Candidate bio description
I have been a Toronto trial lawyer for 24 years, starting my practice at one of Canada’s largest law firms, and, after 11 years (five as a partner) I moved to the public sector to lead the Corporate-Commercial Litigation Team at the Ministry of the Attorney General. In that role, I have had the privilege of representing Ontario in the most critical and high-risk civil litigation involving the province. More recently, I moved to criminal prosecutions, as an inaugural member of the Serious Fraud Office, where I serve as a Senior Crown Counsel prosecuting the most serious financial crimes in Ontario. I am also a past president of the Ontario Bar Association, which represents 16,000 lawyers in the province. During my term in 2014-2015, I helped lead the profession across Canada in a mental health anti-stigma campaign by speaking publicly about my own experience with depression how, despite these struggles, I have, and continue to lead, a very successful and rewarding life. My message of hope, resilience, and strength has reached over 6 million people.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
Through years of private practice, public practice, civil litigation, and criminal prosecution, and as a former President of the Ontario Bar Association, I have gained the experience necessary to be a strong and reasonable voice at Convocation...and also a good listener. I understand multiple perspectives, including the issues underpinning EDI, and the challenges of invisible disabilities. The profession has arrived at a transformational point in its history. My diverse history in the profession will help navigate it through this transformation.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
The way in which the LSO can maintain its relevance by addressing these two issues: (a) The mental health of the legal profession, especially among racialized lawyers, the justice system generally, and among law students, as emerging lawyers burdened by unconscionable debt; and (b)The changing nature of the profession imposed by new technologies and the pressing need to improve access to justice.
What would be your first priority upon election?
I will encourage Convocation to take steps to improve the mental well being of legal professionals. I will work toward better governance, including a smaller, diverse, and competence based Convocation. I would like to improve EDI in the justice system generally, for all legal professionals, including those with invisible challenges. I will “lean in” to this cause as a first generation Canadian, the first in my family to attend university, and as a strong advocate for mental wellness in the law.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I will promote mental wellness throughout the justice sector. I promise strong advocacy for EDI issues. I will be the resolute voice for law students (burdened by debt), young lawyers (struggling to get by), and all professionals committed to ATJ, whether through a vibrant ProBono Ontario, or any other well-considered means.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
The most pressing issues facing lawyers (and the public they serve) are civil justice delays made necessary by the pressures on the Criminal Justice system created by the SCC's decision in Jordon, which imposes strict timelines on the prosecution of criminal charges. While the LSO cannot solve this problem on its own, it can exert influence over decision makers, and partner with them, to ensure adequate and efficiently employed resources, Rules, technology, and dispute resolution systems to bridge the lags and delays between issuing a claim and enforcing a judgment.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
I support the statement of principles, as far as it goes. As a tool, it encourages lawyers to think about the issues facing racialized lawyers specifically, and about diversity and inclusion more generally. I doubt, however, that the statement alone will change entrenched and old-school legal culture. For that, we have to wait for students and young lawyers to move up the ranks of the legal profession. It will happen. They will change the culture of the profession, for the better. But it will take time.