Atrisha Lewis

Lawyer Bencher Candidate – Toronto Region

Priorities

The Law Society’s role is to ensure competence and protect the public interest through self-regulation. In fulfilling this mandate, I commit to serving as Bencher in accordance with the following 3 pillars:
1. Inclusion. Our profession must reflect our communities. The Law Society has made great strides, but there is more to do. It starts with pushing back on those who oppose the statement of principles, implementing all the ‘Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Profession’ and introducing new areas of reform. As a diverse lawyer and recent call, I will bring my generation’s voice to Convocation.
2. Access. We must find ways to ensure that our profession is accessible to all, including by removing financial barriers to law school and licensing. The de-regulation of law school fees has significantly compromised both access to the profession, and access to justice. The Law Society must work with law schools to address this growing problem. The flip side of access to the profession is access to the justice system. The Law Society has a role to play in working towards a sustainable and innovative approach to access to justice in all areas of practice including family, criminal, immigration and civil litigation. The Law Society must take on a greater advocacy role and push back on governments who roll-back much needed funding of critical services like Pro Bono Ontario –Law Help Centre. The Law Society must step in if necessary, but in a way that does not add additional burdens on our members who can bear it the least.
3. Governance. Members of the Law Society have a right to demand accessibility, accountability and prudent judgment from Convocation. You deserve strong decision makers that consider a variety of perspectives, represent diverse lived experiences, and are responsive to your concerns. Sound regulation requires consultation and collaboration. If elected, my first duty will always be to listen — to work with you to develop better solutions to our challenges.

Background

My name is Atrisha Lewis and I am a litigation associate at McCarthy Tétrault LLP in Toronto. I am a 2013 call, a trial lawyer and a diversity and inclusion champion. I maintain a litigation practice focused on commercial disputes, professional liability and administrative law matters.
In 2018, I was recognized as a “Precedent Setter” by Precedent Magazine and I was awarded an Arbour Award in recognition of my outstanding volunteer contribution to the University of Toronto. I am an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law where I coach the Grant Moot team, and lecture on topics such as motions and litigation strategy.
Learn more about me at atrishalewis.com

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

Candidates I support

1. Malcolm Mercer
2. Rebecca Durcan
3. Janis Criger
4. Andrew Spurgeon
5. Caryma S’ad
6. Douglas Judson
7. Jacqueline Horvath
8. Mirilyn R. Sharp
9. Billeh Hamud
10. Sean Robichaud
+ Lots of other great candidates

Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

We need greater transparency in respect of decision-making and more notice in respect of key decisions or reports.

The LSO should curb its spending on advertising/promotion items.

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

The LSO should consider how to better integrate foreign-trained lawyers into our legal profession. The process to accredit foreign-trained lawyers must be rigorous. However, it should not be unnecessarily exclusionary. For example, the ‘Toronto Summer Student Recruitment Procedures’ and ‘Articling Recruitment Procedures’ (both inside and outside Toronto), which are the procedures which govern recruitment for many do not consider the needs of NCA students. The Challenges report did not consider the perspectives of foreign-trained lawyers and it should.

website

https://www.atrishalewis.com/

email

alewis@mccarthy.ca

social media

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/atrishalewis/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/atrishalewis

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

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Access to Justice is the legal profession’s biggest challenge. The Law Society is a key stakeholder in trying to address access to justice. The Law Society must take on a greater advocacy role and push back on governments who roll-back much needed funding of critical services like Pro Bono Ontario – Law Help Centre. The Law Society must step in if necessary, but in a way that does not add additional burdens on our members who can bear it the least.
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I support governance reform at Convocation that favours renewal and diverse perspectives including, reducing term limits from 12 years to 8 years to ensure renewal and fresh perspectives at Convocation and advocating for the creation of an under 10 years of call bencher role.
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The LSO has an important role to play in the conversation about the cost of legal education. The de-regulation of law school fees has significantly compromised both access to the profession, and access to justice. The Law Society must work with law schools to address this growing problem. Greater information is required so that we can have a meaningful conversation about access to a legal education. I would advocate for disclosure from law schools about revenues received from tuition, amount of financial aid provided to students, the percentage of students receiving financial aid, the average and median amount of aid received, etc.
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I support the SOP. It is an important first step in addressing systemic discrimination. It is not an infringement on freedom of expression. I am surprised and saddened by the opposition to the SOP. If elected, I will stand up for the SOP requirement. Read my personal reflection on the statement of principles here: https://www.canadianlawyermag.com/author/atrisha-lewis/a-personal-reflection-on-the-statement-of-principles-resistance-15173/

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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The LSO needs to be at the forefront of this issue.
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I would like to eliminate articling but I understand given the current law school education model and the cost of the LPP program, that is not a tenable solution. I am troubled by reports from articling students who encounter harassment and abuse in the course of their articles. Articling jobs are hard to come by. There needs to be robust and alternative pathways to licensing for students. Law schools need to provide greater experiential training (e.g. Lakehead) so that even more alternatives can be explored.
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The LSO should take concrete steps to support lawyers who are interested in providing limited scope services, including by creating best practices and providing training programs. The LSO should facilitate ongoing discussions with the insurer and judiciary to cultivate support for and recognition of these retainers.
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I am open-minded and would consult with stakeholders and others prior to making any decision on the issue.
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I agree with Doug Judson, we need to remove the word ‘fax’ from our professional lexicon and move the legal profession into this century. This is an important access to justice issue too.

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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I am supportive of initiatives that recognize and integrate Indigenous communities. As a non-Indigenous person, I need to consult with my Indigenous colleagues for suggestions on how best to do this.
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I am open-minded and would consult with stakeholders and others prior to making any decision on the issue.
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Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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Yes. The CPD programming is self-funded (meaning that our law society fees are not directed at providing CPDs).
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This needs to be a focus of the LSO. Greater resources and support for mental health are needed.
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Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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Our profession must reflect our communities. The Law Society has made great strides, but there is more to do. It starts with ensuring the implementation of the “Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions”. But it does not stop there. I would advocate for additional research and reform, including to the Articling Recruitment Procedures” (both inside and outside Toronto), improving the PLAP (Parental Leave Assistance Program), and modernizing previous initiatives such as the Justicia Project.

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 am supportive. Having consulted with many soles and smalls, and having the benefit of learning more about this issue from Janis Criger and Andrew Spurgeon, I understand the importance of this investment by the LSO.

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