Mirilyn Sharp

Lawyer Candidate – Toronto Region

Priorities

As so eloquently put by Charlotte Proudman, “achieving gender, class and race parity needs to be the aim of the legal profession, so that we properly reflect the society we represent – and inequality is stamped out for good”. Over the last 30 plus years I have experienced and watched fabulous women lawyers experience barriers to career success, merely because they have chosen to have children. If I am able to influence a change in how law firms perceive and treat lawyers who choose to have children, I will have left this world a better place, not only for the lawyers and their children, but also for the public at large. I am also concerned that the cost of legal services has soared far beyond anything an individual client can afford. I have been both a lawyer and a client and can attest to the fact that it is not only an emotionally draining experience to be a client in a lawsuit, it is prohibitively costly. We need to find a way to make legal services more accessible, particularly in areas of law where the issues involve human rights, custody and child support, criminal charges and the like. As a class action litigator, I am keenly aware of the need for access to justice, not just for plaintiffs but also for defendants. Lastly, I am aware that the cost of a legal education has risen astronomically, from the $1000 per year I paid at U of T Law School, to the almost $40,000 per year my daughter, Jordyn will face when she enters law school in 2020. Add to that the cost to become licensed as a lawyer after law school, as well as the yearly fees to be an insured member of the LSO, and it is not surprising that the practice of law is becoming less and less accessible. And don’t even get me started on the problems many young law graduates face in finding an articling position and/or an associate position. We need to fix this!

Background

I graduated from U of T Law School in 1985 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1987 (I started law school at age 3, making me only 39 years old!). I have been a litigation lawyer at Blaney McMurtry, LLP for my entire career, with a heavy focus on class actions for the last 25 years. I am currently the Chair of the OBA Class Actions Section Executive. I previously served as the Newsletter Editor of the Class Actions Section Executive for two years and as a member-at-large on the OBA Civil Litigation Section Executive. I have also been a mentor to a young lawyer for the last few years in a ‘matching program’ organized by the OBA, a fabulous experience for both of us! By far the most significant thing I have accomplished in my life, however, is the raising of my now adult children, all of whom continue to bring me a great deal of pride. Sydney is in third year medical school hoping to become a general surgeon. Asher has applied to medical school and is waiting for the May 16 results. Jordyn is applying to law school in September. Robert Fulghum famously wrote over 30 years ago, “all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.” My editorial addition: “much of what I now know, I learned from raising my kids.”

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Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

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While efforts have been made, I believe there is more to be done to make legal services more accessible to the public, to make a legal education more accessible to future lawyers, and, most importantly, to make sure that lawyers who choose to have children are not disadvantaged in their careers as a result.

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

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I am concerned that the cost of legal services has soared far beyond anything an individual client can afford. Having been both a lawyer and a client, I can attest to the fact that it is not only an emotionally draining experience to be a client in a lawsuit, it is also prohibitively costly. Concerns about accessibility to legal services are particularly pressing for segments of the population that have been historically oppressed. We need to find ways to make legal services more accessible, particularly in areas of law where the issues involve human rights, custody and child support, criminal charges and the like. We need to ensure that Pro Bono Ontario continues to be properly funded as it provides the public with invaluable services that would not otherwise be available to a huge segment of society. We also need to ensure that Legal Aid is properly funded particularly in light of the recently announced cuts. It is our job as lawyers and Benchers to do whatever we can to remove barriers to legal services, barriers to obtaining a legal education, and barriers to career success so that in the end, we properly reflect the public we seek to represent. As Hillel said, “if not now, when”.
Expand to read Mirilyn's views
Expand to read Mirilyn's views
I am aware that the cost of a legal education has risen astronomically, from the $1000 per year I paid at U of T Law School, to the almost $40,000 per year my daughter will face when she enters law school in 2020. Add to that the cost to become licensed as a lawyer after law school, as well as the yearly fees to be an insured member of the LSO, and it is not surprising that the practice of law is becoming less and less accessible. And don’t even get me started on the problems many young law graduates face in finding an articling position and/or an associate position. We need to fix this!
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I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors. My parents came to Canada at the end of the war, with a limited education and no money. They learned to speak English in their teens, and eventually my father graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School. I grew up hearing harrowing stories of the extreme prejudice that was faced by my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles during that dark period in history. My upbringing has made me acutely aware of the harm that can come when prejudices are allowed to influence behaviour. I am aware of the recent debate about the SOP. Having now spoken to various lawyers about this issue, and having now read the various positions being taken by those for and against the SOP, I am of the view that the SOP is a positive step in the right direction. As was said by Bob Tarantino “when we swear oaths and affirm principles, we seek to change ourselves and the world for the better. A profession that doesn’t require that of its members probably isn’t worth the name, and certainly isn’t worth the esteem.” But SOP is just a first step.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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Expand to read Mirilyn's views
I am aware that the cost to become licensed as a lawyer after law school, as well as the yearly fees to be an insured member of the LSO, is extremely onerous to those lawyers who do not work in large law firms where these fees are paid on their behalf. Lawyers in small and solo firms who work in areas of law that are not as profitable but that serve the public, need to obtain some relief from these crippling costs. The practice of law is becoming less and less accessible both because of the costs and because of significant issues facing new calls seeking to find an articling position. We need to fix this!
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Expand to read Mirilyn's views
Expand to read Mirilyn's views

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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Expand to read Mirilyn's views

Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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Expand to read Mirilyn's views
Expand to read Mirilyn's views
Expand to read Mirilyn's views
Expand to read Mirilyn's views
I believe that LSO should make access to legal services a priority. For example, a $10-$15 per year levy would completely fund Pro Bono Ontario (which requires $500,000 per year to continue provide service to some 29,000 people each year). There are numerous organizations that provide legal services to those who can not afford them, and I believe it is our duty as lawyers to see to it that these programs continue, whether that be by way of financial contribution or by way of volunteer hours.

Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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In the last 30 years I have experienced and watched fellow women lawyers experience barriers to career success as a result of their decision to have children. We need to change how law firms perceive and treat lawyers who have had children because, among other things, retention of women is good for the population we serve! I hope to influence a change in how partners and other lawyers perceive and treat younger lawyers who choose to have children because I believe, as so eloquently put by human rights activist and barrister Charlotte Proudman, that “achieving gender, class and race parity needs to be the aim of the legal profession, so that we properly reflect the society we represent – and inequality is stamped out for good”.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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I believe that if there are to be increases in what paralegals and non-licensees can do in terms of legal services, there must be lawyer supervision.

FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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It is absolutely essential that local law libraries continue to be funded. Those of us who work in big firms need to recognize that not all lawyers across Ontario have access to on line research tools or places in which to meet other lawyers and/or clients. Law Libraries serve this purpose and are essential for small and solo firms, particularly those in regions outside the main hubs.

Other topics

Candidate contributions on additional topics

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RETENTION OF WOMEN IN THE PROFESSION: In 2005, the Law Society created the Retention of Women Working Group; in 2008 Convocation voted in favour of the recommendations; YET OVER A DECADE LATER we are STILL discussing the fact that women continue to leave the practice of law for same reasons! We need to review and renew the discussion. It is LONG overdue: LSO’s 2008 Justicia Project – WHY are we STILL having conversations about the retention of women in law MORE THAN 10 YEARS LATER! As @Hillel said “IF NOT NOW, WHEN”

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Endorsements of this candidate

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Marg Waddell (Waddell Phillips) – President of the Toronto Lawyers Association
The Honourable R. Roy McMurtry (Hull & Hull)
John Campion (Gardiner Roberts)
Rory Barnable (Barnable Law)
Claudia Cappuccitti (Dyer Brown)
Cheryl Woodin (Bennett Jones)
Justin Nasseri (Goddard Nasseri)
Steve Tenai (Aird Berlis)
Tony DiDomenico (Faskens)
Steven Rosenhek (Faskens)
Celeste Poltak (Koskie Minsky)
Mohsen Seddigh (Sotos)
Jeremy Martin (Cassels Brock)
Randy Sutton (Norton Rose Fulbright)
Omar Ha-Redeye (Fleet Street Law)
Michael Eizenga (Bennett Jones)
Paul Tushinski (Dutton Brock)
Colin Stevenson (Stevenson Whelton)
Ted Charney (Charney Lawyers)
Earl Cherniak (Lerners)
David Outerbridge (Torys)
Chris Wirth (Keel Cottrelle)
Timothy J. Law (Heifetz Crozier)
Kirk Baert (Koskie Minsky)
Breanna Needham (Lax O’Sullivan)
Michael Peerless (McKenzie Lake)
Gillian Hnatiw (Adair Goldblatt)
Harvey Strosberg, QC (Strosberg Sasso Sutts)