Paul was born and raised in Kapuskasing Ontario. He is a partner at Stockwoods LLP in Toronto, where he acted as the managing partner from 2007-2016. He practices civil and administrative litigation. He is a past president of the Association des juristes d’expression française de l`Ontario and a former board member of the Advocates Society and Trustee of the Law Foundation. He co-chaired (with Justice Rouleau) a committee that reported to the Attorney-General on Access to Justice in French. He received the Lincoln Alexander Award from the Law Society for community service. He is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
I would like to serve the public and I believe I can make a difference. My experiences as lawyer, managing partner of a small firm, as a former president of a law association (AJEFO) and as a trustee of the Law Foundation of Ontario has provided me with perspective on fair regulation in the public interest, access to justice, equity, and professional standards. I also believe that the francophone perspective needs a stronger voice in Convocation.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
The challenge of continuing to ensure that our profession properly serves the public. Our statutory mandate to self-regulate depends upon how the LSO fulfills that obligation.
Lawyers face increasing challenges in offering quality legal services for fees that ordinary Ontarians can afford. The Law Society has a clear role in that dynamic and while that role is a regulatory one, it should be thoughtful and flexible in fulfilling it.
We have to look at how the LSO can best help lawyers to maximize their potential in serving their clients and the public – through the right licensing regime, promoting within our mandate access to Legal Aid, championing access to justice and continuing to remove systemic barriers to equity seeking groups in the profession.
What would be your first priority upon election?
Working with my fellow benchers to ensure that our governance structure is right for the challenges that face us. Treasurer Schabas reconfigured Convocation’s work to put more work in the hand of committees – that is a good start. I think we have to look at making the process work even better so we can get more done. The way forward will depend on consultation with colleagues and learning how all of the aspects of the LSO work.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I would like to see improvements in access to justice on all fronts, including for Ontario’s francophones. The LSO has a statutory mandate on this issue and must play a leadership role. This means, for example, promoting responsible innovations in the use of technology, and improving the delivery of unbundled legal services. One example of a multi-partner project in which the Law Society has participated is a pilot project at the Ottawa courthouse to improve the delivery of services in French to French speaking litigants. We must look for and make the most of such opportunities.
I would like to see further advances toward diversity and equity in the profession – including building further consensus on these goals. I have first hand knowledge of the issues facing francophone licensees and have spent time speaking with and getting to know people in other equity seeking organizations. Such dialogue is important but so is progress. We need to build on the findings and recommendations of the “Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Profession” report. The Statement of principles is a good start but the LSO needs to take smart action toward these important goals. We need to continue to properly measure progress and continue educational and other equity building initiatives. Our bar needs to look like our province
We need to be sure we have got the licensing process right. The bottleneck caused by the shortage of articling positions creates both access to justice and equity issues. Convocation recently decided to continue the Law Practice Program/Programme de pratique du droit (LPP/PPD). It is clear that this program has helped many licensee candidates, including francophone candidates taking the PPD at the University of Ottawa.
In “Options for Lawyer Licensing” a consultation paper of the Professional Development and Competence Committee’s report about licensing, enhanced licensing examinations (without articling) was identified as a viable alternative. This is a model that has worked well in other jurisdictions.
In my view, it would be appropriate to review this issue in the next Convocation to determine whether the LPP/PDD and articling should continue to be a mandatory step towards licensing.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
Ontario is a dynamic and still growing province with the greatest diversity of consumers of legal services in the country. This makes this question challenging. However, I believe that it is the challenge of providing quality legal services to clients at a price they can afford. With Legal Aid cutbacks and restrictions, increasing pressure on our court system, the challenges of mastering new technologies, the difficulties faced by many in practice of finding good mentors, today`s lawyer in Toronto must navigate an often difficult course. The Law Society should be there to educate, guide and help its licensees serve the public.
Support of Statement of Principles
I support the Statement of Principles. I do not believe the Law Society has a role in telling lawyers what to think. However, that is not what the Statement of Principles requirement does. As former Treasurer Schabas has said, the Statement of Principles simply requires licensees to acknowledge existing professional obligations in the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Human Rights Code. It is a step toward an important goal, but more remains to be done if we are to have our bar look like our province. That means a concerted effort to study and understand the barriers to realizing that so that they can be dismantled.