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Jeff Cowan

City of Toronto Electoral Region
Jeff Cowan

Candidate bio description

Partner of WeirFoulds LLP. Former Managing Partner. Public law (including professional self-regulation) and real estate litigation, arbitration and mediation. Co-editor, with Derry Millar, of Ontario Annual Practice. Member of Secretariat of the Civil Rules Committee, Divisional Court Users Committee, Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice Administrative Law Committee, Advocates’ Society, OBA, Toronto Lawyers Association, ADRIO. Head of Public Law Section of Bar Admission Course and thereafter member of the BAC Barristers Bar Advisory Group. Past director Advocates’ Society, past Chair and current executive member of OBA Administrative Law Section. Recipient of the SOAR Medal for outstanding service to the administrative justice system of Ontario and OBA dedicated service award. Recognized by Lexpert, Best Lawyers, and Martindale-Hubbell.

What inspired you to run for bencher this year?

The need for continued change. The legal profession and the LSO have undergone significant change and face many challenges as a result of globalization, rapid technological advances, the diversity of Ontario, and available government and LSO resources. The LSO has a leadership role in addressing and managing change in a quickly evolving legal environment. On a personal note, I have three daughters who are professionals, one a 2013 call. I am aware of the issues facing young lawyers in their practices and careers. The examples of my partners, Raj Anand, whose term as a Bencher is about to end, and Derry Millar, a past Bencher and Treasurer, strengthened a commitment of service to the public and the profession.

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

Ensuring the legal profession remains independent, provides legal services effectively and efficiently, and promotes access to justice. This requires pro-active self-regulation in the public interest. Members of the public and lawyers must have confidence in the regulator, which must be representative of the profession and the communities it serves.

What would be your first priority upon election?

The LSO has embarked upon many initiatives in recent years. This election will reflect members’ responses to these and identify new issues. My first priority will be to work collaboratively with those who are privileged to be elected to establish meaningful and achievable priorities for the 2019-2023 term. My experience has taught me that active listening and strategic planning are keys to effective change. Action on priorities then requires commitment to change and hard work.

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

1. Improved access to justice through ongoing collaboration and advocacy with government, courts and tribunals, and other justice stakeholders. The particular circumstances and needs of the administrative, civil, criminal and family justice systems, and the public, lawyers and paralegals involved, must be addressed in a systematic manner. Aussi, il est très important pour moi d'encourager le bilinguisme et l'offre active de services juridiques en français en Ontario.
2. More effective and efficient self-regulation. Governance reform should be continued with a modest reduction in numbers and term, while accommodating the need for the voices and concerns of younger, racialized, Indigenous, and women lawyers, sole practitioners and small firms from all regions to be heard and represented. The use of Advisory Groups and established consultative mechanisms should be enhanced. Barriers to equitable entry to the profession need to be addressed and support provided for the disadvantaged. Improved competency and skills training and post-call assistance for new lawyers is an on-going element of necessary change. Practice regulation should include compliance-based entity regulation, be guided by sound risk assessment principles, and provide for diversion rather than prosecution when appropriate.

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

The Toronto region is as diverse as its inhabitants and those of other regions, except that it is an urban center. The profession is equally diverse in terms of demographics, size and nature of practice, employment and clients, both public and private. A Bencher does not represent only their region and must respond to concerns that transcend geographical boundaries. One such issue is access to justice.

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

Yes. This should no longer be an issue in 2019. Improved EDI awareness, training and support should be the priority.

Poll Question

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