Jeff Cowan

Toronto Bencher Candidate – Toronto Region

Priorities

Continued governance reform to streamline the processes, implement best practices, and reduce the regulatory burden, especially for sole practitioners or small firms, consistent with the Law Society’s public interest mandate to ensure competency and integrity. Term limits to encourage renewal and diversity.
Continued improvements in access to and simplification of justice, as systemic costs of unrepresented parties may exceed those that proper funding of Legal Aid would entail. It should more user-friendly, efficient and effective for both clients and lawyers alike.
Implementation of the recommendations of the Challenges Report. The SoP was a start, but work remains to be done in terms of the cultural changes needed in the legal profession to achieve the stated objectives of that Report.

Background

Partner of WeirFoulds LLP. Former Managing Partner. Public law (including professional self-regulation) and real estate litigation, arbitration and mediation. Co-editor, with Derry Millar, of Ontario Annual Practice. Member of Secretariat of the Civil Rules Committee, Divisional Court Users Committee, Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice Administrative Law Committee, Advocates’ Society, OBA, Toronto Lawyers Association, ADRIO. Head of Public Law Section of Bar Admission Course and thereafter member of the BAC Barristers Bar Advisory Group. Past director Advocates’ Society, past Chair and current executive member of OBA Administrative Law Section. Recipient of the SOAR Medal for outstanding service to the administrative justice system of Ontario and OBA dedicated service award.
Recognized by Lexpert, Best Lawyers, and Martindale-Hubbell

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

Candidates I support

Those who will best represent the diversity of the profession and the public it serves, and who recognize the need for change.

Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

Re-inventing the wheels on which it rides, rather than looking forward to where it is headed. Issues such as EDI, articling/LPP, ABS have been debated and decided. Existing and emerging priorities must be the focus.

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

More anticipation, recognition, acceptance of and adaptation to the rapidity of change, especially technology, in the legal profession and justice systems. Leadership in change management to move forward and not let the status quo prevail, and assisting lawyers to adapt their practices and competencies so as to better serve the public. .

website

www.weirfoulds.com/jeffcowanforbencher

email

social media

Linked in, #Cowan4Bencher

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

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A statutory mandate that requires continued emphasis, attention and effort. It is not just the responsibility of lawyers but is also that of government and the administrative, civil, criminal and family law justice systems. Ongoing collaboration with A2J stakeholders and adapting technology to streamline and simplify court and tribunal procedures and processes must continue. Continued and sustained advocacy is needed for adequate and stable government funding of Legal Aid Ontario, more effective provision of legal aid certificates and clinic services, and enhanced sustained support for ProBono Ontario.
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This should continue, with the goal of more effective and efficient regulation in the public interest. I support a modest reduction in the number of Benchers, the Benchers Code of Conduct, a two term limit and consideration of how younger lawyers can best be represented in Convocation .
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The LSO has no jurisdiction to regulate law school tuition. It sould however collaborate with law faculties to establish practice skills training in final years that would qualify for licensing and reduce the ramp up time and cost of entry into the profession. Consideration should be given to fee reductions or deferral for younger sole practitioners or small firm lawyers with large tuition debts and limited income.
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I support it. This should no longer be an issue in 2019. Instead implementation of EDI initiatives should be the focus.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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This is coming if not already here. Lawyers need to understand how it will affect their practices and the LSO should lead on this as part of a prioritized Technology Task Force. However, it is not a matter of LSO regulation absent violation of client confidentiality or privilege, or becomes a Trojan horse of unauthorized practice. How it will be facilitate the justice systems must be monitored to ensure that any improvements in access to justice brought by AI are not compromised by algorithmic biases or privacy violations.
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Practice skills training should continue as recently approved with enhancements, with credit for approved law school courses or clinical work. LPP graduates must be supported as full equals of articled students and barriers to this must be eliminated. Comprehensive examinations should continue their emphasis on a matrix of competencies required to provide professional legal services. The merits of practical skills examinations must be assessed against their cost as a barrier to entry to young or new licensee applicants of limited means.
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Continued efforts must be made to improve both the public and the profession’s awareness of the possibility of providing unbundled legal services in the most cost effective way, and to streamline or simplify the process consistent with liability issues.
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Entity-based regulation, using advanced and sound risk assessment principles should be encouraged as a means of ultimately reducing incompetency complaints and unprofessional conduct, implementing EDI initiatives, and reducing the resulting cost of regulation. Special consideration and care must be given to how this will affect sole practitioners and small firms, to ensure there is no additional regulatory burden imposed.
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Lawyers should adapt to technological change in order to render competent, efficient and cost effective services. The LSO is engaged already with the Technology Task Force, and its continued consultation with the profession should be given priority. The LSO should ultimately be developing standards of competency related to specific areas of practice and types of practices, and conveying expectations to the profession through supports, training and CPD credits similar to EDI.

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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The LSO has recognized its obligation, and that of lawyers, to support the constitutionalized objective of reconciliation. It must continue its outreach to and support of Indigenous communities, recognize their particular access to justice issues, and support initiatives that increase the number and viability of Indigenous licensees.
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The Civil Society Initiative passed by Convocation was an acceptable compromise. The independence of the profession and lawyers’ duties to their clients should not be compromised by potential conflicts of interest. Third party litigation funding agreements are an example of how alternative financing models can be incorporated into the practice of law.
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I support the current by law requirements. and recommendations for improvements. With the increasing prominence of social media, continued monitoring and adaptation to technological change is necessary. Model fee contingency agreements are an example of the work the LSO can do to facilitate access to justice.

Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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See answers on Pathways to licensing
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Given the mandate of the LSO and the CPD requirements, it must make sure that lawyers are able to sustain and improve competencies in a cost effective and accessible manner. CPD should be based on cost of service, and co-ordinated with other providers to reduce duplication. French language CPD needs improvement.
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Maintenance and enhancement of existing supports to ensure licensees are competent professionals delivering legal services in a cost effective manner. Using best practices and sound risk assessment principles to reduce the regulatory burden while ensuring the protection of the public interest. Ensuring reasonable fees and insurance premiums are a baseline for decision-making .
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This should have the same priority as EDI. It involves collaboration with other justice systems’ participants and stakeholders, and promoting enhanced awareness, training and supports for lawyers, such as the MAP. Law Society Tribunal staff, counsel and members should have specialized training in mental health and addiction issues , and diversion from discipline prosecution should be available where appropriate.
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Just as access to justice has generated the need to simplify and streamline the justice systems while ensuring fairness and equity, LSO fees and LawPro insurance premiums must reflect the need to allocate resources in an efficient yet effective manner , incorporating advanced technology, best practices and risk management tools. Funding priorities should be consistent with core mandates, yet reflect legitimate concerns and needs of the profession from across the province. Governance, CBER and discipline reforms should lead to reduced costs. Benchers with budgeting and expenditure control experience should be given positions of responsibility and accountability on the Audit and Finance Committee.

Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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Implementation of the Challenges Report recommendations, including time lines for progressive compliance requirements.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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Paralegals provide an important component of access to justice. However, their role should be complimentary to that of lawyers, and not simply a cheaper alternative. Expanding current scope of practice without careful examination, consultation and competency testing should be avoided, particularly for more complicated criminal, family or immigration matters where there is no lawyer supervision.

FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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Local law libraries provide a valuable resource to local practitioners. There should be continued support of the collective and collaborative efforts of FOLA, LSO and TLA in transforming LibraryCo to the new Legal Information and Resource Network (LIRN) to enhance resources available to lawyers throughout the Province.

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