Be sure to vote between April 15th and 30th! Lawyers and paralegals from all communities, practice and work areas, firm sizes and geographic locations throughout Ontario are encouraged to run in the bencher elections.
The following WLAO members are amongst the 28% of women running in the current election:
Signa Daum Shanks (www.signadaumshanks.com)
As a Métis lawyer and legal academic, I’m recharged by the conversations I’ve had and the professional projects I’m involved in pertaining to legal education, public service, the cost of legal services, and the historic exclusion of marginalized voices. I graduated in 1999 and since then have worked for post-secondary institutions, governments and the private sector. At Osgoode Hall Law School, I currently focus on Indigenous rights, torts, and law and economics. My Saskatchewan family, all from small communities, has been supportive as I became the first woman in my family to receive a university degree. I’ve mainly acted in the public sector, but have worked with the private bar, including in the development of stronger ties with Indigenous communities as those communities develop an ever-increasing presence in every field of private practice. This work has led me to gain experience in disciplinary matters, formal teaching techniques and learning how to organize educational activities that move us forward in understanding what reconciliation can mean. I also acted as the law school’s inaugural Director of Indigenous Outreach. More recently, the United Nations appointed me to annually represent an NGO at its Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
In voluntary roles this year, I’m currently on the Board of Directors of the Ontario Bar Association, elected to the Executive of the OBA’s Women Lawyers Forum, and on the OBA’s Provincial Council for the 4th time. In these roles, my contributions have regularly dealt with the education of lawyers, access to justice, government-lawyer relations and the increase of knowledge about Indigenous peoples within the legal profession. I have served as Co-Chair of the Indigenization Subcommittee at Osgoode Hall Law School, which organized the integration of learning Indigenous knowledge into every student’s academic experience. I look forward to witnessing how the LSO’s Statement of Principles helps us create supportive atmospheres where all of us learn more about how history and modern circumstances impact the way various individuals and backgrounds experience the law.
Whether in the classroom, a training session, or in the media, I regularly participate in dialogues about student debt, the cost of providing legal services, learning about Indigenous peoples’ views, and how elected governments appreciate what our profession can and must do. Our governance and its bureaucracy need not be big; it needs participants whose background, attitude and efforts show knowledge and ability about how to move forward together respectfully while reconciling what easy and hard issues need to be considered.
Teresa Donnelly (www.donnellybencher.com)
I was honoured to be elected a Bencher in 2015 and am seeking re-election. I have worked hard – managing a busy and challenging career, as a mother of a wonderful teenager and as a Bencher. Being a Bencher is hard work but is immensely challenging and fulfilling. I have a solid understanding of the issues at the LSO, the determination to make a difference and skills necessary to lead on difficult issues. I have unfinished work to do. I seek to continue work on equality, diversity and inclusion. As Chair of Audit and Finance, I seek to continue to enhance transparency, accountability and efficiencies. Decisions made at the LSO impact on licensees in a financial way. As Co-Chair of Compliance Based Entity Regulation I seek to move forward in this area – many decisions which were once made by individual licensees are now being made by a firm yet the LSO has limited ability to regulate firms. Entity regulation looks to better protect the public and to enhance regulatory efficiency.
Supporting Small and Sole Practitioners
I understand the challenges facing sole and small firms and rural practitioners. I am a member of the Huron Law Association and an advocate for local law associations. Local law associations are crucial because they provide resources, mentoring, support and opportunities to come together to learn, and support each other. They form a network which reduces isolation, enhances competence and enables lawyers to practice in urban and rural areas thereby enhancing access to justice.
I have been a prosecutor for 25 years. I am the West Region Sexual Violence Crown – one of seven prosecutors in the province dedicated to enhancing the quality of sexual violence prosecutions to ensure they are prosecuted fairly, effectively and respectfully. My career has been dedicated to providing access to justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence – the majority are women and children. I am a third-generation lawyer. I am first female lawyer in family of lawyers and the first female Crown Attorney in Huron County.
In the next Bencher term, we will be engaging in strategic planning which will set the priorities to guide the LSO for the next four years. In addition to continuing the work underway, I would like to see a renewed focus on the retention of women in law and supports for sole and small practitioners.
Rebecca Durcan (www.rebeccadurcan.com)
I ran in 2015 with the support of former Bencher, Beth Symes. I came in 24th (only the top 20 are elected). However, by August of 2018 I had made my way up the list (through appointments to the Bench and elections of Treasurers) and was officially a Bencher. I have only been a Bencher for a few months. But I believe that my voice and perspective is unique and will assist Convocation. For example, as a working mother, I know the pressures of balancing a young family and practising in a demanding profession. As a partner of a small firm, I know the realities of trying to create a healthy and supportive environment while complying with the various regulatory requirements. As a lawyer who focuses solely on professional regulation (which is translated to mean that I assist regulators), I am aware that self-regulation is a privilege. The LSO needs to reassure the public, government, media, and its licensees that it is acting in the interest of the public. Although there are times where the interest of the professions and the public coincide, the LSO must always ensure that its north star remain the public interest. My experience as a professional regulation lawyer has ingrained this principle into me. I am attuned to national and international regulatory trends. I have co-authored a text used by law schools and administrative tribunals. I am currently the co-author of a judicially cited loose leaf and co-authoring a text dedicated to professional regulation. I have acted as adjudicator, prosecutor, and independent legal advisor for tribunals. I am asked to speak nationally and internationally on various matters of professional regulation. All of these experiences will allow me to bring a distinctive, balanced and individual voice to Convocation.
I am asking for your vote. If I am re-elected to Convocation I intend to address the following:
- Reduce Barriers to Increase Access to Justice – The LSO could assist by reducing or eliminating licensing fees for new calls, and providing financial support or incentives for law students and recent calls who commit to working in underserviced areas of Ontario. Senior lawyers could assist these junior lawyers and also have their fees waived. This would ensure that new graduates do not defer licensure (due to the cost) and allow themselves to invest those fees into repaying their debt or their area of practice. This will assist young lawyers but more importantly, assist the public.
- Heighten Transparency – The LSO can provide more detail into how money is being spent. For example, the LSO could share with its licensees the actual cost of committee meetings, Convocations, investigations, hearings, conferences, Calls to the Bar, and other costs of doing business. In doing so the LSO is showing the public, and its licensees, where the money is being spent. The LSO should also reassess if the Directory contains sufficient information to assist the public.
- Continue the Governance Review – Convocation is too large (40 Lawyer Benchers + 5 Paralegal Benchers + 8 Public Benchers + Other Ex Officio Benchers). The LSO should continue its efforts to make the board smaller. The LSO should look to Bencher selection criteria other than simply geographic location. The College of Nurses of Ontario and the Ontario College of Teachers are both recommending massive governance changes to their boards. The LSO should strive to be a governance leader and continue its efforts to make its Board more nimble and agile.
- Increase Diversity and Inclusion within the profession and leadership roles – The public benefits with a robust and diverse legal profession. It is in the interest of the public that women, Indigenous, parent and racialized licensees remain within the profession and assume positions of leadership.
Jayshree Goswami (www.jayashreegoswami.com)
I am honoured to be running with Bencher Janet Leiper’s affirmation and Bencher Isfahan Merali’s partnership in the upcoming elections. I am senior counsel at one of Canada’s largest in-house litigation departments. I have worked at a national law firm, a multi-national corporation and currently, at one of Canada’s largest insurance companies. I bring over a decade of leadership experience working with the LSO and non-profit organizations on equity, access, inclusion, social advocacy, governance and financial management.
I am running for bencher because I believe it is time that LSO’s initiatives and activities be informed by the perspectives and interests of all its constituencies. In the LSO’s long history, voices representing inhouse counsel, lawyers under 15 years of call, racialized lawyers and women have been conspicuously absent or statistically lacking. I believe that the rich tapestry of ideas, viewpoints, and experience characterising our profession is an infinite resource waiting to be harnessed. As your bencher, I will ensure that historically overlooked and disregarded voices become part of the mainstream, contribute to discussion and debate and enhance LSO’s effectiveness and currency.
Shifting demographics, globalization, technology, outsourcing, and artificial intelligence are rapidly and radically transforming our profession. Irrespective of our appetites for change, innovation, agility and creativity will be the dominant themes for survival and success in the future. Equally, the future of this profession will require finding creative solutions to long-standing problems such as:
- escalating cost of legal services impeding access to justice;
- historical absence of the indigenous perspective on Canadian law;
- widespread institutional bias creating a diversity deficit, particularly in positions of influence;
- the growing epidemic of young lawyers graduating with career-limiting debt; and
- the unconscionable shortage of paid articling positions in Ontario.
If elected, I will continue to enhance accountability, ethics, access to justice and inclusion. I will also introduce fresh perspective, be the bridge connecting lawyers of different generations and interests to help steer our profession into the future.
Barbara Hendrickson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
LSO to Regulate Firms – The Law Society needs to deal with systemic and individual discrimination in our profession. The ability of the Law Society to regulate law firms as well as lawyers, will have an important impact on issues faced by female and racialized lawyers as well as the LGBTQ community. Regulation of law firms will provide the Law Society with an important tool in this area.
Access to Justice – Let’s put the “aid” back in legal aid – we need more government funding, full stop. It is in the interest of the profession and society at large to have a properly funded legal aid system.
Support for Small Law Firms and Sole Practitioners – The LSO needs to develop a wider range of programs and practice aids for sole practitioners and smaller firms. This need has been magnified recently by the inability of law school graduates to find articling positions, and newly called lawyers to find positions with experienced practitioners.
As a profession, we face numerous challenges, some historical, but many having emerged more recently. Our Law Society’s role in meeting these challenges is to govern in a way that both meets its public interest mandate and ensures that we have a viable profession going forward.
Please read more about Barbara at www.baxsecuritieslaw.com.
Jacqueline Horvat (www.jacquelinehorvat.ca)
Over the last four years, I served as Chair of the Proceedings Authorization Committee, Professional Regulation Committee, Litigation Committee and Technology Task Force. I also served as Co-Chair of the Mentoring Task Force and Vice-Chair of the Professional Development & Competence Committee. In the 2019-2023 term, I am committed to taking action to address crucial issues in the following emerging areas:
TECHNOLOGY: The increasing prevalence of legal technology and tools, as well as the rise of artificial intelligence in legal applications, is both a concern and an opportunity for the LSO and its licensees. Embracing technological tools that complete routine and repetitive tasks will provide licensees more time to concentrate on giving clients the benefit of their experience, judgment, and legal advice. I hope to continue my work with the Technology Task Force in assessing the implications of technological tools and promoting education of legal technology among licensees.
DIVERSITY: Complex issues can only be properly addressed when those considering them bring to the table a diversity of views, perspectives, and backgrounds. To ensure this kind of diversity, Convocation should consider appointing non-benchers to committees and task forces to ensure that the right interests and views are taken into account at the policy making stage.
ACCESS TO JUSTICE: One of the core values the LSO must promote is greater and more affordable access to legal services for the public, regardless of income bracket or geographical location. To ensure that the legal system works for everyone, we must support new calls, sole practitioners and small firms across all of Ontario who dedicate their practices to public interest work.
FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY: The fees charged place a financial burden on many members of our profession, particularly our sole and small firm practitioners. The LSO must eliminate unnecessary expenditures and reduce unduly high fees.
Atrisha Lewis (www.atrishalewis.com)
Atrisha Lewis is a litigation associate at McCarthy Tétrault LLP, a trial advocate, and a champion for diversity and inclusion. In the last year, she won the Precedent Setter Award for being a precedent setting lawyer, the University of Toronto Arbour Award for outstanding volunteerism, and the inaugural Inclusion Now Award at McCarthy Tétrault, in recognition of her contribution to diversity and inclusion, at the firm. The Law Society’s role is to ensure competence and protect the public interest through self-regulation. In fulfilling this mandate, Atrisha pledges to serve in accordance with the following three pillars:
Inclusion. Our profession must reflect our communities. As a profession, the most basic measure of our commitment to equal opportunity is our diversity. The Law Society has made great strides, but there is more to do.
As a diverse lawyer and recent call, Atrisha will bring a new generation’s voice to Convocation.
Access. We must find ways to ensure that our profession is accessible to all, including removing financial barriers to law school and licensing. The de-regulation of law school fees has significantly compromised both access to the profession, and access to justice. The Law Society must work with law schools to address this growing problem. The flip side of access to the profession is access to the justice system. The Law Society has a role to play in working towards a sustainable and innovative approach to access to justice in all areas of practice including family, criminal, immigration, and civil litigation.
Governance. Members of the Law Society have a right to demand accessibility, accountability and prudent judgment from Convocation. The profession deserves strong decision makers that consider a variety of perspectives, represent diverse lived experiences, and are responsive to concerns. Sound regulation requires consultation and collaboration. If elected, Atrisha will always be to listen —Let’s start the conversation.
For more information on Atrisha’s platform, please visit www.atrishalewis.com and follow her on Twitter @AtrishaLewis and LinkedIn Atrisha Lewis.
M. Virginia MacLean (www.VirginiaMacLean.com)
I am a bencher candidate so I can work for better governance by the society – governance that is more transparent, accountable to lawyers, and affordable.
• Sole practitioner, proven leader as past-president of OBA and Women’s Law Association
• Experienced on committees, working groups and discipline
• Understand the functions, duties and powers of the LSO and the principles in the Law Society Act which determine the mandate of the Society.
• Do not have unrealistic expectations of what the Society can and cannot do.
• Will work towards ensuring the protection and encouragement of minorities within the profession, access to justice and, better communication with potential lawyers pre and at law schools on the realities of the market for lawyers so they can manage their expectations.
• Will always try to ensure the protection of the self-regulating status of the LSO and that the opinions and interests of Ontario lawyers are always sought, heard and considered by the Society in the decision-making process
Isfahan Merali (email@example.com)
Our profession faces significant and complex challenges: access to justice, articling and licensing, mental health, entity-based regulation, new technologies and AI, amongst many others. The difficulties faced by sole practitioners, new calls, lawyers practicing in small towns, and equity-seeking lawyers are particularly notable. The LSO will need to act thoughtfully to positively represent the public interest. I have worked directly on these challenges and understand their interconnectedness. The profession requires Benchers who are dedicated to public service and to finding creative and effective ways to address these challenges, including greater supports in the profession and advancing mentoring and coaching initiatives. It is critical for our profession to include informed, progressive and diverse ideas on how to face the challenges ahead, and I remain committed to continuing this difficult but important work.
I have advocated for progressive changes at the LSO. This includes my work on Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees, my leadership as Vice- Chair of the Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee, my active role on the Indigenous Review Panel, my commitment and work on the Mental Health Working Group and Task Forces, and my role as Chair of the Tribunal Committee, which has successfully worked on developing and implementing initiatives to increase the independence and professionalism of the Tribunal. I believe that my record demonstrates that I take a thoughtful and informed approach on LSO work and that I do this work in a collaborative and principled manner.
A Recommendation for a New Bencher: Sponsoring New Voices
I am pleased to support Jayashree Goswami, an exceptional Senior In-House Counsel. She has served ably on the Equity Advisory Group and brings a fresh voice and proven track record on equity and inclusion issues. Her service and dedication on diverse issues make her an ideal candidate for Bencher.
For more information on each of us, and on our unique joint campaign, please see:
Barbara Murchie (electmurchie.com)
I am committed to responsible and proportionate regulation that governs the profession in the public interest. Our obligation is to ensure the public has access to competent lawyers. But the public also needs affordable legal services. My policy priorities for the upcoming term are:
Raising the Bar on Competence
The last issue on licensing is whether to increase the rigour of the current licensing exams. I am in favour. Clear thinking, good communication and problem solving are essential skills for all lawyers today. We should test for them in a fair and transparent manner. Post licensing, I favour the continued development of resources and services that will support lawyers in delivering competent, efficient and cost-effective legal service to an increasingly diverse public.
Fostering Innovation and Access to Justice
The Law Society has a role to play in facilitating and encouraging the use of technology in practice. In the next four years, we need to assist our members to incorporate new technologies into their client service. We need to look at best practices around the world and throughout the profession, consider changes that may be required to the Rules of Professional Conduct and develop practical CPD programs. We need to think about how and if to regulate technological delivery of legal services directly to the public.
In my view, fostering innovation is a critical component of addressing access to justice. Lawyers are only one cog in this much bigger wheel. We already support pro bono initiatives, offer pro bono services, accept limited retainers and take other steps to assist clients of limited means. The Law Society can help. It needs to encourage lawyers to use technology to deliver legal services that are more cost effective for clients but still consistent with our professional obligations and position of trust. The Law Society should develop resources that will assist lawyers in using technology in their practices without each lawyer having to reinvent the wheel. We will also need to provide clear guidance on ethical issues that may result. We must also continue to support and advocate for increased legal aid for citizens who do not have the resources to retain lawyers. The Law Society can help to maximize the value of local libraries and develop resources that assist those in smaller firms to effectively and efficiently provide access to justice for the public.
Equality, Diversity and Women in the Profession
What are we waiting for? Our own “Me Too” moment that brings shame on the profession? We know that harassment and discrimination are wrong and that everyone is entitled to a respectful work environment. We know that we must create a level playing field for the fair hiring and promotion of all students and lawyers. We need to continue to track sexual harassment and all forms of discrimination and focus on preventing it. As lawyers, we should be proud to lead on these issues and support the implementation of the Recommendations of the Challenges Facing Racialized Lawyers Working Group.
I have been involved in the Justicia program and in the decision to extend the Recommendations of the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees Working Group to all equality-seeking groups. It is important that we support the continued implementation of the Recommendations and give the changes that are being implemented a chance to work. It’s also time to take another look at the statistics on women in practice, their success, and their career trajectories. At present only 9% compared to 25% of men are partners in firms and 12% compared to 5% for men are retired or not working. We need to know why.
Relevant, Effective and Proportionate Regulation
Regulation must recognize the challenges of practice and not be oppressive. It must support the mandate of the Law Society and the diversity of the bar. I will support practical and reasonable initiatives that (i) ensure competent and honest lawyers in a diverse and honourable profession and (ii) foster innovation and facilitate access to justice.
If you share my concerns, if you want a bencher who will respond, vote Barb Murchie.
Gina Papageorgiou (GPapageorgiou@lawfoundation.on.ca)
I am running for re-election with a view to strengthening the legal profession and the public interest which it serves.
There is an access to justice crisis. Further, while the profession is more diverse, women, racialized, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S and other equity-seeking groups continue to face significant obstacles.
Opportunities for training and mentoring are increasingly difficult to find, as are jobs. The debt carried by law school graduates inhibits them from working for public law organizations, where salaries are typically lower, and makes it difficult for them to start their own practice. If they do, they must charge higher billable rates to service their debts. These circumstances undermine access to justice.
Other jurisdictions have lost the right to self-regulation due to loss of public confidence. Unless our profession addresses access to justice and reflects the diversity of the public it serves, we too risk losing the confidence of the public and the privilege of self-regulation.
These complex and interrelated issues are not easily addressed. Those who serve as Benchers require experience and a proven track record.
Over the twenty eight years since my call to the Bar, I have shown my commitment to diversity, equity, access to justice and the related public interest. In addition to working in private practice, I have been a Deputy Small Claims Court Judge and also led organizations that provide free legal services to marginalized and vulnerable groups.
As your Bencher, I have strongly advocated for improved LSO transparency, accountability and governance. I have also served on the Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee which is working towards implementing recommendations made by the Racialized Lawyers Task Force and the Truth and Reconciliation Report, as well as evaluating and addressing concerns of women and other equity-seeking groups.
For more information on issues I have tackled and to which I am committed, please visit my website at www.ginapapageorgiou.ca.
I believe in hard work, thoughtful solutions, accountability and transparent communication with the entire community.
If re-elected, I will continue working on your behalf to strengthen the profession and the public interest.
Caryma Sa’d (www.sadvocacy.com/bencher2019)
Access to justice is about facilitating access to legal professionals. Aside from the price of legal services, access to justice includes ensuring that the makeup of the profession reflects the diversity of the clients and communities we serve.
Law schools have made moderate progress in diversifying student cohorts, but the skyrocketing cost of a legal education threatens to undo this headway. Additionally, excessive tuition fees affect the public’s access to legal services. New lawyers are increasingly unable to consider work at affordable rates, or practice in areas that directly serve middle or lower-income clients. Changes to the licensing process have more than doubled in cost for new graduates over the last decade.
There is no silver bullet. It is easy to pay lip service to lofty ideals, but concrete and collective action is urgently required. The Law Society of Ontario should be at the forefront of helping lawyers and paralegals serve the public. We must maximize the value provided by local law libraries and deliver accessible and relevant CPD programs. Members should not be afraid to seek guidance on ethical questions or practice problems. Convocation should consider partnering with law schools, legal clinics, and community-based organizations to promote paid practicums that can count towards articling.
My platform is shaped by my lived experiences:
- I struggle with depression, which derailed the formative stages of my career. I was very fortunate to receive support from a caring and well-resourced firm, but not everyone is as lucky. I will promote mental wellness initiatives, including examining strengths and weaknesses of the current Member Assistance Program.
- As a sole proprietor, I am familiar with the ongoing challenge of providing competent legal services while juggling financial obligations. I will advocate for improved small-business support.
- I spearheaded the #WhatsABencher #WhatDoBenchersDo social media campaign to elicit discussion about key issues facing Convocation. I will continue to push for platforms to amplify unheard voices.
If elected, I undertake to perform my duties thoughtfully and with care. I will show up prepared, participate in a meaningful way, and do my best to leave things better than I found them.
Julia Shin Doi (www.juliashindoi.com)
I have worked in private practice, the broader public sector, academia, and the legal clinic setting. I bring over 25 years of broad and varied professional legal experience in understanding the changing nature of the legal profession and the needs of clients and the public so that Law Society regulation and innovation make sense and help.
I am a corporate governance expert with board experience. I understand the difference between oversight and management. I want to ensure that you have the independence that you require to manage and grow your practice.
I bring the corporate counsel and broader public sector perspective to Law Society decision-making. Corporate counsel work in complex multi-stakeholder environments in varying roles. In-house lawyers need a voice at the Law Society table to ensure their professional roles are respected.
As a racialized lawyer, woman, working mother, and spouse of another busy legal professional, I understand the challenges faced by many. The Law Society should continue to foster equity, diversity, and inclusion so that the legal profession thrives, and access to justice including Pro Bono Ontario is sustained.
I have a proven track record of building communities in the legal profession. I have founded many organizations to unite lawyers and support lawyers professionally. I am a co-founder and past president/chair of the Korean Canadian Lawyers Association, Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, Women General Counsel Canada, and many other professional groups.
For many years, I have taught as an adjunct professor and also trained and mentored lawyers. I understand generational differences, the importance of workplace mental health and wellness, and advanced skills and support required for lawyers at all stages to succeed.
Megan Shortreed (www.meganforbencher.com)
I grew up in Waterloo, Ontario, and became the first person in my family to go to law school. I spent the first five years of my career at a large, national law firm. In 2001, I left that safe harbour to start a small firm with a group of progressive and dedicated advocates.
I have been a leader, teacher and mentor in my firm and the profession. My involvement in legal and community organizations has allowed me to speak with an informed and motivated voice.
In 2008, I joined the Law Society’s Justicia Project for the Retention of Women. I dug in, and took on a leadership role. That experience was a formative one and made me passionate about the role the Law Society can play to make a real difference in the way we practice law and protect the public. I believe the Law Society can do more to ensure lawyers are supported to meet the challenges of rapid technological and social change with competence. Small firms, sole practitioners, and young and racialized lawyers need the support of the Law Society to succeed. We must do better to address the additional barriers that many members of the profession face in both entry-to-practice and seeking equity and inclusion throughout their careers.
It is time for the Law Society to take a leadership role on the crisis in legal aid, by partnering with Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Foundation of Ontario, Pro Bono Law Ontario and others to address the access to justice needs of Ontarians.
A significant part of my practice is representing regulators and professionals in the professional regulation context. My approach is one of principled, fair and cost-effective governance.
For the last four years, I had the privilege of serving as a Director of The Advocates’ Society. I had the opportunity to become engaged in the many challenges that confront our profession and the administration of justice, and to take steps to address those challenges. I believe I have more to contribute to the profession. I have the energy and enthusiasm needed to do so. Please see my full platform at https://www.meganforbencher.com/platform.
Cheryl Siran (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The best protection for the public interest is a strong, healthy and competent bar. To accomplish this, we need Benchers who bring diverse viewpoints to the table and appreciate the daily realities of practicing in Ontario. I bring the perspective of a mid-level lawyer from a small firm in the north, who knows the business of law, the value of innovation and the fundamental importance of providing access to justice to the public. With half my practice as a solicitor, I appreciate the concerns of solicitors about the demands of this work, and the vital role we play in maintaining the fabric of communities across Ontario. I believe more solicitor representation is needed at Convocation to ensure that proposed changes to policies that affect everyday realities of practice will bring useful and needed improvement, not just increased regulation. The LSO must also be a leader in transformative and innovative technologies that facilitate the efficient delivery of services. We need to think differently about the practice of law, and with that, how we govern ourselves, in order to properly prepare for the future. I am up to that job. I have operated a paperless office since 2011 and am constantly working to improve my delivery of legal services. Through my leadership roles in the Federation of Ontario Law Associations (CDLPA), I have gained an understanding of the respective roles of the LSO, its justice partners, and government in addressing the issues facing the profession and the public. I have strong and proven experience in addressing legal issues faced by the profession and am practical in my approach to problem solving. I can bring fresh perspective and ideas to the table from the voice of a younger practitioner, a voice that I believe is currently underrepresented. I will challenge that status quo if necessary. If elected, I hope to advocate in Convocation for policy changes that will continue to lead us into the future.
Tanya Walker (www.tcwalkerlawyers.com/bencher)
For three years as an elected Bencher, I have devoted myself to the work of the Law Society on behalf of the public interest by assisting with governing lawyers and paralegals. I ask for your support to continue that work.
On a professional note, practicing law has been my passion for thirteen years, nine of which I have spent fashioning my own law firm with four lawyers and paralegals. We are attentive to our clients, involved in legal issues in this election and engage in public service. I bring this passion in seeking your vote to be re-elected as Bencher in this election.
If re-elected I will devote myself to the further refinement of existing issues and development of solutions for new matters as they arise.
Technological Innovation, Efficiency and Preparation: Expand the Law Society Technology Task Force mandate, develop plans and studies to expand and refine technology solutions to prepare for revolutionary changes in the interface between legal technology, the profession and the public with a view to increasing efficiency (i.e. e-filing and CourtCall) and enhancing lawyer-client service while avoiding difficulties such as breach of cybersecurity and privacy.
Training and Mentorship for Junior Lawyers: Promote and expand initiatives that offer mentorship opportunities for junior lawyers through education and a permanent mentorship committee at the Law Society.
Fiscal Prudence: I am committed to maintaining Law Society fees at the present level and identifying efficiencies in Law Society operations to accomplish that commitment.
Diversity: Diversity is a significant and important commitment of the Law Society and the lawyers of Ontario in service to the Ontario public. In the areas of service, recruitment and retention, I will continue that effort.
Read more about me and my campaign here: www.tcwalkerlawyers.com/bencher
Claire Wilkinson (clairewilkinson.ca)
Through my work as President of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Ministry of the Attorney General and the LSO. I determined that there is a need for a continued emphasis on strong policy development that will ensure the protection of the public, along with the need to ensure access to justice for those coming before the courts with legal disputes, and continued financial support for the county law libraries. I will focus on all three areas if I am elected bencher.
Enhanced funding for county law libraries and law associations – Law libraries and associations are valuable resources that provide education, administrative support and research assistance, along with important social and networking opportunities. My 17 years serving Halton taught me the value of an active and thriving county law association, particularly to lawyers in solo and small practices. Ongoing financial support is critical.
Access to justice – The administrators of our courts are experimenting with different models to ensure greater efficiency within the court system, including the one judge model pilot project launched in February 2019. This approach may not work in every case, but it is an excellent initiative to try to tackle the backlogs facing our court system. We need to continue to explore opportunities to streamline litigation.
Changes to the Solicitors Act – The LSO working group has done an outstanding job this year working with the AG and other legal groups to draft changes to the Solicitors Act that increase transparency to the consumer and remove confusion. But the work is not yet finished. The amendments have not yet been proclaimed, and there is still work to be done with the Regulations and drafting a standard contingency fee agreement to be used province-wide. This work is fundamental to access to justice for people who are injured and can’t afford representation any other way.
The LSO needs benchers who are prepared to work hard, work collaboratively, and to speak their minds. I intend to do all three. Learn more about me and my platform at clairewilkinson.ca!
Heather Zordel (heatherzordel.ca)
Having been elected to a Bencher position last year when another Bencher became a judge, I have been “learning the ropes” and I am finding Bencher work interesting and rewarding. Accordingly, I’m requesting your vote to re-elect me in 2019.
I am working in the public interest to ensure we, as Benchers in partnership with Law Society staff, (i) license individuals well qualified for general practice and chosen specialties; and (ii) ensure Ontario licensees receive good value for the fees you pay the Law Society. As a self-governing profession, we must also recognize and respect that the overwhelming majority of the profession govern themselves well as individuals.
The “industry” of law is evolving at an increasing pace, and it is hard to keep track of associated issues. We need your input as to where regulatory change is needed, not just on big picture issues, but also the little ones that take time away from your working day or cause you to incur unnecessary expenses. We all complain about such annoyances over coffee or in written submissions, and forget about them until we realize they have never been addressed and have gotten lost, and start again in the next round of consultations. I propose to focus attention on simple record-keeping and then a database to keep track of your concerns, issues and ideas for solutions, so the Law Society can address them in an organized fashion as we move forward with Convocation, staff, processes and technology.
Please visit my Linked-In profile at www.linkedin.com/in/heather-zordel-08813818/ and my website at http://heatherzordel.ca.
Full List of Women Running for Bencher in 2019 (WLAO members are bolded)
Cheryl R. Lean
M. Anne Vespry
Andrea L. Clarke
M. Virginia MacLean
Dianne G. Corbiere
Janis P. Criger
Lawyer Candidates from Toronto
Karen E. Andrews
Signa Daum Shanks
Rebecca C. Durcan
Caryma F. Sa’d
Mirilyn R. Sharp
Julia Shin Doi