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Rebecca Durcan

City of Toronto Electoral Region
Rebecca Durcan

Candidate bio description

I ran in 2014 and came in 24th (only the top 20 are elected). However, by August of 2018 I had made my way up the list (through appointments to the Bench and elections of Treasurers) and was officially a Bencher. I have only been a Bencher for a few months. But I believe that my voice and perspective is unique and will assist Convocation. For example, as a working mother of three small boys, I know the pressures placed on the profession. As a partner of a small firm, I know the realities of trying to create a healthy and supportive environment while complying with the various regulatory requirements. As a lawyer who focuses solely on professional regulation (which means that I assist regulators), I am attuned to national and international regulatory trends. I have co-authored a text used by law schools and administrative tribunals. I am currently the co-author of a judicially cited loose leaf and co-authoring a text dedicated to professional regulation. I have acted as adjudicator, prosecutor, and independent legal advisor for tribunals. I am asked to speak nationally and internationally on various matters of professional regulation. All of these experiences will allow me to bring a distinctive, balanced and individual voice to Convocation.

What inspired you to run for bencher this year?

I believe that I have something to substantively offer. My work as a professional regulatory lawyer gives me a unique perspective and comprehension that allows me to hit the ground running. I also believe that as a woman and a parent of young children I can provide a perspective that is needed at Convocation. It is imperative that the standards and expectations of the regulator reflect the realities of the profession. Being eligible to have a voice at the table should not be deferred until children are grown. Finally, I believe that it is important for the profession and the public to see a diverse mix of capable Benchers. If I am re-elected I can be part of that tapestry.

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

I believe that there are several issues that concern the legal profession. But my role is to regulate the profession in the public interest. Therefore, the profession may be concerned that LSO fees are too high. However, if those fees are required in order to effectively regulate the profession then I should not interfere in the quantum of fees. I have only been a Bencher since August 2018. However, I am concerned by the number of times I have heard lawyers express their lack of confidence in the Law Society and its ability to regulate the profession. This is a huge issue. If lawyers and paralegals do not have confidence in their regulator then the Law Society cannot do its job properly. Further, if the professions express lack of confidence in the regulator then the public may also question the legitimacy and purpose of the Law Society. This could lead down a path where we are no longer granted the privilege to self-regulate. Therefore, I query if we need to do more to show where fees go, to explain the mandate and role so that licensees do not have unrealistic expectations of what the Law Society can "do" for them, and to examine whether the Law Society has over reached in its regulatory attempts and then peel back any unnecessary red tape. This would, hopefully, create a realistic dialogue between the Law Society and its licensees which would instill the necessary, and required, confidence in the regulator.

What would be your first priority upon election?

I want to buttress the efforts the Law Society has made towards eradicating harassment. The #METOO movement has unearthed the behaviour that occurs when there is power differential. Our profession is rife with situations where such power differentials exist. Junior partners, associates, students, paralegals, law clerks and clients should never be exposed to any form of harassment by a lawyer. The Law Society has created the DIscrimination and Harassment Counsel. But further targeted efforts are needed to proactively remove this behaviour from our profession.

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

Governance Reform. Convocation is too large (40 Lawyer Benchers + 5 Paralegal Benchers + 8 Public Benchers + Other Ex Officio Benchers). The Law Society should continue its efforts to make the board smaller. The Law Society should look to Bencher selection criteria other than simply geographic location. Geographic location is but one factor that ought to be considered. Other factors should be considered when selecting benchers - such as year of call (thereby ensuring that Convocation includes a bencher that is within 10 years of call) and look to competency based criteria.

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

There are many parts to Toronto. Downtown and Bay Street are only a slice of the Toronto legal scene. Lawyers in North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough have different concerns and pressures than those from the Downtown Core. I believe that the diversity of the concerns reflects the diversity of the City and the profession (articling positions, debt load after graduation, cost of legal services, LSO fees, inefficient court and tribunal models, recognition that the resources (and obligations) of Big Law does not reflect the reality of every lawyer in Toronto ...) Although I would be elected as a "Toronto" Bencher I would be required to tackle the issue through the lens of "What is in the public interest?" This requirement is the same for Outside of Toronto and Public Benchers. All of this goes without saying that although our mandate is to serve and protect the public interest, we are required, at all times, to treat lawyers and paralegals fairly. To do otherwise undercuts the legitimacy of the regulator. Therefore, whatever the concern, or wherever the concern resides, I will be committed to reviewing it to ensure that licensees are being treated fairly and attempting to identify the risk (if any) to the public.

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

Yes. This commitment to diversity and fairness is compatible with the role of a lawyer. I believe that the Law Society has the jurisdiction and mandate to request this of its licensees.

Poll Question

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