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May 5, 2014

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LEGAL ACCOUNTING & PRACTICE MANAGEMENT | 800.340.3234 Untitled-1 1 14-04-29 10:16 AM Do solicitors get a fair shake? Some benchers question imbalance at Convocation n an era where the very survival of On- tario solicitors may be at stake, the so- licitor as Law Society of Upper Canada bencher may be going the way of the dodo bird. Among the 40 elected benchers at Con- vocation, only four — and just one from Toronto — are pure solicitors with a handful working as both barristers and solicitors. "Overall, the current composition of Convocation is similar to what it was in 2003 and 2007, as shown in the 2009 governance task force report to Convocation," said Susan Tonkin, a communications adviser at the law society, in an e-mail. " e report notes that while candidates and elected benchers come from a wide range of practice areas, barristers have consistently outnumbered solicitors more than fi ve to one among elected bench- ers in the last four elections, even though so- licitors represent 30 per cent of all lawyers." e upsh ot, says one bencher who spoke on condition of anonymity, is that solicitors' issues don't get a fair hearing. " e barristers who are benchers are a great bunch," says the bencher. "But when push comes to shove, small-fi rm solicitor issues get trampled by issues that are im- portant to barristers." According to Alan Silverstein, a orn- hill, Ont., real estate practitioner who has been a bencher since 2003, his barrister col- leagues are receptive to solicitors' concerns. "We've certainly had a voice," he says. " e problem is when the barristers don't under- stand the issue and don't understand what's being proposed, it takes a lot of time for so few solicitors to convince so many barristers of the need for certain measures." e question that arises, then, is wheth- er a conclave where there are only four pure solicitors representing 15,000 solicitors who serve the public in a signifi cant way fully refl ects the public interest. By way of comparison, a constituency of some 4,500 paralegals has a statutory right to fi ve elect- ed representatives at Convocation. "It is true that all benchers are there in the public interest, but Convocation benefi ts and makes better decisions when diff erent aspects of legal service are more fairly repre- sented," says Bradley Wright, an Ottawa so- licitor who's a non-voting ex offi cio bencher. " e barristers would never stand for a regu- latory body making life-changing decisions about their practice environment — and rightly so — where nearly 90 per cent of the voters were non-barristers. Yet that is exactly what Ontario's solicitors are facing." It's a situation that could well become Lawyers confident TWU decision will stand he decision of two law societies not to accredit Trinity Western Univer- sity's law school will sur- vive a potential court challenge, some lawyers say. " e arguments made in 2001 were very diff erent," says Amy Sakalauskas, past chairwoman of the Canadian Bar Association's sexual orientation and gender identity conference, in reference to a Supreme Court ruling in favour of Trinity Western in 2001. e comments follow the April 24 vote in which the Law Society of Upper Canada rejected the uni- versity's bid for accreditation by a margin of 28-21. e next day, the Nova Scotia Barristers Society also refused to let Trinity West- ern graduates practise law in that province unless the school drops the provisions in its covenant that forbid students from engaging in intimacy "that violates the sacred- ness of a marriage between a man and a woman." e two decisions were contrary to the law societies' counterpart in British Columbia where benchers felt they had to uphold a 2001 Su- preme Court decision that found the British Colombia College of Teachers must license teachers trained at Trinity Western. Dur- ing the debate in Ontario, some benchers expressed their concerns about the legal ramifi cations. " e law is clear that freedom of religion includes the right for people of the same faith to establish schools and universities and exclude from those schools persons who do not share their religious views," said Bencher Christopher Bredt, who referenced the Supreme Court decision in Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers, ahead of his vote in favour of accreditation. But should Trinity Western mount a legal challenge against the two law societies that rejected ac- creditation, the evidence before the court would be diff erent from the 13-year-old case, lawyers say. To lawyer Lee Akazaki, the li- censing of lawyers and teachers are two very diff erent matters. DISCOVERY PLANS Counsel told to work it out themselves P2 EQUAL SHARED PARENTING Lawyer touts proposed change to divorce law P7 FOCUS ON Personal Injury Law P8 Among the 40 elected benchers at Convocation, just four are pure solicitors. See Lawyers, page 4 See More, page 4 The evidence before a court now would be dif- ferent than in 2001, says Susan Ursel. PM #40762529 DISCOVERY PLANS Counsel told to work it out themselves & $#&!&jmmm$cYa[bbWh$Yec ntitled-4 1 12-03-20 10:44 AM $4.00 • Vol. 25, No. 16 May 5, 2014 Follow LAW TIMES on L aw TIMes L aw TIMes BY YAMRI TADDESE Law Times T BY JULIUS MELNITZER For Law Times I

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