Candidate bio description
I was first elected as a Bencher in 2015. I am a real estate solicitor, one of only 3 benchers who are solicitors running for re-election. I am regarded as one of the leading real estate lawyers in Ontario having been the co-head of the real estate section of the Bar Admission course for 12 years, am the founding and continuing chair of the now 16th annual Real Estate Law Summit which currently attracts over 1400 lawyers annually, I am the author of the Law of Subdivision Control in Ontario, regarded by most real estate lawyers as the "bible" on section 50 of the Planning Act. I have been teaching and writing on real estate issues for over 30 years and my main focus in all of my work is the preventive practice of law, making sure that lawyers protect themselves from making errors and omissions. I am one of the preferred counsel acting for Lawpro and I act for all of the title insurers in Ontario in analyzing and advising on negligence and title insurance claims made against lawyers. After years of transaction work involving real estate, leasing, and the purchase and sale of businesses, my practice now consists of litigation support, mediation and arbitration of real estate disputes, and the analysis and repair where possible of claims made against lawyers for errors or omission. I am the recipient of the OBA award for Excellence in Real Estate and the Law Society Medal. I have lots of time to devote to work as a Bencher.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
There is much work to be done and I have had the honour of being a bencher for the last 4 years. Most important, the decisions of convocation involve all lawyers in Ontario and that means that decisions must be informed by the practices of the profession. That includes solicitors who deserve a voice at convocation. Solos and smalls also need a voice and I know where I came from, being a part of a fledgling law firm where we did not know where the next client would come from and if the bank would still like us. I have contacts across the province in solos and smalls and I provide a voice. Convocation needs balance and diversity and that means diversity of regions, practice areas, ages, and yes, all of the diversity recognized in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
In my view, competence. I see several thousand newly minted lawyers get called every year, many of whom will begin practice without the practice essentials required to properly serve their clients. Many will do real estate deals or wills or go to court without the proper background and that is a huge concern to me. I see it in the files I review for Lawpro and the title insurers. We need to ensure competence. Without competence, there is no access to justice. As for access to justice, this is a problem that is much bigger than the law society alone can solve. It involves government, it involves integrated planning, it involves creative thinking and planning, and it involves money. No easy fix with easy slogans.
What would be your first priority upon election?
It is naïve to think that any new bencher or even an incumbent can make a big splash at convocation. It is a complicated place and there are lots of issues. As a returning bencher, I would hope that I am given a leadership position where there is an opportunity to guide the direction of convocation. I would hope that I could influence the creation of a practice essentials programme for newly called lawyers and a "back to basics" programme for experienced lawyers to ensure that our mandate to ensure competence is satisfied. I would also continue to apply my basic approach to decision making: apply common sense and practical thought to decisions, do not overregulate and continue to apply critical thinking to all decisions. I would hope that I could promote reasonable and practical thinking to my colleagues' decision making.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I hope to have achieved my goal of refreshing continuing legal education so that it is meaningful and relevant to the practice of law on a day to day basis. I hope to achieve an understanding among my fellow benchers that there is a need to recognize that solicitors provide a critical service in access to justice which includes access to legal services and that access to justice is not limited and exclusive to litigators, the criminal and family justice system and the courts. And in order to achieve that, solicitors need to be at the table and part of the discussion and they need to be vocal. I have proved that I am.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
It would be easy to say access to justice but that has become a slogan in my view without much concrete achievement, at least in my experience as a bencher. Lots of talk, little action. If we are going to do something about it, we need to be honest. It needs money; money for legal aid, for law clinics, for public defenders, for pro bono law. The challenge is how to achieve it and that is no easy fix that is solved by candidates simply saying "I am for access to justice." It takes coordination with other suppliers and with government and it takes creative problem solving. I do worry about the isolation of lawyers, the lack of civility, the ability of young lawyers to earn enough to pay off debt, the lack of mentorship, and regrettably, the lack of sufficient training to run a practice independently.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
It is now a distraction and we should move on. It is here to stay. In 2016, I moved at Convocation to have the 13 recommendations discussed and voted on separately, instead of as a package because, in my view, good governance and the enactment of legislation required appropriate consideration of each of the recommendations separately. I spoke out against a few recommendations in the Challenges report including the failure by the law society to protect the disclosure of lawyers of their private identity information, and the statement of principles. It was not just about the statement of principles. The public backlash against the statement of principles led to the benchers watering down the requirement (the statement is now private, no one can ask to see what you wrote, and promoting equity doesn't really mean "promoting" at all) so that it is now an ineffective mechanical exercise. But, it is here to stay and we should move on. I do not support Stop SOP and I do not support any one issue candidate. But in all this, there is an irony. In 2018, the benchers had the opportunity of eliminating articling which is the most obvious barrier to entry to the profession. There was a viable post call alternative. It should have been a no brainer decision especially for the benchers who voted in favour of the Challenges report. But the vote roll call will tell you that most of the leaders of the Challenges report and its supporters voted to keep articling, the hands down clearest barrier to entry. Why did they do that? Beats me. Seems hypocritical to me. On the other hand, I voted to eliminate articling because I saw it as a far more effective solution to the problem of barriers than ticking off a box about a statement of principles that you can put in a drawer and forget about. So, don't get distracted by the support or not of the statement of principles. Judge me and the candidates by their conduct and not by whether I or they support the requirement for the statement of principles. The better question is what is next to be done to solve the problem and why didn't the incumbent benchers do the right thing consistent with the Challenges report that they supported. For more information and who is endorsing me, see sidforbencher.com