Law Times

February 4, 2019

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Page 1 of 15 LAW TIMES 2 COVERING ONTARIO'S LEGAL SCENE | FEBRUARY 4, 2019 of newer calls in Convocation. He says part of the reason he's running is that Convocation needs benchers who are in the earlier stages of their career and who can inf luence policy out- comes by the regulator. "If you are a younger lawyer at a 'seven sisters' firm and you are running against a senior part- ner or two at the same firm, the chances of the firm putting the resources to a younger lawyer is obviously not going to work in your favour," says Robichaud. Historically, it is indeed rare for recent calls to serve in Con- vocation, according to research by Professor Noel Semple. In 2016, Semple published an article in the Canadian Journal of Law and Society that showed that early-career lawyers were "completely unrepresented in the Law Society's elected leader- ship." After analyzing candidate campaign materials and voting pattern data from five LSUC bencher elections since 1999, Semple found that while almost half of Ontario lawyers had been practising for less than 15 years, only two of the 40 lawyers elected fell into that category in 2015. "These two benchers had twelve and thirteen years of experience respectively. None of the benchers elected in 2015 were among Ontario's lawyers in the first decade of practice, who made up 25 to 30 percent of all lawyers in the province," Semple wrote. "The average bencher elect- ed over this period had been licensed in Ontario for 27.53 years at the time of his or her election." Jacqueline Horvat, a partner and co-founder of Spark LLP, who mostly practises in Wind- sor and was called to the bar in 2002, was elected in 2011 with nine years of experience in the profession. The Law Society Gazette said she was the youngest bench- er ever elected at age 33. Horvat says she was lucky to work with former LSO treasurer Harvey Strosberg, who sup- ported her candidacy and cam- paigned on her behalf. Horvat has since spoken at Convocation about issues that might affect the candidacy of benchers, such as a policy that requires benchers to work at least 26 days before being re- munerated at a rate of $585 per day and $355 per half-day (as of 2018). "I wasn't judged on the hours I billed or face time in the office," says Horvat. "If you are at a firm that cares a lot about billable hours and that's the only requirement they look at for things like bonuses and partnership, then it may be a problem." Although it is rare for early- career lawyers to serve in Con- vocation as benchers, the law society has made decisions that affect this group. In December, Convocation altered the training process for aspiring lawyers, approving a proposal to mandate pay for articling students and audit the firms where they work begin- ning May 1, 2021. The body also approved a proposal last year to add a new law school to the province at Ry- erson University, although the plan has since met roadblocks at the provincial level. Signa Daum Shanks, who has taught law students since 2010 and is running for bench- er, says it would be helpful for the law society to collect data on how mounting fees affect early- career lawyers. The LSO's licensure fees, which must be paid by law grad- uates hoping to enter the field, include $2,800 for experiential training, $750 for each of the barristers and solicitors exams and $160 for application fees. "It's so difficult for new law- yers to get on their feet, so that idea of being able to contribute to the legal profession, support- ing its self-regulation, is a really difficult one to imagine because of other pressures," she says. New calls are not the only group that have criticized Con- vocation's composition in terms of years of experience. The regulatory body ap- proved last year a policy that would restrict the rights of many long-time members or "life" benchers. "You can't just create a binder labelled 'institutional memory' and hand it off," former LSO treasurer Vern Krishna, counsel at TaxChambers LLP in Toronto and law professor at the Univer- sity of Ottawa, told Law Times in December 2018. "The loss of corporate mem- ory is unfortunate because it shifts the balance of power." Robichaud says that while he supports a designated role for early-career lawyers, the body should remain weighted toward veteran members of the profes- sion. "People with extensive expe- rience in the practice are invalu- able and we certainly would not want to discourage more experi- enced members of the bar from running — if anything perhaps it should be weighted toward se- niority. The problem we face is there is simply no younger per- spective," he says. LT Continued from page 1 Debt, partnership weigh on hopefuls Decision contains lessons Continued from page 1 Complainants accused Guo of posting confidential infor- mation and "making derogatory comments about unnamed Justices of the Peace, Crown attorneys and clients" on Twit- ter, the decision said. The tribunal also wrote that Guo also posted on Twitter, Craigslist and Reddit that she was illegally arrested after she "got into a verbal altercation with counter staff, which led to her f lipping her middle finger" and was "holding her phone trying to photograph the security offi- cer's badge." The decision listed several other issues with the student's social media use, including posts about "how all court clerks should be fired and replaced by robots" and her personal website, "which at one point listed the names of more than 50 'Bad Cops,' two 'Bad Crowns' and two 'Bad Judges.'" Guo was Forte's first articling student, and he allowed her to create a Twitter account for his firm, which she alleged- ly tweeted from without his knowledge. Forte, who did not have a previous disciplinary history, did order Guo to take down her Twitter account, the decision said, but the student opened another account. He declined to comment when contacted by Law Times. "He never reviewed Ms. Guo's personal website, which contained inf lammatory and inaccurate material as well as information about client cases that had been posted without his consent. He allowed Ms. Guo to create a Twitter account for his firm, but he never reviewed it at any time," the deci- sion said. Ultimately, Guo, who started her articles in June 2015, was terminated by Forte in February 2016. "In fairness to the Lawyer, this was an extremely difficult situation and one that could not have been anticipated," the panel wrote. "The Lawyer spent a significant amount of time and effort in attempting to coach Ms. Guo about profession- alism and civility . . . He also somewhat naively trusted in her assurances that things would change." In a statement to Law Times, Guo says she regrets Forte "had to be disciplined for my own expressions, which I take sole responsibility for." Lorraine Fleck of Fleck PC in Toronto says the decision provides lessons for lawyers. "Regardless of whether it's an articling student or a mem- ber of your firm's marketing team or another member of the firm, you have to watch and see how those you are respon- sible for supervising are using the firm's social media chal- lenges," says Fleck. LT NEWS THE ULTIMATE SOURCE For Today's Legal Profession | 416.609.3800 | 1.800.387.5164 Online Subscribe today! 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