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Janis Criger

Central South Electoral Region (CS)
Janis Criger

Candidate bio description

I was the first person in my family to go to law school. I graduated in 1983 and was called in 1985. I worked with Gerald A. Swaye for the first ten years of my career, took a family break for a couple of years, then started a tech-adept litigation (personal injury, medical malpractice, insurance contract interpretation) practice in my home in Hamilton. I practiced from home for 11 years, then moved to an office downtown and practiced there for another 9 years, until 2015. I gave up active practice in 2015 but continued my work as a Deputy Judge of the Small Claims Court (since 1996), and became a very active Bencher.

What inspired you to run for bencher this year?

I did not run in 2011, because I understood that the time commitment would probably bankrupt my sole (very sole: me, a part-time assistant, a couple of very powerful computers and a document management programme) practice. I ran in 2015 and was pleasantly surprised to win. I have enjoyed my first Bencher term. The policy work is interesting and challenging. I am very active at the Law Society Tribunal, the independent discipline body, as a member of both the Hearing and Appeal Divisions. As I am no longer in practice, I am flexibly available for meetings and hearings and have been able to devote plenty of time to my Bencher duties. I hope to continue to do so.

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

All the issues are big. It's impossible to choose one. In no particular order: the speed of technological advance and getting our licensees up to speed; making experiential training, in whatever form, coherent and fair so that we have competent lawyers from the day they are called; helping our licensees stay mentally healthy; the ever-present and multi-factorial issue of access to justice, which includes the factors of Pro Bono funding and law school tuition.

What would be your first priority upon election?

To continue participating on the Technology Task Force, where we are exploring the issues related to regulating the use of technology in the practice of law. We want to achieve a proper regulatory framework to protect the public while encouraging the use of emerging technology.

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

A bit more governance reform, although I do not support the 'skills-based, appointed corporate board' approach. I'd like to see licensees with specific skill sets (e.g. real estate solicitors, technologically adept practitioners, licensees with less than 10 years' experience) invited to sit on a Committee. Committees are where policy is developed. A regulatory framework for the use of, and competence in, emerging technologies. Continue to develop a consistent body of jurisprudence for licensee discipline which emphasizes fair hearings on proper evidence, with timely reasons for decision. The jurisprudence, available on CanLII, is important to show how the Rules of Professional Conduct are interpreted in relation to specific acts.

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

In our region, library funding is of particular importance. I support proper, stable library funding. Library funding is an issue where there is a geographic divide in the perception of libraries' importance. Outside Toronto, law libraries are very important for sole practitioners and small firms. Librarians assist with research questions. Libraries provide free access to costly databases. The library premises, provided at no cost by the Ministry of the Attorney General in courthouses, provide a place where sole practitioners and small firm lawyers can congregate, to take advantage of brainstorming, mentoring and social opportunities. These enhance collegiality and encourage competence and civility in the profession.

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

Yes. In the last election, I said I would do everything I could to support diversity in our profession, as I had observed elements of our qualification process that looked unfair to me. At the debate in December, 2016, I initially did not support the SOP. However, during the debate I came to understand that the Committee consisted of people who experience the unfairness on various intersecting bases, and that I really do not. I decided to defer to their better-informed opinions as to what is required to try and accelerate a culture shift in our profession, so I voted in favour of the SOP. Events since then have convinced me the SOP is appropriate.

Poll Question

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