Candidate bio description
Robert Shawyer is the founder of Shawyer Family Law & Mediation PC. His practice focuses on collaborative law, mediation and litigation in the area of family law. Aside from managing his practice Robert is also a graduate of the Rotman Independent Corporate Director's Not For Profit Governance Program. Robert currently sits as a public member of on the Council of the College of Dental Technologists of Ontario ("CDTO"). Robert is as a well-regarded senior member of the Family Law bar. On two separate occasions Robert acted as counsel for litigants who successfully challenged the constitutionality of section 31 of Ontario’s Family Law Act regarding child support for adult children of unmarried parents and led to the wording of section 31 to be amended via legislation on December 14, 2017. Robert is also one of only two lawyers, too ever challenge, the provisions of Ontario’s adoption law that prevent biological parents from appealing an adoption in Ontario.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
The need for LSO governance reform and the threat to Pro Bono Ontario's funding. Simply put professional regulation, which is the reason that the LSO was created in the first place, is concerned with the conduct and competence of individuals who provide services to the public. However, over the years the LSO has expanded into many areas that fall outside it core mandate, which is to regulate the profession in a manner that protects the public. As a self regulating profession the the participation of the profession in regulation is the core of self-regulation. Therefore, the key focus of Convocation over the next 4 years should be considering what is fundamental to self-regulation and what needs to change to maintain public trust in the legal profession in Ontario and then implementing those changes. In order to ensure that the maintenance of public trust in the legal profession in Ontario Convocations focus needs to be on ensuring access to justice. However, in late 2018 Pro Bono Ontario's ("PBO") Court based Law Help Center's were slated to close as a result of a lack of funding. I attribute the near closure of the Law Help Centre's to a failure on the part of the LSO to ensure proper ongoing and permanent funding for PBO and more generally a promotion of a pro Bono culture among lawyers practicing in Ontario, which is why I decided to run for Bencher.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
Access to Justice. As a family law lawyer I am on the front lines, along with criminal law lawyers, of the legal profession. The clients that I serve on a day to day basis range from the some of the wealthiest in our society to some of the most disadvantaged. As a result I have a responsibility to provide them with services at a cost that they can afford no matter what there income level. In order to ensure that the services provided by lawyers in Ontario are affordable Convocation has two obligations: 1. Ensure that a robust and properly funded Pro Bono program thrives across Ontario. 2. Work with Legal Aid Ontario and the Government of Ontario to ensure a robust and well funded legal aid system is in place that provides access to legal services not only the most disadvantaged but also provides access to legal services for those Ontarian's who work but can not afford legal services without assistance.
What would be your first priority upon election?
Ensuring that $25 from the annual dues paid each year by each and every member is directed to fund Pro Bono Ontario.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
Stable funding for Pro Bono Ontario and Governance Reform. If elected Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario, my priorities over the next four years will be as follows: 1. The promotion of Pro Bono by the Bar; and 2. Governance Reform Pro Bono In order to ensure Pro Bono Ontario’s sustained and ongoing funding I will propose and support a motion that will see $25 of each member’s dues contributed towards PBO’s annual Budget. Governance Reform Good Governance is a journey without end. In order to ensure that Convocation fulfills it primary function, protecting the public and strengthening public trust of the legal profession, Convocation needs to be reformed. If elected Bencher I will propose and support the following reforms to Convocation. Proactive Regulation The Law Society of Ontario must be proactive in order to strengthen public trust. The participation of the profession in regulation is the core of self-regulation. Smaller - more Responsive A smaller convocation intentionally structured to bring different perspectives, composed of members possessing the required governance competencies, and provided with additional perspectives through feedback from Advisory Groups and stakeholder engagement, will be able to raise and discuss these diverse perspectives more effectively. Appoint of Members of Convocation Members of Convocation selected based on having the competencies required to be a member of a Regulatory body. Doing this will ensure that all members are appointed to Convocation in the same way. Doing so builds mutual respect as each member has met the same expectations and gone through the same process to join the board. Create a mandatory “boot camp” for people interested in participating on the board or committees that would support potential board and committee members understanding the voluntary roles they are considering and the requirements needed to serve. It would mean that once appointed, they would begin the orientation process with a basic understanding of the roles and expectations. Appointments Process Create a Nominating Committee that will recommend appointments for directors and committee members who are not directors, and address succession planning for those roles. To bring broad perspectives, the committee will include directors and individuals who are not directors. Create a Governance Committee made up of directors whose role is to support the board in remaining attentive to changes in governance, steer evaluation processes, support the board in identifying the competencies, and recommend the appointments of board and committee leadership. Member Engagement Engage members of the bar through governance mechanism such as advisory groups, consultations and a more engaging quality assurance program instead of elections in which few members vote. An election process sets up an expectation of, and perception of, a representational role, which is not the role of members of Convocation. The role of the members of Convocation is to serve and protect the public not represent the bar. Diversity An emerging practice in governance is advisory groups that are established by the board to bring different perspectives. They report directly to the board. Appointment rather than election of board members supports diversity.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
Access to justice.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?