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Ian Speers

City of Toronto Electoral Region
Ian Speers

Candidate bio description

A 2009 call, I have operated a sole practice, primarily in real estate law, for the past five years. I appreciate the challenges, stresses, and isolation that can be faced by colleagues in sole practice and small firms. Sole-and-small firms comprise the preponderance of the practicing bar, but this constituency is under-represented at Convocation, as are solicitors in general. I propose to provide an effective voice from these perspectives, to ensure that the regulator properly reflects and responds to the regulated. I have demonstrated experience in governance, advocacy for the profession, and legal education. I am currently serving my eighth consecutive terms on the OBA Real Property Section executive, following two years as Chair (2016-2018). I currently sit on the OBA Council, the Board of the Toronto Lawyers Association, and am Secretary of the CBA Real Property Section. I have taught Land Transactions at Queen’s Law School for the past three years, and now also teach Real Estate Law at Osgoode Hall Law School. During my time as Chair of OBA Real Property, I worked closely with other stakeholders in successfully opposing proposed governmental over-reach into the solicitor-client relationship during the implementation of the Non-Resident Speculation Tax. I have been active in the design and delivery of CPD during my time at the OBA, and have both chaired and spoken at numerous CPD programmes.

What inspired you to run for bencher this year?

I have heard repeated concerns voiced about the lack of sole practitioners, solicitors (particularly real estate lawyers), and younger lawyers at Convocation. Rather than add to the murmurs of discontent, I decided to put my name forward. I believe that my varied background of leadership, teaching, and governance positions in themselves would bring value to Convocation, independent of my having the perspective of a ten-year-call, sole-practice solicitor. My specific experience in real estate will add depth to discussions on topical issues of competence, fraud, and professional responsibility, and my personal passion for legal education will contribute to the LSO’s mandate of furthering professional competence.

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?

Ultimately one of striving to balance the profession’s evolving purpose with the inherent principles of being fiduciaries. Consumer expectations continue to evolve, and technology changes the way legal services may be delivered. What we perceive as core to the being of “lawyer” will perhaps evolve in ways we have yet to fully appreciate. At its core, through the course of any disruption and innovation I believe that the essential aspect of a lawyer that must survive this transformation is that of a learned fiduciary advisor or advocate. There is no higher consumer protection in law than a customer who receives services from a fiduciary – we must preserve this special relationship in a manner that continues to benefit the public, regardless of disruptive market forces that may seek to commoditize it under the false flag of “progress.”

What would be your first priority upon election?

Listening and learning. My top priorities focus on nuts-and-bolts aspects of professional governance, addressing pragmatic matters that aim to help lawyers better serve the public. Clarification of practice guidance and streamlining of compliance inform these priorities, as would efforts to reduce LSO fees. Thus, my first steps would be both to continue to solicit input from colleagues as to areas of concern, while simultaneously building relationships with those within the LSO that are positioned to address these issues.

What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?

I don’t have a specific wish-list, and I frankly do not care about anything that might be described as a "legacy". I want to make the regulator more efficient, user-friendly and cost-effective. I would like to see LSO get its financial affairs in order, to be able to reduce membership fees. I would consider it a satisfying achievement to be able to point to a series of procedural and technical achievements that have allowed individual lawyers to serve the public more efficiently and at lower cost, or that permit members of the public to reach the profession more accessibly.

What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?

On many fronts, pressing concerns coalesce around the legal profession pricing itself out of reach. Cost of legal education, cost of operating a practice, access to justice, and other apparently discreet “pressing concerns” share a common thread that elements of the legal profession exist in a state of grace, increasingly divorced from financial reality. The cost of entry, particularly with law school tuitions that approach the level of obscenity, acts as a substantial impediment to aspiring lawyers. The cost of operation similarly presents an issue: LSO fees and indemnity insurance are higher than many other regulated professions. This burden places stresses on practitioners, many of whom are not making anywhere near the sort of money the public (or regulator) might imagine, and are operating in a saturated market. Cost of living and affordable housing and office space in centres like Toronto compound this problem. The cost of the public accessing the profession similarly causes issues. When I hear some colleagues relating that they could not afford the cost of their own services (a billing reality that is not unrelated to the preceding issues), accessibility of legal services is clearly an issue. While some areas of the profession respond to these consumer realities with block / flat fees or unbundled services, the profession has not systematically responded to this issue. Not all off these issues fall squarely within the mandate of LSO – indeed, addressing fees is perhaps the only quick “fix” readily within its control. Responding to them requires numerous stakeholders to accept that inaction may doom the profession to an irrelevance of its own making. LSO must help foster efforts to this end.

Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?

Yes. Its essential intention is a call for a self-guided and personal meditation on one’s professional and legal responsibilities relating to equality, diversity and inclusion. I consider this self-directed exploration at its core to be a good learning exercise to help put EDI issues in perspective, and not an effort to compel orthodoxy of thought, opinion, or belief. That the messaging and dialogue surrounding this purpose has become garbled does not justify abandoning the exercise.

Poll Question

What do you see as the top issue that prospective benchers need to address if they are elected?