Caryma Sa’d

Lawyer Bencher Candidate – Toronto Region

Priorities

1. Reducing barriers to entry and practice, such as the cost of legal education and licensing. For example, by fostering partnerships with law schools and community legal organizations to create practicum in 3L that can count towards articling. I would also support revisiting the framework for licensing fees, perhaps a sliding scale or rebates for recent calls/practitioners below a certain income threshold.

2. Enhancing access to justice through strategic support for recent calls and solo/small firms. A third of the LSO budget is spent on investigations and discipline. I believe we should invest more in proactive measures such as developing a toolkit or module for lawyers hanging out their shingle, or an option to request a practice management audit rather than spot checks.

3. Improving mental wellness and work-life balance within the profession. There are some weaknesses to the Member Assistance Program counselling program which undermine the utility and accessibility of the service. The LSO should also fortify the Parental Leave Assistance Program by reviewing the eligibility criteria.

Background

I was called to the Bar in 2016 and hung out my shingle in 2017. I practice primarily in the areas of criminal and landlord/tenant law, with a budding portfolio of cannabis cases.
My clientele is diverse in every sense of the word. I regularly appear at the Landlord and Tenant Board, Ontario Court of Justice, Superior Court of Justice, and Divisional Court. I graduated cum laude from the University of Ottawa in 2015.
The formative years of my career were derailed by depression and struggles with mental health. The process of healing is non-linear, which has been a life lesson about the importance of being patient and kind (both with myself and others).
I am frequently called upon by the media as a trusted source for their news stories. My cases and legal commentary have been featured by local, national, and international media outlets including Associated Press, BNN Bloomberg, Canadian Press, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian Lawyer, CityNews Toronto, CP24, CTV Television Network, Global Toronto, Globe and Mail, GrowthOp, Huffington Post, Law Times, Ming Pao, NOW Magazine, Sing Tao, StarMetro Vancouver, Toronto Star, VICE News, Winnipeg Free Press, and the Zoomer Report.
In my spare time, I enjoy watching professional wrestling.
Before contemplating the expansion of paralegal scope of service, the Law Society of Ontario should focus on testing and ensuring competence. My work at the Landlord and Tenant Board puts me in regular contact with paralegals, some of whom have become friends and mentors. I have observed a wide range of legal ability among paralegals, which signals the need for ongoing testing and support. Properly equipped, I believe paralegals are part of the solution to improving access to justice.

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website

www.sadvocacy.com/bencher2019

email

social media

https://www.linkedin.com/in/caryma-sad/

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All Candidates were invited to comment on any or all of the following topics

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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.
The LSO needs to take urgent action to promote access to justice, otherwise the profession will become increasingly irrelevant to the average Ontarian.
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From an outsider’s perspective, the current setup seems cumbersome and not conducive to effective decision-making. I do not have a firm view on what, if any, changes should be made to the structure of Convocation. I would support looking into staggered terms and a composition that accounts for more than regional diversity. I also think there should be rules on election spending, or at least a level playing field in terms of ensuring all candidates have access to “traditional” forms of advertising. It is shocking how much it costs to do a mailout or purchase an ad in the Ontario Reports. Finally, it is time to revisit the compensation structure for benchers. The 26-day deductible disproportionately impacts sole proprietors.
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Although the LSO cannot directly control tuition fees, more involvement on this issue is needed. We must work in collaboration with law schools and community legal organizations to reduce the debt-burden on new graduates and law students. For example, Lakehead University offers a 15-week practice placement in third year, which has been approved as a replacement for the articling requirement. The placement is unpaid, but firms can opt to support their students’ living expenses. This program provides an opportunity for students to work in small to medium-size firm environments in different communities across Ontario.
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I am not persuaded by the “compelled speech” argument against the Statement of Principles, seeing as we already take an oath upon being called to the bar. The promotion of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) falls squarely within our existing duties. I find the StopSOP position disingenuous and legally untenable. It is offensive to suggest that EDI are simply “political” beliefs, when in fact they are central to any meaningful definition of “justice.”
Components of the existing lawyer’s oath include “I shall protect and defend the rights and interests of such persons as may employ me… I shall seek to ensure access to justice and access to legal services… I shall seek to improve the administration of justice…I shall champion the rule of law and safeguard the rights and freedoms of all persons…I shall strictly observe and uphold the ethical standards that govern my profession.” The Statement of Principles is merely an acknowledgment of our pre-existing obligations, with a focus on EDI to encourage reflection about systemic discrimination within the profession.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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Artificial intelligence (AI) tools offer the promise of automating search processes and delivering summaries of pertinent information, thus saving their human users hours of schlepping through tedious documents. If information is properly managed so that breaches of privacy do not occur, AI in the workplace can result in a better outcome at a lower cost to the client. However, in the criminal justice system we should be wary of relying on AI without intensive scrutiny – the inputs rely on humans and are thus prone to error and bias. AI in the criminal justice system may require objective, well-reasoned humans to carefully evaluate the inputs and results. The LSO should keep itself apprised of developments in legal technology, and where appropriate establish guidelines for best practice.
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Providing LPP across the board would eliminate concerns about a two-tiered system, but there is a lot of value that can be derived from articling. A practicum in third year that counts towards articles could play a role in a discussion about pathways to licensing. My position on this issue is evolving.
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Enabling clients to obtain legal services in a ‘piecework’ fashion is a good thing. It gives clients more options and improves access to justice. We offer block fees and unbundled legal services at my firm and it works quite well for us. However, I do think members would benefit from additional guidance in terms of drafting limited scope retainers and ensuring the necessary disclaimers are conveyed to clients.
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I am in support of proceeding with a pilot project. Entity-based regulation could be helpful in some contexts, but it could backfire if implemented poorly. I think it would be more efficient for the LSO to regulate firms rather than individual members, but the prospect of saving costs cannot outweigh our duty to protect the public interest.
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The LSO should provide clear guidelines and resources that allow practitioners to respond to client expectations. Cyber security should be an integral component of any training in the field of technology.

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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Historically, the legal community has been complicit in the oppression of Indigenous peoples. For instance, Indigenous peoples were legally prevented from hiring lawyers until 1951. Meanwhile, receiving professional training resulted in losing Indian status, which meant giving up the right to live on reserve, vote in band elections, or inherit property from indigenous lands. The legal field was effectively off-limits for Indigenous students, on pain of being stripped of one’s identity. We no longer see such flagrant discrimination, but the damage has not been rectified. We still do not have Indigenous representation in law proportionate to the general population, to say nothing of over-representation in provincial and federal carceral institutions. The disparity in numbers does not reflect a lack of talent or ability, but rather a lack of opportunity to pursue legal careers. Reconciliation should involve the LSO looking in the mirror, however uncomfortable that experience may be.
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I do not have a firm position on this issue. In some circumstances, it makes sense to open ownership to include family members and key employees. I think this can be done without compromising the integrity or independence of the legal profession, particularly if clear rules or guidelines are established. The Rules of Professional Conduct would have to apply regardless of the business structure.
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The rules governing advertising and fee arrangements ought to be well-defined, consistently enforced and generally minimal. I would support a program whereby members have the option to seek approval for specific advertisements and campaigns in advance. When it comes to spending money on marketing campaigns, it is preferable to ask for permission rather than forgiveness.

Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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I support looking into the development of programs geared towards small firms and firms outside large urban centers that incentivize hiring articling students. As part of this approach we can learn from the British Columbian model of the Rural Education and Access to Lawyers (R.E.A.L.). It is a program that is committed to assisting law firms and practitioners in small communities and rural areas of British Columbia to recruit, hire and retain law students and new lawyers. Law firms apply for funding and student can view a job board and apply through R.E.A.L. This initiative is run by the Canadian Bar Association (British Columbia branch) and is funded by the Law Society and Law Foundation of British Columbia.
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Yes, because the provision of CPD is an important element in ensuring professional competency. I am mindful that revenue from CPD contributes to the LSO budget, but the profit motive should not be the driving force. The LSO should focus on making CPD financially accessible, particularly for recent calls. I am fortunate to practice in Toronto where there are ample opportunities for free or low-cost CPD, but that experience is not universal to lawyers across the province.
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The LSO must balance its primary function of serving the public interest with its additional role of supporting licensees. I would support implementing fee rebates for lawyers working in underserviced areas, and/or a sliding scale fee structure for recent calls or lawyers below a certain income threshold. I would like to see discussion about a work-sharing program, which could be beneficial to members retiring or winding down their law practice, taking parental leave or other leaves of absence, and those seeking experience or paid work. The LSO should invest in proactive measures such as developing a toolkit or module for lawyers hanging out their shingle or establishing an option to request a practice management audit rather than spot checks. The LSO should also fortify the Parental Leave Assistance Program by reviewing the eligibility criteria.
Expand to read Caryma's views
I know first-hand how helpful the Member Assistance Program (MAP) counselling program can be in times of crisis. However, there are some weaknesses to the MAP which undermine the utility and accessibility of the service. The LSO should think about how to improve the delivery of mental health support services, including proactive support for members who are struggling to keep up with their professional responsibilities.
Expand to read Caryma's views
I would prioritize an in-depth scrutiny of current initiatives receiving funding and promote funding that aims to make the LSO a better resource for practicing lawyers. Approximately a third of the budget is spent on discipline and investigation. I think it would be in everyone’s interest to reallocate some of those resources to proactive measures which will help members avoid getting in trouble in the first place.

Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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The LSO must follow in practice its mandate of diversity and inclusivity. The legal profession should be representative of the broader community. The strenuous resistance against the Statement of Principles requirement suggests there is a lot of work to be done in terms of affirming the value of equality, diversity, and inclusivity. The LSO must work to dismantle barriers to entry and practice on an urgent basis.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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Before contemplating the expansion of paralegal scope of service, the LSO should focus on testing and ensuring competence. My work at the Landlord and Tenant Board puts me in regular contact with paralegals, some of whom have become friends and mentors. I have observed a wide range of legal ability among paralegals, which signals the need for ongoing testing and support. Properly equipped, I believe paralegals are part of the solution to improving access to justice.

FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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Funding for staffed law libraries is quintessential to practice outside major urban centers and is key for sole practitioners and small firms. I support maintaining and even augmenting this funding priority by providing more funds for maintenance, staffing and importing of new materials, especially digital materials.

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