Candidate bio description
Licensed to practice in Ontario (2015), and, previously, New York (1992), I have been a solo practitioner my entire career in both jurisdictions. Concurrently, I was also Deputy Town Attorney and Prosecutor (2004-2006), and then Town Justice (2007-2014) in the Town of Boston, New York. I left my judicial position to focus upon my call to the Ontario Bar, and to obtain my Canadian citizenship, which I am proud to say was conferred upon me in 2017. Presently, my practice is almost primarily in Ontario and I maintain my New York license to help Canadians with New York legal issues, and Americans with Canadian legal issues. I am married, with three children and three step-children, and reside, full-time, in Port Colborne, Ontario. As an "empty-nester" I have the time to devote to this position. I have also served on non-profit boards, in both New York and Ontario. Those board positions, coupled with my political, professional, judicial and parental experience, have helped me learn how to listen to, and work with people. Finally, I am a goalie. You may draw whatever conclusions you wish from that statement.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
In my life, if I am not part of the solution, then I am part of the problem. I intend to be part of the solution, should you see fit to expend a vote upon me. There no new bar calls as a Bencher at present. There is an argument that Benchers should have significant experience to serve. But, then, who really then understands the plight of a new call and those challenges if there is no voice? While I have nearly thirty years practical experience running ALL aspects of a law practice, I was a new Bar Call in Ontario in 2015. Were I not fortunate to have accumulated sufficient assets and knowledge, from my other law practice, to open a practice in Ontario, I would have been in exactly the same place as a younger new call in terms of being out in the proverbial wilderness trying to figure out where to go, what to do and how to do it. Fortunately, we have this Bencher mechanism in place that allows us to have input into the rules and direction of our profession and I would appreciate you allowing me to employ my practical experience in addressing your concerns to the extent possible. I intend to be that hybrid voice, combining experience and my own plight as a relatively newer lawyer in Canada to bridge that gap and provide a badly needed voice.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
In my opinion, there are three major issues facing the legal profession, all being equally important. First, lawyers must be able to share their experience with mental health, have access to treatment and have the stigma of such issues eliminated. Stress is endemic to our profession, but everyone comes with a different set of wiring and we all react differently to stressors, both personal and professional, in our lives. Sometimes, we don't even realize these exist until they grab us by the throat. There must be improved mechanisms to help each other and remove the stigma attached to such issues. Next, let's educate ourselves, and each other, regarding the devastating personal and professional impact that discrimination and harassment has upon affected persons. I hear a lot of opinions, both positive and negative, about the requirement of principles. I address It below, but it is a minefield for discussion and rarely leaves debating parties understanding or appreciating the opposing point of view. This sets us all back. Finally, there must be steps taken to facilitate, mentor and train newer lawyers entering into practice to allow them to navigate both a very complex legal system, and the overwhelming, and increasing, regulations of the profession. In my world, no one wanted to hire an older new call, so I opened a practice. I feel for younger lawyers struggling with student loan debt, lack of experience and other obstacles to navigate, and would like to help where possible.
What would be your first priority upon election?
I would make sure my calendar is cleared so that I can ensure my attendance at events and determine where my time and talents would be best put to use as a Bencher. Concurrently, I will begin work on the issues facing the profession and those in our region to the extent that a consensus can be built on the best way to address them. The way the Bencher system is composed, consensus is paramount. Finally, I will continue to speak with lawyers to determine their concerns because I can’t possibly know or understand all of the concerns without taking the time to ascertain them.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I hope to be an attentive, active and thoughtful Bencher who hears concerns that need to be addressed. Then, I would like to help build a consensus on those issues with an eye toward their resolution. Finally, I would like to see significant progress on these issues.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
In my opinion, the biggest issue in this region is the stress and demands upon lawyers, given the high cost of practice, the extent of regulatory and administrative demands upon us, and the sparse amount of the regional population that can afford to hire us. The cost of practice is prohibitive, as dues and LawPro create an instant cost of about $6,000 to begin the year, before you factor in any other costs. The administrative red tape we must sort through is staggering and eats up 3/8ths of our time. Couple those issues with the fact that, especially in less populated, more economically depressed areas, people simply don't have the resources or savings to hire a lawyer for many issues for which they really should have a lawyer, and it's a formula for severe financial and professional issues.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
The good news is that this issue will bring many out to vote who might not have otherwise partaken in the election process. The bad news is that we actually have to have this debate in the year 2019. Racism, Sexism, Discrimination and Misogyny are not ok. Period. My friends, the key to this door is in our collective pockets.