Education: Called to Ontario Bar (2001) BA Hon U of Alberta (1995); LL.B. U of Ottawa (1999); M.A. (International Affairs) Carleton University (2001) Focus of Practice: Human Rights and social justice law practitioner based in Ottawa for 18 years.
Areas of practice include: national security law, constitutional litigation, anti-poverty law, human rights law, transfer of offenders, immigration security certificates, criminal defense of protestors, police abuse/ accountability cases. website: www.hameedlaw.ca
Community Involvement: Organizer, A2Justice Coalition, Member, Canadian Muslim Lawyers’ Association (CMLA). Provides legal support and advice to grassroots social justice organizations in Ontario and Quebec Sessional Lecturer: Dept of Laws, Carleton University (since 2007).
What inspired you to run for bencher this year?
When I ran four years ago, my focus was on barriers faced by young lawyers joining the profession and the role of the Law Society to address the access to justice crisis in Ontario. Four years later, these issues remain of concern to me.
I am running in order to focus on transitional training for young lawyers and addressing barriers preventing new lawyers from practicing in areas of socially engaged law that are often less profitable - particularly in small firms and as sole practitioners.
Since 2013, through the a2justice.ca coalition, I have consulted with numerous lawyers, articling students and law students as part of a grassroots effort for advocacy in these areas. Through those conversations, one thing was clear: There is need for concrete action on the pressing issues facing our profession.
This is why I am running – in order to bring an informed, diverse voice to add value to pivotal discussions at the LSO about lawyer licensing, increasing diversity in our profession, and access to justice.
What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?
There is not just an articling crisis in Ontario, but also an access to justice crisis. As a profession, we need to push the Law Society towards innovation that challenges antiquated modes of training and regulation in order to strengthen a new generation of lawyers.
This means focusing on a licensing process that prioritizes experiential learning. It means leveraging relationships with law schools to increase placements in clinics and incentivizing experiential learning in small firms and with sole practitioners.
It will mean focusing on adapting to a rapidly changing social and technological landscape of law in Ontario, while decreasing bureaucratic and financial burdens that impede practice options for new lawyers.
What would be your first priority upon election?
The first priority for me would be for the Law Society to actively engage with law schools in advancing an integrated, coherent and complementary plan of training for licensees transitioning to legal practice.
Through the Dialogue on Licensing, I believe the Law Society had an opportunity to advance meaningful change to the licensing review process. It was clear from the consultations that law students, articling students and lawyers alike did not want to see the status quo continued.
Although I recognize that the Dialogue on Licensing has wrapped up, I do not believe that the conversation is over. If elected Bencher, It will be my priority to engage on the third prong of the recommendations approved by Benchers which calls on increased collaboration with law schools to integrate experiential learning. I commit to pursuing this collaboration with access to justice as a primary objective.
What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?
I hope to achieve four (4) things over the next four years: (the “#4in4plan”)
(1) Integrated experiential learning in law schools as part of licensing: I am committed to meaningful collaboration with law schools to better integrate experiential learning as a requirement of licensing. I hope to help develop a concrete plan with law schools that operationalizes recommendations stemming from the Dialogue on Licencing.
(2) Moving towards an “LPP for all” licensing pathway: Over the past five years that I have worked with the A2Justice Coalition,, I have consulted with numerous members of the legal profession, including many young lawyers, who all agree that the existing system of articling is broken, and an LPP-style licencing process that is integrated in a meaningful way with law schools is needed. Our submission as the A2Justice Coalition to the Dialogue on Licencing called for precisely that. We sought a consistent licencing experience for all candidates based on a modified version of the LPP and as Bencher, I commit to furthering that objective.
(3) A decrease in licensing fees: I believe that licensing candidates should not be the ones who are forced to foot the bill for any innovations/ changes to the licensing process. By increasingly shifting the cost burden for changes to the process onto licensing fees paid by candidates, the Law Society is shirking its responsibility to increase access to justice by failing to reduce barriers to entry into the profession. Students who work with sole practitioners like me are, in many instances, forced to pay their own fees given that small firms and sole practitioners are rarely able to cover licensing fees for licensing candidates. With rising fees, the LSO is only increasing impediments to their full participation in legal practice.
(4) Substantive measures to increase diversity: I hope to implement creative solutions to address obstacles to full participation and inclusion of equality seeking and marginalized members within the profession and to create space for their voices at convocation. This means moving beyond statements of principle to actions that break down barriers facing all different groups seeking to participate within the profession. To this end, I endorse the strategy the “Working Together for Change” report of the Diversity Committee and stress the need to focus on creating awareness among the profession of the need to respect human rights norms and increasing the tools available to marginalized members to seek redress who face obstacles to full their participation within the profession.
What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?
Given the disparate and often siloed ways in which different segments of the Ottawa bar practice, it is difficult to meaningfully identify a single concern that applies equally to every area of practice as a pressing objective. That said, I believe that enhanced resources and advocacy are needed to improve French language services in the region.
Particular attention needs to be given to respond to the needs of racialized French speaking clients and equality seeking groups. Equally, as a multi-ethnic region that does not possess the same community-level supports as the GTA for example, we need to be conscious of the gaps in access to legal services facing non-English and non-French speaking clients by identifying appropriate supports for them.
Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?
Yes, I do support the goal of the statement of principles (“SOP”). However, as a purported response to the problems facing racialized lawyers and licensees, I think there is more that needs to be done. The SOP does not prescribe words, but merely requires us to acknowledge our obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusiveness generally. This is no different than the legal requirements that are already identified within the Ontario Human Rights Code and our Rules of Professional Conduct.
The SOP was the result of the recommendations from the Final Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Lawyers Working Group, which identified that racialized licensees face barriers in all stages of their careers. I am concerned that the SOP remains a purely a symbolic gesture and that there is no evidence that it does anything to advance equity in our profession. However, opposition to it is, in my view, a regressive, reactionary, and misplaced attack against symbolism. It has the unfortunate and counterproductive effect of entrenching institutional racism and deflecting from the more pressing issues facing our profession.
Indeed, I find it curious that those who claim opposition to the LSO “compelling” speech through the SOP are not, instead, campaigning to end the oath to the Queen which not only actually compels speech but also, unlike the SOP, entrenches colonialism instead of dismantling it. I would urge all of my fellow candidates who oppose the SOP to, instead, commit themselves to strategically responding to the overt and insidious barriers facing equity-seeking licensees, lawyers and clients who continue to find themselves at the margins of our profession and our system of justice in Ontario and to provide a reasoned full and substantive critique of the Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Lawyers Working Group.