Candidate bio description
I have been in private practice for over 25 years. My primary area of practice is residential/commercial real estate, corporate/business law, contracts, and wills/estates. I have also practiced litigation. I am a certified mediator and have been on the Superior Court of Justice roster since 1999. I am a Deputy Judge of Small Claims Court, for the central east region. I have taught the previous bar admission course as well as written and edited materials for the LSO. I have taught at Ryerson University and Seneca College respectively, and was honored to receive Instructor of the Year award from Ryerson University. I am a "peer" volunteer with the Member Assistance Program and Osgoode Hall Law School. I am a member of Council for the College of Nurses of Ontario, as well as several committees. I am also a member of Ontario Deputy Judges Association and its Education Committee. I speak, read and write Russian fluently, which enables me to provide legal services to clients in the Jewish Russian Community.
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
I have noticed over the years that despite the LSO promoting diversity, Convocation mostly has lawyers from mid to large size firms. The sole practitioners and small firms, specifically lawyers practicing real estate and doing solicitor work, have very little representation if at any. If the LSO is to properly regulate in the public interest, it must have representation from ALL areas of law. Since sole practitioners and small firms, especially solicitors are not properly represented, then the rules and regulations do not include a voice from a very important and quite large community of lawyers. Our voices need to be heard and our experience need to be shared so that the regulatory framework is not missing a very important piece.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
One of the biggest issues is public education. The public knows what doctors do, however, they really do not know what legal work entails. For example; many clients believe that a real estate purchase is just filling out a few papers before closing; or a contract is based on pre-printed forms and the lawyer only fills in the blanks. When these types of misconceptions are not corrected by educating the public about lawyers, then unfounded complaints arise at the LSO, wasting time and money which can be allocated to other areas. Many clients are saying that lawyers are not needed as they can do the same job for less money. We know that this is not the case, but unless clients start to trust lawyers, this trend will continue to rise. It is therefore, in the best interest of the public for the LSO to provide education about lawyers and our daily work in order for the public to understand that the final product is the result of hours of intense work, no matter the area of law. Another very important issue is the difficulty for new lawyers to find jobs, as well as work/life balance. In addition, a related very important issue is mental health awareness and support. Students and lawyers need to know that mental health is just as important as physical health and that the legal profession will provide education and support so that the profession will thrive. Physically and mentally healthy lawyers are happier and provide a very high standard of work to clients. It is in the best interest of the public to invest time and money into mental health awareness, education and support.
What would be your first priority upon election?
I would like to voice the issues that the real estate bar is facing with respect to the rules imposed regarding closings and banking. I would also like to address the fact that many rules and regulations are not easily executed in practice, especially those applicable to the real estate bar. I would also like to address access to justice issues. There needs to be a balance between legal fees and clients being able to afford lawyers, so that those who do not qualify for legal aid but also cannot afford high hourly rates could still get representation. In addition limited scope retainers and unbundled services are a great way to increase access to justice, however the rules are not very clear on the application of these services, resulting in many lawyers not offering these services.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I hope to ensure that sole practitioner and small firms have a voice in Convocation. I also hope that lawyers are supported through mental health awareness and acceptance initiatives. Creating public education platforms so that the public knows about the work that we do and start trusting lawyers. Creating clearer and more practical rules of practice in real estate and unbundled services.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
The issues stated above such as trusting the profession, getting better access to justice through limited scope retainers, promoting mental health, and helping new lawyers find employment are some of the more pressing concerns for the profession in my region.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
Yes, I feel that having a statement of principles ensures that everyone is on the "same page" and understand what is required of them.