Yavar Hameed

Lawyer Bencher Candidate – East Region

Priorities

My campaign is focused on creating greater access to justice by virtue
of reducing barriers for students entering law school and becoming
licensed, but to do so with a particular emphasis on experiential
learning that has a clear social connection or link. My approach
envisions the LSO as helping to promote a concept of justice in the
public interest that is built from the ground up through experiential
learning that is incentivized to allow for abridged licensing. In this
sense, an approach of “transgressive” lawyering (i.e. not just meeting legal needs but challenging the structures that create those legal needs) would be fostered
through legal education and encouraged by the LSO in a model that is not
a pro bono adjunct to other forms of law practice, but rather is an end
in itself. We need to approach to the practice of law principally as a
service rather than as a business. Within the capitalist economy, we
cannot discount the power of business, but we can build communities of
strength that resist social and structural oppression and use the
leverage of the LSO to make such practice areas more viable.

Background

Education: Called to Ontario Bar (2001) BA Hon U of Alberta (1995); LL.B. U of Ottawa (1999); M.A. (International Affairs) Carleton University (2001) Focus of Practice: Human Rights and social justice law practitioner based in Ottawa for 18 years.
Areas of practice include: national security law, constitutional litigation, anti-poverty law, human rights law, transfer of offenders, immigration security certificates, criminal defense of protestors, police abuse/ accountability cases. website: www.hameedlaw.ca
Community Involvement: Organizer, A2Justice Coalition, Member, Canadian Muslim Lawyers’ Association (CMLA). Provides legal support and advice to grassroots social justice organizations in Ontario and Quebec Sessional Lecturer: Dept of Laws, Carleton University (since 2007).

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

Candidates I support

I support all candidates who are on the list located at www.statementofprinciples.ca

Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

The LSO’s current licensing pathway should be modified in view of a more standardized, competency focused and substantive training program with the scope for abridgement with law schools for experiential learning. In this regard, the current regime of articling should be abolished in moving towards a model of LPP for all.

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

The LSO should be subject to access to information review for its work. This would provide greater accountability and member-based insight into its work.

website

http://yavarhameed.ca/bencher/

email

yhameed@hameedlaw.ca

social media

@yavar_hameed

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

Expand to read Yavar's views
My campaign is focused on creating greater access to justice by virtue
of reducing barriers for students entering law school and becoming
licensed, but to do so with a particular emphasis on experiential
learning that has a clear social connection or link. My approach
envisions the LSO as helping to promote a concept of justice in the
public interest that is built from the ground up through experiential
learning that is incentivized to allow for abridged licensing. In this
sense, an approach of “transgressive” lawyering (i.e. not just meeting legal needs but challenging the structures that create those legal needs) would be fostered
through legal education and encouraged by the LSO in a model that is not
a pro bono adjunct to other forms of law practice, but rather is an end
in itself. We need to approach to the practice of law principally as a
service rather than as a business. Within the capitalist economy, we
cannot discount the power of business, but we can build communities of
strength that resist social and structural oppression and use the
leverage of the LSO to make such practice areas more viable.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I believe that there should be greater transparency for the LSO’s deliberative processes, budgets and survey information. This information should be accessible to all members and should include working group information and decisions. I believe that there should also be greater transparency in respect of the LSO’s administration of election processes and regulation of advertising, financing and the LSO’s contracts with third party mailing and electronic delivery companies.
Expand to read Yavar's views
My work with the A2justice Coalition has focused on this question for the
last five years. Based on this experience, I would advocate three
responses to this question. (1) As part of my platform I advocate
building on the LSO Dialogue recommendation of building links between
law schools and the LSO, but specifically to integrate experiential
learning in law schools as part of licensing. Already we have clinics
and myriad practical experiences in law schools – we should use these in
order to abridge the experiential component of licensing – thereby
reducing the cost of licensing in view of the overlapped and integrated
approach of legal education and licensing;
(2) I would also advocate creating space for allowing student voice
within the LSO. Currently the LSO doesn’t see itself as having a role
to speak out on cost of tuition and law schools actively police their
boundaries to maintain their independence. I think that the LSO must
respond to the problem of rising tuition levels and speak out on this
problem. Integrating student voice, whether at the level of a
subcommittee or advisory committee, could maintain the urgency of this
question for the LSO.
(3) Simultaneously, I would advocate for a decrease/ control in
licensing fees. My platform in advocating an LPP for all model would
entail higher licensing fees, but I would suggest two caveats along with
this approach: (a) that we need to get better transparency and costing
on the LPP than what we saw in the LSO Dialogue on licensing; and (b)
that the LSO must look at ways of subsidizing the cost of licensing so
it is not shouldered exclusively by licensees. This may require revenue
generating models including a progressive levy.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I support the goal of the statement of principles (“SOP”). However, as a purported response to the problems facing racialized lawyers and
licensees, I think there is more that needs to be done. The SOP does not prescribe words, but merely requires us to acknowledge our obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusiveness generally. This is no different than the legal requirements that are already identified within the Ontario Human Rights Code and our Rules of Professional Conduct.

The SOP was the result of the recommendations from the Final Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Lawyers Working Group, which identified that racialized licensees face barriers in all stages of their careers. I am concerned that the SOP remains a purely a symbolic gesture and that there is no evidence that it does anything to advance equity in our profession. However, opposition to it is, in my view, a regressive, reactionary, and misplaced attack against symbolism. It has the unfortunate and counterproductive effect of entrenching institutional racism and deflecting from the more pressing issues facing our profession.

Indeed, I find it curious that those who claim opposition to the LSO
“compelling” speech through the SOP are not, instead, campaigning to end the oath to the Queen which not only actually compels speech but also, unlike the SOP, entrenches colonialism instead of dismantling it. I would urge all of my fellow candidates who oppose the SOP to, instead, commit themselves to strategically responding to the overt and insidious barriers facing equity-seeking licensees, lawyers and clients who continue to find themselves at the margins of our profession and our system of justice in Ontario and to provide a reasoned full and substantive critique of the Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Lawyers Working Group.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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AI should be used to enhance service delivery and the LSO must play a pivotal in training lawyers how to adapt their practice to be more responsive to technology with a view of enhancing access to the courts and legal redress mechanisms.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I think that the LSO missed an opportunity with the Dialogue on Licensing to really respond to the parts of lawyer licensing and training that don’t work by building upon work that it has done through the creation of the LPP. As one of the four pillars in my campaign, I support moving towards an “LPP for all” licensing pathway: Over the past five years that I have worked with the A2Justice Coalition, I have consulted with numerous members of the legal profession, including many young lawyers, who all agree that the existing system of articling is broken, and an LPP-style licencing process that is integrated in a meaningful way with law schools is needed. Our submission as the A2Justice Coalition to the Dialogue on Licencing called for precisely that. We sought a consistent licencing experience for all candidates based on a modified version of the LPP and as Bencher, I commit to furthering that objective.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I agree with the unbundling of legal services to allow clients who cannot afford a lawyer for all aspects of their matter to provide for the allowance of focused representation by virtue of a limited scope retainer that will both assist them with representation and respond to systemic barriers marginalizing the public from access to legal redress.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I think that the work of CSO (civil society organizations) in delivering legal services is appropriate and an important response to access to justice challenges in Ontario. Having CSOs fall under LSO competency requirements would be necessary to ensure a proper standard of delivery of services.
Expand to read Yavar's views
Adaptation to technological requirements of tools necessary in any area of law (not only conveyances) is vital for ensuring both the competency, efficiency and relevancy of services delivered. Adopting new technology must be done with appropriate diligence and there should be a basic level of awareness, understanding and facility in relevant technologies that are common within a domain of practice. Ignorance of common technological tools by lawyers in Ontario will both prejudice the quality of service for clients and will diminish the level of services delivered. LSO oversight of compliance with technology competence should be one factor among several in the consideration of delivery of competent services.

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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I support the implementation of the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, (see: http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf) The Call to Action raises issues that are of direct relevance to lawyers and law students in Ontario. Issues of relevance include: (1) legal education; (2) strategic focus in responding to challenges of aboriginal offenders in the criminal justice system; and (3) legal advocacy for aboriginal communities affected by injustice of colonialism. On point #1, law schools already have aboriginal law courses – making these mandatory should not only be a collaborative project between the law schools and the LSO, but finding
ways in which practical/ experience-based projects can result from this education could be incentivized by the LSO. On point #2, the LSO clearly has a role in assisting lawyers to build cultural competency in responding to the over-representation of indigenous offenders in the Canadian criminal justice system through mandatory continuing education and programming in this area. I think that this TRC programming/ training should be made mandatory for all lawyers, in addition to EDI training. On point #3, in conjunction with point #1 (and otherwise), law schools should provide options for lawyers to return to their communities to practice and to provide non-Indigenous lawyers to act as supports for communities seeking to bring legal challenge for historical injustice.
Expand to read Yavar's views
The legal profession needs to adapt. Development of flexible structures that may permit the delivery of competent, cost effective and timely legal services is a reflection of rising costs of law service delivery that has surpassed the threshold many clients can afford. Innovations that permit paralegals and non-legal agents to provide legal services under the direct supervision and in conjunction with lawyers is appropriate. Here again, the scrutiny and oversight over ABS by the LSO will be necessary to ensure the the quality of service is not compromised.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I adopt the concerns of the Working Group on Advertising and Fee Arrangements and echo some of the issues raised by the profession around lack of clarity in fee arrangements. Having been to several fee assessments in Ottawa where I have specifically addressed considerations raised by the Assessment Officer, I think that it is vital to have a reminder of the mechanics of fee arrangements, clarity for clients and responsiveness in respect of addressing client expectations. I do not believe that lawyers should immunize themselves around a boiler plate of explanation and technical arrangement, but rather, that clearly explained and transparent fee arrangements should be consistently negotiated, explained and revisited, where necessary, to make sure that clients are aware of the structure of how fees are being billed.

Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

Expand to read Yavar's views
The focus of my campaign is on creating greater access to justice by virtue of reducing barriers for students entering law school and becoming licensed, but to do so with a particular emphasis on experiential learning that has a clear social connection or link. My approach envisions the LSO as helping to promote a concept of justice in the
public interest that is built from the ground up through experiential learning that is incentivized to allow for abridged licensing. In this sense, licensees bear less burden in transitioning from law school to the practice of law. I think that law schools have a role to play in assisting with the development of practice ready lawyers. I also believe that the LSO must work in conjunction with law schools to develop competencies of candidates in areas that relate to practice in the form of a hands-on training regime such as an LPP for all model.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I am not opposed to LSO designing and selling CPD programming; however, it must be transparent in respect of how the revenues of these programs are used. I would advocate that the revenue go back into generation of CPD programming. Additionally, I believe that more effort should be made to decentralize programming so that there is equal access of live programming outside of Toronto. Currently, there is a heavy Toronto-focus on the direct access to LSO CPD programs.
Expand to read Yavar's views
The LSO can support licensees by creating more effective and standardized training for licensees in the form of a model of LPP for all licensing candidates. The burden of this programming, however, should be shared by the LSO to subsidize the amount paid by the licensee. I advocate the adoption of a progressive levy in this regard for generating increased revenue prorated according to income of lawyers to support this initiative.
Expand to read Yavar's views
Improving mental health is a matter of a serious concern that must be prioritized by the LSO. Support to members must include programming that helps guide, destigmatize and provide resources to members facing mental health problems with a cognizance that there is a disproportionate burden in dealing with mental health issues for sole and small firm lawyers who do not otherwise have access to firm, government or institutional resources to these challenges.
Expand to read Yavar's views
I believe that the funding priorities for the LSO should include: (1) Greater standardized, consistent and competency building in legal training through subsidizing an across the board training regime for all licensing candidates, such an LPP for all model; (2) greater funds for an LSO advocacy role geared towards lobbying the provincial government in relation to maintaining and creating more resources for Legal Aid Ontario; (3) implementation of equity measures identified in the 2016 Report of the Racialized Lawyers Working Group.

Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

Expand to read Yavar's views
I support the Racialized Lawyers Working group report presented to Convocation in September 2016. I believe that there can and should be refinements in the recommendations/ results from the report. In particular, I believe that survey methods should be made clear to those being surveyed, should not be integrated in the LSO Member’s Report and that the results and methodologies of the report should be made transparent to members. For example, despite the September 2016 results, detractors from the Statement of Principles such as Murray Klippenstein take issue directly with the survey’s findings and the pervasiveness of barriers facing racialized lawyers within the profession. The LSO needs to be clear in both its methodology and the outcomes of its analysis. I am aware of, from engagement with my work with the A2justice.ca coalition over the past five years of anecdotal examples of racialized lawyers and candidates facing barriers in integrating within the system. I believe that these barriers are systemically entrenched within the system and that the LSO must be clear in how it defines systemic discrimination based on anecdotal information survey information and data gleaned from other sources. I believe that the data exists that does support the existence of systemic barriers faced by racialized lawyers and that looking at the demographic makeup of many law firms, small and large across the province, there is an underrepresentation of racialized lawyers at higher levels within firms. We need to continue to address equity, diversity and inclusion, but avoid making conclusions about the measure of barriers faced by all equity seeking groups without substantiated findings whereby we can focus on solution oriented practices and interventions within the mandate of the LSO.

As a major proponent of my platform, I support an “LPP for all” approach and in so doing, it is important to recall that the LPP was designed as a measure to equalize the playing field for all candidates at the entry level to the profession. By maintaining a two-tiered model of training pathways, there is a danger that LPP will continue to be a “second tier” of training. By creating a standardized approach, this two-tiered or discriminatory impact can be directly addressed.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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I believe that paralegals have an important role to play in alleviating barriers faced by litigants in Ontario in terms of accessing the courts and other administrative/ regulatory procedures to seek justice. The current scope of paralegal authority is not unreasonable; however, expansion of paralegal inputs should be considered where doing so does not overstep the quality of service, competency of delivery and responds to a clear problem in access to justice.

FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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Local law libraries are an important resource here in the East Region as they are, I believe, in various communities across Ontario. I have relied on our local law library in Ottawa for approximately two decades; however, have also had the benefit of the Supreme Court library, the Library of Parliament and the legal libraries of two Universities in Ottawa. In smaller communities that do not have all of these diverse resources, local law libraries fill a vital role where there is no alternative. Their continued survival represents an access to justice issue in Ontario.

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Donald Bayne
Paul Champ
David Wiseman
Silmy Abdullah
Amy Kishek
Law Union of Ontario
Canadian Muslim Lawyers’ Association