Jayashree Goswami

Lawyer Bencher Candidate – Toronto Region

Priorities

As bencher, my foremost priority will be to ensure that LSO’s initiatives and activities are informed by the perspectives and interests of all its constituencies. In the LSO’s long history, voices representing in-house counsel, lawyers under 15 years of call, racialized lawyers and women have been conspicuously absent or statistically lacking. These and other historically overlooked and disregarded voices must become part of the mainstream and contribute to discussion and debate to 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 important is and will continue to be the urgent need to find solutions to critical problems threatening our profession 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.

As your bencher, I will support innovation, introduce fresh insight, enhance accountability and be the bridge connecting lawyers of different generations and interests to help steer our profession into the future.

Background

I am employed as Senior Counsel at Intact Financial Corporation, Toronto. I was called to the Bar in 2007 and worked as a litigator at a national law firm for several years before moving in-house.

From my first year as a lawyer, I have worked closely with the LSO on major equity and diversity initiatives, such as Retention of Women in Private Practice, Pathways to Licensing and the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees initiative. I have been a member of various committees, including the Equity Advisory Group (“EAG”), Treasurer’s Liaison Group, the Treasurer’s Roundtable of Corporate Counsel and The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG).

My recent leadership experiences include the following:

-Chair of the Roundtable of Diversity Associations (RODA) (2016-2018)
-President of the South Asian Bar Association, Toronto (2013-2015)
-Vice-Chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s Equality Committee (2016-2017)
-Member of Council, Ontario Bar Association (2017-2018)
-Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (2015-2017).
-Board member, Anti-Racism Strategic Plan Consultation Group of the Anti-Racism Directorate (2017-2018), appointed by the Government of Ontario

In 2014, I was awarded the Leading Women, Building Communities Award by the Government of Ontario recognising my volunteer work and leadership in law.

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

Candidates I support

I support candidates with a strong record of public service who collectively represent the rich diversity of the community we serve. Of these individuals, I list the following whose campaigns, platforms and stories have inspired me most: (1) Isfahan Merali (2) Orlando Da Silva (3) Gina Papageorgiou (4) Rebecca Durcan (5) Caryma Sa’d (6) Shalini Konanur

Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

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

website

www.jayashreegoswami.com

email

contact@jayashreegoswami.com

social media

Twitter: jay_ashree
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jayashree-goswami-b3847334/
Facebook: Jayashree-Isfahan for Bencher

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

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Access to justice and access to legal services are fundamental social determinants of citizen health, inclusion and engagement. According to the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, one in three people will experience at least one legal problem in a given three-year period; few will have the resources to solve them; members of poor and vulnerable groups are particularly prone to legal problems and the problems people have often multiply. Improving access to justice must be a top priority for the LSO.

Having served on The Action Group – Access to Justice (“TAG”) of the Law Society of Ontario, I appreciate the complexities underlying the issue. Our approach must be informed by: (1) an understanding of the intricate web of causes, such as historic patterns of overt and systemic discrimination and systemic inefficiencies that cost money and time; (2) input, advice and insight from community groups, grassroots legal organizations, and legal aid clinics that are at the forefront of serving at-risk communities and (3) a willingness on the part of the profession to embrace new ideas, technologies and efficiencies.

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I strongly support governance reform at the LSO. According to the Hansell Report, LSO governance is unwieldly, archaic and in need of reform. Academics and thinkers such Professor Adam Dodek and Anita Anand have advocated, among other things, for a reduced size of Convocation with inherent safeguards to prevent benchers from acting in conflict of interest. Having attended Convocation on multiple occasions, I have witnessed and been concerned by the laborious pace of proceedings and resulting inefficiencies.

Our profession and the milieu in which we serve are rapidly changing and extending into areas that require regulation – artificial intelligence in business and law, alternate legal service providers, digital transformation, data-driven business models, the implications of cryptocurrency etc. Convocation must be agile, dynamic and welcoming of change. In my view, governance reform is vital to the continued sustenance of self-regulation.

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The escalating cost of legal education operates as a first and formidable barrier to an inclusive profession. If one is not wealthy, law school does not necessarily promise a good return on investment particularly when combined with the exclusionary effect of subsequent systemic barriers at the articling stage and thereafter. Also, law school graduates faced with mortgage sized debts, are more prone to taking up any job that pays the bill over what they might really want to do. This leads to chronic mental health and addiction issues rampant in the profession as lawyers feel trapped in dissatisfying jobs.

Law schools are outside the LSO’s jurisdiction, but the health of the profession is well within the LSO’s mandate. The LSO needs to claim strong ownership over the issue. The LSO must work closely with law schools and the Federation of Law Societies to devise a time and cost-effective legal education system. Incorporating a paid co-op program and making experiential learning a compulsory part of law school curriculum (to reduce or remove the need for articling) are some options that should be explored. Student debt forgiveness and debt reduction for lawyers in public service and academics should be considered.

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I unequivocally support the requirement for all lawyers and paralegals to create and abide by a Statement of Principles.

The Statement of Principles is a curtain raiser. It has been implemented as a first step to addressing longstanding historical and institutional inequity in the legal profession and in society at large. It serves as a firm reminder to members of the profession that:

(1) we serve one of the most diverse communities in the world and our profession does not reflect this diversity;
(2) a homogenous bar cannot properly serve a heterogenous society; and
(3) promoting diversity is essential for the health of our community and efficient delivery of legal services.

Convocation has extensively discussed and debated the propriety of the Statement of Principles and the limits of its jurisdiction twice already. Both times, members of the profession and public were invited to weigh in. Further, the very question is before the courts. Under the circumstances, I am of the view that this should not be made an election issue.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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Expand to read Jayashree's views
I agree with the LSO’s decision to offer a dual path to licensing at this time because the infrastructure to abolish articles in entirety or have all students proceed with LPP is simply not in place. However, this is a temporary solution as it does not do enough to level the playing field.

While every law graduate can now technically gain entry into the profession, inequities persist. We have a two-tier system of articling in the province. It remains to be seen (given the nascence of the LPP program) whether graduates of the LPP program are accepted as equals to their peers who have completed traditional articling. Moreover, discrimination, unfair practices and bullying of students by their principals persists as an ugly reality. Articling, which was conceived as a facilitator is now operating as a barrier to entry into the profession.

Pathways to Licensing must be revisited. There must be a one-size-fits-all approach proofed for equal opportunity. If articling is to be abolished, experiential learning must form a compulsory part of law school education. If LPP is the way forward for all licensees, the LSO has to be able to fund it without imposing greater debts on our newest and most vulnerable members.

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Unbundled legal services under limited scope retainers allow clients a cost-effective way to retain legal representation. Unbundled legal services are a means of enhancing access to justice, especially for those who do not qualify for legal aid. However, the LSO must be proactive about regulating unbundled legal services to ensure provision of competent legal representation. Not all matters lend themselves to unbundling of legal services. Clients must be properly informed of the limits of the retainer. A lawyer or paralegal providing unbundled services must know whether and when to advise opposing counsel, the court or tribunal of the limits of the retainer without compromising her client. Licensees require clear direction. Members of the public need information. The LSO, therefore, has a central role to play in regulating unbundled legal services.
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Entity based regulation is the logical response to a legal landscape featuring large law practices and in-house legal departments. Proactive management-based regulation of large legal entities will help facilitate an infrastructure that will prevent and mitigate misconduct, negligence, sub-par service and misleading advertising. In addition, entity-based regulation is an effective mechanism (largely unexplored to date) to encourage equity and diversity initiatives across organizations and a culture shift towards greater inclusion.

We must however be mindful about the potential impact of entity-based regulation on small/sole practices and smaller in-house departments, particularly the possibility of such regulatory requirement becoming an administrative and financial burden. In my view, entity based regulation should be considered with the possibility of it being applied to a sub set of entities.

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Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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The LSO has a direct mandate to ensure that all licensees receive appropriate cultural competency training on the history of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit people and their relationship with the Canadian crown and government. The obligation arises from Call to Action 27 of The Truth and Reconciliation Report. This is an ongoing and permanent obligation of the LSO. Without question, this should be a key priority for the LSO.

Aside from facilitating training and cultural competency, the LSO must take proactive steps to reduce and remove barriers for indigenous participating in the profession. The LSO should take a leadership role in improving the capacity of the mentorship and DHC program to assist indigenous licensees. The LSO should be a strong advocate for indigenous representation in the judiciary and on the judiciary advisory committees. The LSO must help accelerate a culture shift by celebrating the accomplishments of indigenous licensees to create a roster of role models to inspire and instill confidence in young indigenous lawyers.

Finally, and most importantly, I take this opportunity to remind all voters that representation and change starts at Convocation – it is imperative that there be indigenous representation at Convocation.

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This requires careful consideration as more non-lawyers (such as accountants, social workers, paralegals, consultants etc.) are and will be providing services that were traditionally the exclusive domain of lawyers as a means of enhancing access to justice but also in response to emerging business needs. In regulating alternate business structures, the LSO should be mindful of the implications of conflict of interest and limits of liability with a view to protecting the public and ensuring delivery of competent legal services.

In my view, alternate legal service providers will be a part of the future whether the legal profession agrees or not. The LSO should be proactive and at the forefront of regulating alternate business services.

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Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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I support the Law Society hosting CPD programs as training and competence of lawyers is directly within its mandate. I am of the view that the Law Society should make CPDs more accessible by charging different levels of fees to lawyers of different categories. For instance, lawyers from large firms and large in-house departments are reimbursed in full or part for their CPD expenses. Sole practitioners and members of smaller practices do not have this luxury.
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Expand to read Jayashree's views
With growing awareness and information on the extent and consequences of mental health issues faced by legal professionals, the LSO has to lead the charge on destigmatising mental health issues and providing proper support to its members. This would be a first step to accelerating an important culture shift.To this end, the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel and the Member’s Assistance Program must be supported and improved.
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Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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Access to and mobility within the profession are characterised by inequality at every stage. Climbing fees at law school and the articling crisis stultify careers of junior members of the Bar, a disproportionate number of who belong to marginalised communities. The inequity persists as systemic bias becomes an invisible yet formidable impediment in the way of upward mobility. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy as the absence of inclusion at positions of influence engenders a deep-seated culture of exclusion. The result is a loss of talent and underutilization of our best resource – human resource.

I agree with the Law Society’s proactive, multi-pronged and comprehensive strategy to combat systemic discrimination. It is essential to turn to all 5 strategies outlined in the Challenges to Racialized Licensees Report (accelerating a culture shift, measuring progress, educating for change, implementing supports and leading by example) to tackle these issues. In particular, I would like to see the following considered:

• Advocating for a more representative judiciary
• Enhancing the Law Society’s mentorship program to assist racialized licensees
• Establishing a speaker’s roster at the Law Society that actively solicits and includes names of racialized lawyers as speakers to be considered in the Law Society’s CPD programs
• Liaising with equity bar associations on EDI issues
• Enhancing the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel’s office and the Member’s Assistance Program at the LSO.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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I support the funding of staffed local law libraries. Law libraries are a necessity for lawyers, paralegals, practices and alternate legal service providers who cannot afford expensive electronic subscriptions to research portals and other publications. Taking away libraries and librarians would disproportionately prejudice those without means.

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