Thank you for reading this statement and considering casting your ballot for me.
This is my chance to give you the confidence that a vote for me would be a good thing for the people we serve and our profession generally.
It is most common, at this point, to let you know where I stand on the issues of the day. I will do that but first I would like to ask you to think of something else. The issues facing our profession today may not be the issues that we are facing in two, three or four years’ time. I believe that an important factor in voting is determining if the candidate is the type of person you would want considering these unknown but nonetheless important issues that we will face in the years to come. My guiding principle is, in all facets of our professional life, we must give our clients’ interests pre-eminence. I am fully aware that this is a sweeping comment that is easily trumpeted but much harder to recognize and fulfill as we are addressing the topics of the day. If elected as bencher, my decisions and actions will be informed by that one guiding principle.
I have practiced law for 32 years, mainly in London and southwestern Ontario. I grew up in Windsor, and then went to Western University for a B.Sc. in Computer Science before earning my Ll.B. My professional background is in Civil Litigation for both Plaintiffs and Defendants with an emphasis in personal injury and insurance litigation. The Law Society has recognized me as a Specialist in Civil Litigation.
Representing both Plaintiffs and Insurers has given me a detailed understanding of the issues facing the civil bar and in particular the Personal Injury Bar. I would like the opportunity to work to help bring about change to ensure our judicial system is not taken advantage of by inappropriate practices that serve lawyers, not our clients.
My professional volunteer experience includes serving on the Middlesex Law Association Board, ultimately serving as president. I spent thirteen years as part of the management team of my firm. I served for several years as a counselor for the OBA and I have also served on ad hoc committees for The Advocates’ Society, most recently contributing to a position paper on mandatory Personal Injury Retainer Agreements.
In my personal life, I have had the good fortune to be married for over 30 years and together my wife and I have raised our four children.
My position on current topics (in no particular order):
Public Perception – All of us have experienced the declining public view of lawyers and our judicial system. Issues that we should be able to tackle to increase the public’s confidence are responsible advertising regulations with effective Law Society response to violations, decreasing the response time to the public’s complaints and the responsible formulation of contingency fee agreements. For the bigger picture it would be helpful to attempt to determine if there are identifiable issues causing the public concern which could be addressed through an effective course of education of either or both the public and our profession.
Duty to maintain technological competencies – I recognize that maintaining a level of technological facility and competency is a cost and thus arguably is a barrier for some to practice. But that same argument could be made about the cost of a pen and pad of paper. It is in the publics’ and our professions best interest to require each lawyer to have a base line of technical competency. As a minimum, a practising lawyer ought to have the facilities to send and receive data electronically, e-mail and fax. This is a threshold competency I would support if elected as bencher.
Access to Justice – Low income people, disadvantaged people and new Canadians have a disproportionate exposure to legal problems and a disproportionate inability to access legal assistance. Not only is the cost for legal help a hurdle but a person’s geographic location can be a hurdle when living in a linguistically isolated suburb, or rural and remote parts of the province.
It is my belief that the LSO has a duty to regulate some of the factors which impact accessibility to justice. If lawyers are not the Standard Bearers for the Rule of Law who is left to take on that role?
While access to Justice is a large and multi-faceted topic, the LSO can begin to influence a cultural shift through innovatively fostering efforts to expose new Canadians to a career in law. The Rule of Law is a powerful concept that when explained should motivate people to take on the challenge. The LSO can also assist practitioners in rural and remote areas to maintain viable practices by not allowing erosion of paid work sources. Additionally, most jurisdictions in Ontario are facing significant delays in providing hearing and trial times. Changes (not elimination) to our rules allowing civil jury trials would free up court resources. Shortening of the time from opening the file to closing the file would have a ripple effect allowing for more cases to come to resolution in a timelier and thus less costly manner.
ABS (Alternative Business Structures) – ABS has the potential to create conflicts with our professional duty to our clients (see guiding principle). Fundamentally I am not in favour of ABS. I recognize that there is the potential to identify areas of practice in which an ABS would be in the client’s best interest and for those areas, if strictly defined and strictly regulated, I would be open to a discussion to allow
County Law Associations and Libraries – As a past president of a county law association I recognize the importance of these organizations outside of Toronto. They are fundamentally the first line in maintaining levels of competency and collegiality in the local bar. As a bencher I would seek to support the county law associations’ role in maintaining local competency and collegiality.
Responsible Management of Resources – Why does the LSO run a deficit? I spent 13 years managing our Law firm and understand that costs increase and thus revenue must also increase. But the crucial part is the reasonable management of the process in between revenue generation and expenditures. I don’t know enough about the financial working of the LSO to level specific criticisms but an annual deficit is a major concern.
Inclusion and the SOP – If the faces of Canadian society are not reflected in the Canadian judicial system, societal trust in the Rule of Law will be eroded. Today, perhaps even more so than in the past, our profession should strive to reinforce society’s belief in the administration of justice and by taking those steps – the Rule of Law. We can do so by thoughtfully, meaningfully and purposefully being inclusive in all facets of our professional and personal lives.
With respect to the Statement of Principles (SOP), while I had hoped that the LSO would have been more thoughtful and constructive in their implementation methodology of the SOP that complaint is looking at the past. The goals of the SOP are correct and as a profession, we should continue to work to increase diversity and serve all Canadians.