Ontario. I think I can leverage that experience and effectively contribute to the broader access to justice challenge. As a part-time professor at the Univestity of Ottawa since 2005, I have seen first-hand the challenges facing law students. I believe we need to ensure a clear, accessible and fair pathway to licensure. The LSO should carefully monitor the effects of its latest iteration of the licensing model and remain open to adjustments to address the changing needs of the profession and of those seeking to join it. To remain credible and relevant, the Law Society of Ontario needs to carry out its mandate innovatively, fairly, proportionally and in the public interest. I want to ensure those values am committed to bringing those values to Convocation. For more information please consult: www.francoisbaril.ca.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
Meaningful access to justice is the overriding issue. If the public is to continue to have faith in the rule of law, then justice must be accessible. There is a role for the profession but it cannot do it alone. Government must make a commitment to the issue. Legal aid clinics remain underfunded, particularly in rural areas. Afin d’assurer un accès égal à la justice en français, le Barreau doit appuyer ses membres francophones et francophiles et servir le public en français. Certes, il y a eu progrès depuis les dix dernières années, mais il reste du travail à faire et ce particulièrement dans les régions rurales. Technological changes are another major issue. i.e. New service models, AI, big data and block chain technologies. These developments present opportunities for lawyers, clients and the administration of justice but also carry risk. They require new skill, new standards, and adapted best practices. The LSO needs to proactively guide the profession through this evolving landscape and develop the appropriate regulatory framework and member support.
What would be your first priority upon election?
The East region is large and diverse. My experience is that of a civil litigator in a large Ottawa firm. In order to properly represent the region at Convocation I would, as a first order of business want to reach out to colleagues across the East Region Which includes Belleville Pembroke Renfrew Hawkesbury, l'Orignal kingston and Cornwall and across practice areas to canvass their opinions and understand their concerns and what they expect from their LSO. I would want to leverage my connections with the AJEFO and the CCLA to make sure I effectively bring a broad perspective to Convocation.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I have particular interest in the impact of technological changes on the profession. I think this issue cuts across all practice areas and has not received the attention it deserves. I would like to see the LSO adequately prepared to deal with these challenges and lead rather than react. Having been a past president of the AJEFO I have first hand knowledge of some of the issues minorities face when they seek to access justice. I hope that convocation can have a meaningful role in securing the resources that are necessary to improve the current situation particularly with respect to legal aid. I would also like to contribute to restoring a healthier relationship between the Bar and the LSO. It seems to me that the relationship is at times adversarial with the Bar perceiving LSO as needlessly intrusive. The current debate around the SOP is illustrative of this.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
“The profession” is an amorphous term. I am well aware that different lawyers face different concerns and challenges. The East region is large. It includes Ottawa but also a number of medium sized centers and a host of small towns. If I have to pick one concerns that is common to all practice areas then I would have to say its access to justice. It goes to the public trust in our profession and in the judicial system. It has practical impact on our everyday practice when we have to deal with self represented parties or with clients who can't afford adequate or full representations. There is no single solution. Increased and stable legal aid funding is one aspect. So is continued adequate funding for regional libraries. Digitalisation is not a replacement for the benefits of a staffed library. The East region has a high concentration of francophones. The previous AG sponsored a pilot project at the Ottawa courthouse to improve access to justice in french. I was very involved in that project and I would like to see the recommendations of that pilot project implemented on a permanent basis in Ottawa and across the East region, particularly in the criminal and family courts.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
Yes. I support it. The LSO must do more to explain and promote it and to debunk some of the misconceptions around it.