M. Steven Rastin

Lawyer Bencher Candidate – Central East Region

Priorities

My priorities are the public interest, access to justice, and the effective enforcement of professional competence and professional conduct. I am concerned about the future of the profession, the preservation of the independent practitioner, and ensuring that lawyers can continue to provide outstanding service in an age of disruption.

Background

I have practiced civil litigation from my small firm based in Barrie and Midland for almost 25 years. I’ve litigated cases at every level of the courts including the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada and various tribunals.I am past president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association; member of the OBA, Advocates Society, and Simcoe County Law Association. I regularly speak at legal conferences.

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Candidates I support

Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

LSO should not continue to expend massive amounts of money, which is ultimately paid for by licensees, for work outside its core mandate. LSO’s 2019 budget calls for expenditures of over $142 million and 619 full-time employees. LSO should not continue to expand absent broad support from its membership.

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

LSO needs to recognize that a strong, healthy bar is in the public interest by concentrating on its core mandate of ensuring competence and compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct. LSO should work to support lawyers that enhance the profession and do everything within its power to stop those that harm the public and its perception of lawyers.

website

steverastinforbencher.ca

email

rastin@rastinlaw.com

social media

https://twitter.com/rastinlaw; https://www.facebook.com/RastinLaw/; https://www.instagram.com/rastinlaw_/

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

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LSO should consider diverting a portion of its resources to Pro Bono Law. It should consider providing credits to recently graduated lawyers who undertake to work for community legal clinics, racialized legal groups, and other underrepresented interests. It should open up a dialogue with government and universities aimed at ensuring that skyrocketing tuition costs do not become a barrier to access to justice.
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I do not support radically decreasing size of Convocation. LSO should be governed by a structure akin to a Parliament as opposed to the Board of Directors to increase opportunities for broader representation of varying interests. Decreasing the size of convocation has the potential to result in a less diverse, less regional representative body. Perspectives in Simcoe County vary greatly from those of Bay Street. Both points of view need to be in Convocation.
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LSO should engage government and law schools to examine whether rapid increases in law school tuition and the number of new lawyers may hinder access to justice and diversity in the profession. Law school should not be a profession only for the affluent. We need to foster lawyers seeking to embark on careers providing access to justice to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
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Though I am opposed to the present iteration of the SOP, I cannot agree with the single-issue approach of the STOP SOP bloc. While I sympathize with their concerns, I believe in dialogue, constructive solutions and compromise as a means to effect positive change. I also believe in inclusivity and enhancing the diversity of our bar. My concerns about the SOP relate to the potential it has to infringe upon the rights of free speech, thought and conscience of lawyers throughout Ontario. I am running for Bencher because I want to make our profession better on many levels; not just to undo a single policy choice of the last Bench.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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Artificial intelligence is coming to legal services. It has the potential to be highly disruptive and to place legal services jobs at risk. LSO cannot stand in the way of innovation, but it should take active steps to ensure the coming changes cannot proceed without proper procedural safeguards, or in the public interest, and do not interfere or impair the standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct the public has a right to expect as it receives legal services.
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LSO needs to be concerned about a system that is inputting far more would-be articling students than the province has articling positions. The increase of free “internships” of unpaid articles is problematic as it acts as a potential barrier to diversity and may limit access to the profession to the affluent. LPP is a valid response for the time being, but LSO needs to more fully address the problem of too many applicants for too few jobs.
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I support the unbundling of legal services, but only if procedures and protections can be put in place to clearly delineate what is, and is not, to be provided pursuant to a partial retainer. I have concern that having commenced a legal proceeding, the public will be prejudiced if legal services are withdrawn in the absence of the ability of the unrepresented party to proceed competently.
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I am a strong proponent of entity based regulation. The current structure allows for improper action by a small minority because LSO is unable to ascertain which individual lawyers, as opposed to law firms, are involved.
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Technological competence should be something fostered through ongoing CPD programs.

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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LSO should continue to support projects and undertakings that would foster the role of indigenous reconciliation. Conduct by licensees contrary to this mandate should be aggressively disciplined as part of the LSO’s core mandate.
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I am opposed to alternative business structures which I view as an existential threat to the legal profession. A close review of other jurisdictions where ABS has been approved shows that this step is not in the best interests of the profession or the public. It creates clear risk for conflict of interest.
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LSO should set clear rules with respect to advertising referrals and should take fast and decisive action to penalize practices that bring the entire profession into disrepute. I support a simple, short, and clear contingency fee agreement. I am concerned about recent discipline cases where serious breaches of the Rules of Professional conduct have resulted in token fines. Poor advertising practices bring the entire profession into disrepute.

Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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LSO members should not subsidize CPD. There are several service providers capable of providing excellent legal education at a reasonable cost. LSO should step in where there is an under-serviced area, but where services are being provided in a cost-effective manner, we should likely consider whether it is beneficial for LSO to continue to occupy this space.
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LSO should attempt to leverage its size and reach to provide cost-effective solutions to members that will assist them in providing quality services to the public. Mental health support services, pro bono legal services, effective enforcement violations of advertising and competition rules should be an area of emphasis. The membership should feel that the LSO is there to provide information and support that they need to provide legal services in the public interest.
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We are living in an era of disruption. Many lawyers work in a high stress, conflict-filled, environment. LSO needs to take a leadership role in providing support to its members who will encounter difficulty in this area.
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LSO should focus on its core legislative mandate of ensuring that those who provide legal services in Ontario meet standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct. We must support pro bono legal services, county law libraries, and diversity initiatives. However, a 2019 budget of more than $142 million dollars shows that LSO is out of touch with the profession it governs.

Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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LSO should engage government and law schools to examine whether rapid increases in law school tuition and the number of new lawyers are hindering access to justice and diversity in the profession. The current system and skyrocketing tuition will lead to a situation that the profession is only for the affluent. We need to foster lawyers seeking to embark in careers providing access to justice to the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. We need to take steps to control tuition or graduating lawyers will not be financially able to work in community legal environments or with racialized groups.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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LSO should exercise extreme caution in expanding the scope of paralegal practice in the areas of criminal or family law. In my own experience, in the field of personal injury law, the expansion of paralegal services has not resulted in savings to the public, increased access to justice, or benefit to the system as a whole.

FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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Regional law libraries are the focus of law associations outside of Toronto. Regional law libraries should be properly financed and protected.

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