Etienne Esquega

Lawyer Bencher Candidate – Northwest Region

Priorities

I want to be a voice for the Northwest Region and Outside Toronto at Convocation. If elected I will continue to seek the input from the membership, and the public, so that I can advance the voice of these regions appropriately.
Some of the priorities that I have identified in my campaign which the LSO must do include the following:

– The LSO needs to be seen in the North. If the regulator is responsible for all of Ontario, it must be seen in the North.

– The LSO must ensure that disciplinary processes are advanced in a way that is timely and efficient so that the public can have confidence that the LSO is capable of self-regulating our profession in the public interest. The 2018 Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous Peoples suggests that the LSO is not meeting the minimum standards in this regard.

– Access to Justice is a very concerning issue especially for those who reside in remote areas of the province. We need to continue to find ways to break down barriers. One barrier to Access to Justice, which is getting very concerning, is the rising costs of legal education. We also need to continue the equity, diversity and inclusion work as set out in the racialized licensee challenges report, and continue the work aimed at the retention of women in the profession, as these issues have a significant impact on Access to Justice.

– Any reforms or changes to the licencing process, or expansion of legal services that can be provided by paralegals, must have “competency” as the overriding principle in the decision making on such issues.

– If the LSO is going to continue to offer CPD programming, it must do so on a cost recovery basis at the very least. Any profits from this programming must be used to decrease the costs that are being downloaded to the membership by way of fees. CPD programming must be offered, live, to the members in the northern locations of the province as well. The public in all parts of this province has the same interest in ensuring that the membership is competent. CPD events also facilitate mentorship/networking opportunities that we must harness for all areas of this province and not just those who have the means to travel to the south.

– The LSO must continue to be mindful and make technology an issue that will be addressed at Convocation. Technology is rapidly expanding, and we have no choice but to accept this reality and try to keep up. The LSO must continue to become technologically accessible as well.

– We must continue to search for efficiencies so that the costs downloaded to the membership are minimal. Any additional financial pressures we place on the membership have the effect of having a detrimental impact on the public we serve.

Background

Number one I am a dad. I have amazing daughters who I spend all of my free time with – most often ferrying them to and from extra-curricular activities, shopping, Starbucks, and playdates.

I am a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 2005 – I guess that makes me a mid-career lawyer now. I have been practicing law in Northwestern Ontario ever since. I started my career at a regional firm, and then I went solo in 2012. Last year, I hired a new grad from the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law. I have a great appreciation of what it is like to be a small firm lawyer in a remote part of this beautiful province.

I represent clients on land claims, civil litigation, First Nation governance, and corporate/commercial matters. Recently, I acted for a First Nation in a settlement of a flooding land claim. I also acted for a party at the 7 First Nation Youth Inquest.

I am a co-chair of the Indigenous Advisory Group to the Law Society of Ontario. I also volunteered on the working group which developed the Certified Specialist in Indigenous Legal Issues designation.

Enjoy this candidate’s “Of Counsel” interview while you read more about them!

Candidates I support

There are many great candidates. Two in particular that I support are Dianne Corbiere and Signa Daum Shanks. Both have been influenial on me.

Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

The 2018 Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous Peoples found that the LSO struggles with its handling of complex disciplinary proceedings, specifically those that affect Indigenous people. The LSO needs to handle all disciplinary proceedings in a more efficient and timely manner. In considering the interests of the public and the licensees, disciplinary proceedings should not take significant periods to process.

Something the LSO doesn't do that it should start doing

The LSO seems to have very little presence in the north although the mandate is to regulate the profession for all of Ontario. The LSO needs to be seen in the North as well.

website

http://www.esquegalaw.com/2019-bencher-election

email

ee@esquegalaw.com

social media

https://www.facebook.com/esquegalaw/

https://www.instagram.com/esquegalaw/

https://twitter.com/EsquegaEtienne

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

Expand to read Etienne's views
Access to justice has many different contributing factors and resulting consequences. One detrimental issue is the sky-high cost of getting a law degree, which appears to be increasing. If this trend continues, the amount of people from the Northwest Region who can afford to go to law school is going to be limited. That means fewer local licensees are going to be practicing in our region.
Expand to read Etienne's views
Any further governance reform must be approached in a pragmatic and reasoned manner. We need to ensure that diversity of background, and location is reflected before Convocation. As a result, any reform must proceed in a manner which protects the ability to have diversity to the table. I support the ideal of establishing designated seats for the representation of newer calls at Convocation.
Expand to read Etienne's views
As noted early, I am very concerned about this. The LSO must do what it can to address this matter, including raising this as an urgent agenda item at the Federation of Law Societies.
Expand to read Etienne's views
I support the statement of principles. I do not understand why we as professionals cannot adopt principles that support the elimination of racism, discrimination, and barriers to access to justice. The regulator must continue to address these principles and the work as set out in the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees: Final Report, the Working Together For Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions report and the Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous People report.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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It is already underway. The LSO as a regulator must make this a high priority to protect the interests of the public and maintain the integrity of the profession. Just think of how far technology has come in the past five years. While I am a big fan of technology, we must be cautious of it. Maybe the LSO should take an active role in approving software and technology that meets minimum standards?
Expand to read Etienne's views
The LSO must continue to explore pathways to licensing. The Lakehead Law School model is one that should be further explored. Their model incorporates a curriculum which enables students to take the bar exams without articling. I hired a recent grad from this school and have had students on placement at my office.
Expand to read Etienne's views
Expand to read Etienne's views
Expand to read Etienne's views
There is an obligation to be technologically competent. However, we need to start to define what that minimum criteria is. We also need to make sure that it does not result in further regulation that places a signiificant burden on the membership. One way of addressing this is to require or encourage CPD programming providers to incorporate technology competency in their programming to get accreditation.

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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The LSO needs to do better when it comes to regulating the profession and the services provided to indigenous communities. The 2018 Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous Peoples provides a summary of the many shortcomings.

The calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Report calls for lawyers to become culturally competent on indigenous cultures, histories, law and legal orders. The LSO must continue to consult with and utilize the Indigenous Advisory Group to the LSO as we continue to pursue reconciliation.

Expand to read Etienne's views
Expand to read Etienne's views

Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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Ensuring lawyers are competent so that they can be licenced to serve the public is a serious public interest issue. It appears that the practice of law is becoming more and more specialized. As a result, our licencing system may need to change to address this reality. I would be interested in exploring this discussion further at Convocation and in consultation with the membership and public. I have heard one suggestion for a graduated licencing process which may be an appropriate approach.

The LSO should discuss the need for more training being offered in law school before students graduate. We should review the progress that has been made with the Lakehead University – Bora Laskin Faculty of Law school curriculum which enables students to write the bar examinations right after law school without articling.

Expand to read Etienne's views
Yes. However, it should pay for itself, and any profits should be used to minimize membership fees. CPDs should be offered live to those who are outside of Toronto either directly by the LSO or in partnership with other providers. The CPD functions also facilitate mentorship and networking opportunities that should be available to those outside of Toronto, in particular, the membership in the Northwest.
Expand to read Etienne's views
Expand to read Etienne's views
We must be mindful of members who face health challenges. Mental health challenges in particular. We need to improve and explore new ways that the LSO can offer early support to members so that their struggles do not result in disciplinary proceedings.
Expand to read Etienne's views
The newly elected benchers must sit down and discuss this item as soon as possible. I have heard from several members that the fees are a concern. We must always try to minimize fees and ensure the funding is being spent to meet the LSO’s mandate as efficiently as possible.

Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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The LSO must continue to address the work as set out in the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees: Final Report, the Working Together For Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions report and the Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous People report. The LSO must also continue the work aimed at the retention of women in the profession.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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Any expanding of the scope of paralegal practice must be done with the public interest in mind. Competency must be the paramount consideration for the licencing of lawyers and paralegal to ensure that the public interest is protected. There are many remote areas of the province that are underserviced by lawyers and are areas where paralegals may be able to assist in facilitating Access to Justice.

FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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The local law libraries are a very important resource for the profession, especially for us in the Northwest who have barriers to accessing information otherwise. These libraries must be maintained and must contain materials and resources that are relevant for the users.

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