Mitchell Kowalski

Lawyer Bencher Candidate – Toronto Region

Priorities

1. Put the public first.

2. Reform LSO operations to be more efficient and cost-effective.

3. Reform governance to improve decision-making.

4. Encourage innovation and provide guidance on innovation.

5. Allow for increased competition.

Background

* ICD.D designation and training in corporate governance

* Board experience on major crown corporation boards

* real estate solicitor

* experience as sole practitioner, in-house counsel, and large firm lawyer

* Gowling WLG Visiting Professor in Legal Innovation at University of Calgary
Law School

* Author of two books on legal innovation

* Legal innovation consultant and speaker

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

Candidates I support

I support candidates that:

A. understand Convocation is the board of directors of a regulator – not a
lawyer parliament; and

B. understand the LSO must be financially responsible.

Something the LSO does that it should stop doing

Convocation has degenerated into a highly politicized group that panders to whatever interests will assure re-election. This makes for poor decision-making
and must stop. It cannot and should not be all things to all people.

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

The LSO has lost its way. It has no idea what it is, or what it should be.

It needs to refresh its thinking to align with the fact that it is mandated to be a regulator in the public interest.

Every decision, action and programme needs to be evaluated through that lens.

Every decision, action and programme must also have clear, measurable definitions of success before being implemented – and it must be constantly evaluated against that definition.

This seems obvious, but it is never done by the LSO.

website

www.facebook.com/Kowalski2019

email

mekowalski@kowalski.ca

social media

Twitter – @mekowalski

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

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We need to re-imagine the Law Foundation’s role and how it can work with Pro Bono Ontario in the best interests of the public.
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My goals:

1. Implement further governance reform by capping the total number of years that one can be a Bencher to a maximum of 8 years. Shorter term limits will provide constant refreshing of Convocation, opening the doors to a more diverse and younger group of lawyers.

2. Reduce the number of Benchers to 20. 40 Benchers is far too unwieldy a number of people for good decision-making and good governance;

3. Implement a conflict rule that prevents law firms from acting for the LSO if a member of that firm is a Bencher;

4. Implement a practice of openness at Convocation such that “in camera” meetings are used sparingly and implement proper boardroom procedures for Convocation to eliminate long-winded speeches and wandering comments that are not part of the agenda topic. Convocation is not a court room, nor is it parliament, nor is it a place for Benchers to prattle off-topic;

5. Remove all remaining non-voting Benchers; and

6. Move to a staggered term, skills/diversity-based selection process for Benchers.

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Ridiculously high.

It’s fair game for the LSO to consider high tuition fees as barriers to A2J and to diversity in the profession. In other words, high tuition fees are not in the public interest.

I would not rule out taking the same approach LSO took with TWU.

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The SOP was a tactical error by Convocation. I would have started with a much more robust version of Recommendations 3 and 6 of the LSO racialized challenges report akin to the report prepared by Elevate Services on my website.

This annual report would be mandatory for firms of 10 or more lawyers – and made available to the public. Incentives can be created for reaching certain targets.

If the LSO is serious about this issue, and if it wants to do more than just virtue signal, it needs to come up with serious, actionable and measurable solutions. That’s what regulators do.

Only once we see success (however we define success) based on data, can we move toward deciding on the efficacy of an SOP. If Convocation is honest with itself, requiring every lawyer to prepare a secret SOP doesn’t solve any problem. I prefer to focus on real solutions.

Change management is a long-term game. It’s most successful when done by way of incentives, rather than force.

Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery

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It will become an important tool in the lawyer’s toolkit over the next 10 – 20 years.

The LSO should take a leadership role in guiding lawyers on all technology to provide better, more cost-effective and accessible legal services.

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It makes very little sense to maintain 2 pathways.

Once Benchers take emotional attachment out of the equation (which unfortunately they very rarely do), it is clear that the only fair, transparent, measurable and consistent model is the LPP.

The way forward is to ditch articling and replace it with a cost-effective LPP.

Ideally the LPP would replace the 3rd year of law school.

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The LSO has to provide clear guidance on this so that lawyers will feel less fearful and more comfortable using this tool. This is in the public interest.
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Long overdue and in the public interest.
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Technology competence already forms part of our general duty of competence and our duty to provide efficient and accessible legal services. The LSO needs to update the commentary to make this clear.

The LSO also needs to provide clear guidance to lawyers in this area – as is done in the United States.

Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

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Convocation is a board of directors who are to refrain from fettering their decisions in advance. I remain open to all proposals that fall with the LSO mandate and budget.
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We need to re-open this discussion based on the regulatory success that Australia has enjoyed since 2001.

I’ve studied it, written about it, taught it and seen it in action.

ABS will help, not hurt, the profession.

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It’s unclear why Convocation felt this was any priority at all.

The LSO must regulate in a way that not only protects the public but also allows for the widest range of service possibilities.

Specific Enhancements to Licensing System

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The LSO needs to look at the viability of a Chartered Institute of Legal Executives form of licencing in Ontario. It works well in the UK by providing a much less expensive pathway to gaining a licence. This can be a viable way to improve A2J.
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For the LSO to require CPD, then get into the business of selling CPD, is perhaps the most glaring conflict of interest imaginable. But that horse has left the barn.

However, the LSO must evaluate the success or failure of CPD. Have Ontario lawyers become demonstrably better as a result of CPD? If not, why are we doing it?

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The LSO is a regulator – not a lawyer parliament. The LSO should regulate in a way that is in the public interest and that does not unnecessarily burden legal service providers.
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Convocation is a board of directors who are to refrain from fettering their decisions in advance. I remain open to all proposals that fall with the LSO mandate and budget.
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I propose an immediate freeze on member fees until 2023 to force the LSO to live within its means.

I would also direct staff to implement “value for money” audits on all LSO programs. Programs which do not provide value of money and which do not have clear, measurable definitions of success are to be cancelled.

We need to get our own house in order first. Then we can sort out funding priorities.

For too long the LSO has seen the membership as an eternal magic money tree – that must stop.

Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

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Convocation is a board of directors who are to refrain from fettering their decisions in advance. I remain open to all proposals that fall with the LSO mandate and budget.

Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees

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The public comes first. The public is entitled to competent legal services by whatever means possible.

FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries

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Convocation is a board of directors who are to refrain from fettering their decisions in advance. I remain open to all proposals that fall with the LSO mandate and within budget.

Other topics

Candidate contributions on additional topics

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Electoral Transformation:

A. In order to increase participation in the 2023 Bencher Election, provide a
$50.00 discount on annual fees in each of the years 2024 through 2027, for all
members who vote in the 2023 Bencher Election;

B. Implement an election spending “cap” of $1,000.00 from all sources per
candidate, to permit a more diverse group of candidates to have a meaningful
chance to being elected without worrying that another candidate will outspend
them;

C. Ban the practice of “slates” and “endorsements” of candidates. This practice
makes Convocation highly politicized. Convocation is not a parliament and
should never be politicized; and

D. Colin Lachance and Sean Robichaud have done more for Bencher
elections than the LSO has ever done. This is embarrassing. For all future
elections the LSO must run this website and the podcasts.

Other topics

Candidate contributions on additional topics

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Legal Training Transformation:

Implement discussions with the provincial government to create a student loan forgiveness programme for law students who agree to practice in under-served communities for a prescribed period of time.

Review all fees charged for the bar admission process to ensure they are on a cost-recovery basis only.

Review budget impact of reduced annual fees for the initial 5 years of practice.

Other topics

Candidate contributions on additional topics

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Endorsements of this candidate

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I am against the politicization of Convocation. Slates and endorsements should not be permitted.