Access to Justice
Access to justice is a problem we all recognize but can't seem to adequately resolve. It is tempting, but wrong, to place the burden of ATJ disproportionately on lawyers (who already give generously by donating much time at no, or little cost, to their clients through, among other things, pro bono work and other significant contributions to a just and civil society. Nor should the LSO be pressured into simplistic solutions that may harm the public interest by, for example, expanding the scope of paralegal practice into areas where greater expertise is required, or which crowds out competent and willing counsel, especially in smaller population centres.
The LSO should partner with willing justice sector participants to:
ensure stable funding for ProBono Ontario
foster simple, intuitive online civil procedures (especially in family and POA courts)
allow for competent and logical unbundling of legal services
encourage Legal Aid Ontario to streamline its administrative and overhead costs to ensure a greater percentage of its funding sources are applied to legal services
I would like to modernize, simplify, and reduce the LSO governance structure, allowing the LSO to accomplish more, quicker, and with less expense. If done properly, without sacrificing adequate representation, the LSO will make better decisions and implement them faster while lowering costs and reducing fees.
Experience in other jurisdictions, most significantly in New South Wales, demonstrates that entity regulation coupled with alternative business structures dramatically reduces complaints against lawyers for incompetence and misconduct. I think there is room in Ontario to explore, with proper controls, entity regulation, on an opt-in basis, and as a pilot project, where select entities would voluntarily agree to LSO regulation, in exchange for the LSO allowing the entity to regulate its own members using the same scheme and rules the LSO would, otherwise, use to regulate its individual members. In other words, the LSO would, on a pilot and volunteer basis, delegate its regulatory authority to the entity in order to determine whether the public would be better protected through entity regulation, than by simply regulating the members of the entity, as appears to be the case in New South Wales.
Alternative Business Structures
Despite the debate prior to the 2015 Bencher election, I believe there is still room to consider alternative business structures in Ontario. Rather than rejecting ABS out of hand, I think they should be considered with entity based regulation as a means to reduce complaints against lawyers, but also as a means of increasing access to justice. I can see a successful ABS model where non-lawyer managers of lawyers and their practices are (a) educated on the lawyers' duty of good faith, confidentiality, fidelity, competence, and privilege ) and (b) are compelled to ensure these duties are prioritized and upheld. If they fail to do so, the LSO should be empowered to revoke their ABS license.
Cost of Legal Education
When I attended U of T law school, the tuition was approximately $2000. Now, I understand it is approaching (or about to exceed $40,000) per annum. I believe this is too high and imposes avoidable stress and mental health issues on its student body. I don't believe the LSO has jurisdiction to regulate tuition fees. What it can do, however, is partner with willing law schools to create incentives for law schools to provide transition training to its students. If done properly, this transition training could stand in the place of articling or LPP enrollment allowing the law students to write the barrister and solicitor exams immediately after law school and, thereby, forgo the expense (or opportunity cost) of articling or participating in the LPP program. Participating schools should be allowed to offer this option to its students only if it is prepared to commit to lowering its tuition fees to manageable levels.
Pathways to Licensing
I support the decision of Convocation to maintain the status quo (with the enhancements proposed).
Thoughts on LSO Funding Priorities
The LSO has become the subject of legitimate criticism that its fees are too high and that it has fallen victim to "mission creep" by exceeding the limits of its mandate. In the normal course of its budget process, there should be a line-by-line review of its expenditures with a few to eliminating unnecessary and duplicative costs. This should, and probably is, done as a matter of course. In addition, each expense should be considered in light of whether it advances the LSO's core mandate. For example, the LSO should not spend funds on advocacy initiatives, where those initiatives are, or could be seen, to,merely advance the interests of lawyers, rather than the public they serve. Apart from advocacy, I wonder about the utility of continuing to fund libraries, where most research has moved to digital resources. If nothing else, this is worthy of debate.
Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery
AI may be the way of the future in legal services, or maybe not. In either case, legal professionals should be free to explore whether AI can assist them in providing better legal services to more clients at lower cost. Until AI is "proven" and widely adopted in the legal profession, it is premature for the LSO regulate its use. The LSO should, in other words, merely maintain a "watch brief" with respect to the use of AI in the law.
Statement of Principles Obligation
I support the statement of principles, as far as it goes. As a tool, it compels lawyers to think about the issues facing racialized lawyers specifically, and about diversity and inclusion more generally. I doubt, however, that the statement alone will change entrenched and old-school legal culture. For that, we have to wait for students and young lawyers to move up the ranks of the legal profession. It will happen. They will change the culture of the profession, for the better. But it will take time.
Duty of Technology Competence
Lawyers should be encouraged to use technology in order to deliver better services more cost effectively. They should not be compelled to use new technologies, however, especially where, given their age and stage, such compulsion would impair their ability to provide competent legal advice or services. Rather, they should be encouraged to learn the capabilities of new technologies and to apply them where they can (having regard to the means and needs of their clients). In short, this is a matter for CPD credits rather than lawyer regulation.
Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities
We must recognize that the LSO, as an institution, is part of a larger societal obligation to promote reconciliation with Indigenous communities across Ontario. I would like to see the LSO continue the work commenced, most visibly, by former Treasurer Janet Minor, and continue its outreach to Indigenous Communities across the province to remind them that the Law Society of Ontario, is their society too.
Advertising and Fee Arrangements
Subject to the views of lawyers and law firms who occupy this space, together with their clients (or potential clients), I would not alter the status quo
Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities
As mentioned in my Election Statement, if elected, I will bring many perspectives to Convocation. These perspectives are enhanced by my personal background, lived experience, and culture. Combined, they have taught me the importance of improving equality, diversity, and inclusion in the justice system for all legal professionals, including those with invisible challenges. I will “lean in” to this cause as a first generation Canadian, the first in my family to attend university, and as a strong advocate for mental wellness in the law. In short, I support the LSO taking steps to increase diversity and inclusion at Convocation, in the legal profession, and throughout the justice system, whether alone, or in partnership with willing justice sector participants.
Unbundled Legal Service Delivery
Unbundled legal services is one way to increase access to justice. I support a continuing dialogue and debate on how to do this without sacrificing legal competence or resorting to the over-reach of paralegal services beyond their level of competence. I think we must acknowledge that, with respect to ATJ and legal competence, unbundled legal services, is not the ideal solution, but it may be a workable one. More discussion is required a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.
Should the LSO be in the CPD Business?
The LSO should consider surrendering some CPD market share to volunteer associations in order to allow them to offer greater value to their members and to become stronger advocates for the issues affecting lawyers and paralegals. The LSO should not be their advocate, given its public interest mandate, and recognizing that the LSO enjoys the great, but revocable, privilege of self-regulation. Accordingly, the role of advocate for the legal professions should be surrendered in favour of voluntary associations. Unfortunately, these associations are experiencing declining membership. The LSO must support them indirectly, by allowing them to provide more accredited CPD, without competition from the LSO, so they may increase their membership and become stronger advocates for their interests.
Improving Mental Health
As mentioned in my Election Statement, if elected Bencher, I will encourage the Law Society of Ontario, Convocation, and all willing justice sector participants, to forge partnerships committed to improving the mental health of the legal profession, including lawyers, students, and paralegals. The LSO is also well suited, through strategic partnerships, to address the mental health of the broader justice community, including, judges, prosecutors, first responders, jurors, self-represented litigants, and vulnerable members of society engaged in the justice system. With your support, I will be a strong advocate for this process and these partnerships.