When I decided to run for Bencher in 2015, I was in the middle of my nine-year battle with the Law Society over the proper limits on the rules of civility. During my first term as a Bencher, my principled opposition to the civility movement was finally vindicated by the Supreme Court. I also found myself regularly voicing strong opposition to proposals that did not move the Law Society in the right direction; towards becoming a disciplined modern regulator that narrowly focuses on its core mandates of ensuring that Ontario lawyers meet appropriate standards of competency and integrity.
I believe we need to be more proactive to prevent discipline cases. We need to provide education and mentoring so that lawyers do not make mistakes and support to lawyers who are suffering from mental health issues. We also need to apply a balanced approach to discipline cases. An honest lawyer who makes a mistake or is suffering from a health issue should not be prosecuted and should be diverted as early as possible into a non-adversarial process. A dishonest lawyer needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Over the next four years I expect we will need to start to really tackle the harsh new realities of the changing legal marketplace. There are far too many candidates for too few articling positions. At the same time we are wrestling with an access to justice problem. There are solutions – but they are not easy ones and will likely take several years to implement.
I believe we need to make it a priority for the Law Society to take another good hard look at how we spend the money we receive from licensees, narrow the number of initiatives we spend money on and reduce to a bare minimum the money Benchers’ spend on themselves.
In my last term, I supported diversity and equality initiatives, especially for those who have their own principles and live by them, by asking for a conscientious objection option to the Statement of Principles. Today, a lawyers SOP is theirs alone – and does not have to espouse prescribed value.
If I am re-elected, I intend to spend the next four years zealously advocating for the Law Society to do less, and spend less, so that lawyers can do more to advance the legal profession and the public interest in Ontario.