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Being a Bencher

Being a Bencher  

I have been a bencher for the last 8 years.  As such, I understand that benchers have a fiduciary duty to the organization on which they have the privilege of serving as directors. I know that benchers regulate for the public interest.   They do not regulate for the interests of lawyers. 

Over the past 8 years, I have seen good decisions; I have also seen some bad ones.   I have worked with fellow benchers that are committed to the task of being a bencher, people who are creative, positive, thoughtful, who do the hard work of reviewing materials, and being prepared for civil debate.   I have also seen some benchers who are negative, critical without solutions, disruptive and dare I say, along for the ride. 

Over the past 8 years, I have served on numerous committees including Equity and Indigenous Affairs, Professional Development and Competence, and Governance review.  I have earned the trust of Treasurers by being asked to chair Professional Development and Competence that had to respond to the licensing challenges of Covid, the Competency Task Force that reviewed all of the competency programmes the Law Society runs, and most recently, the Audit and Finance Committee which brought in the 2023 budget at substantially less than the rate of inflation.   No easy tasks but i was up to the hard work and the challenges and succeeded.

But let me be blunt about the next 4 years.  Convocation needs the right people at the directors' table.  it needs proven leaders, people with experience, good judgment, a practical and sometimes creative approach to problem solving, people who have been in the real world of practising law.  It needs lawyers who reflect the broad range of regions and practice areas in Ontario.  It needs people representing diverse backgrounds so that there is the broadest range of debate and thought at the table.  It needs more than for fear mongers, and "one issue benchers" with political agendas representing particular stakeholders in order to get all of the work done properly.  (To get a better sense of my experiences with the incumbent benchers running with the Full Stop slate, see my next page called "Observations".) 

And that is why i have joined the Good Governance Coaltion to bring leadership, and leadership experience back to Convocation.  Benchers must appreciate their role as members of a board of directors with a fiduciary duty to the organization on which they serve as directors.  And the statutory mandate of the organization is the protection of the public, and not, as some might say, the financial benefit of the people the organization regulates.   

What do I believe in as a bencher?  I believe in fair and proportionate regulation. I believe in moderation, and measured change, neither hard left nor hard right.  I believe that benchers, like any board of directors should have a code of conduct.  Convocation is not a free for all with no rules that govern behaviour.

I believe in life long learning and support for mental health and well being to ensure competence, well funded county law libraries that make access to legal resources available to lawyers across the province, ensuring opportunities in our legal community to all, supporting access to justice initiatives including legal aid and pro bono, and ensuring sufficient staffing for speedy investigation analysis and fair responses to profession misconduct matters.  

And I do not believe in dumb ideas.  I opposed the Statement of Principles from the get-go and was proven right when it was finally withdrawn.  But I also don't believe in fear mongering or fake news about the costs of running the law society to garner attention and votes.   The statement of principles is dead; do not believe anyone who says it is still out there. Including Conrad Black.  Having chaired audit and finance, I can assure you that there is great care taken in the budgetting of costs, programming and expenses. 

I believe in common sense and fair and reasonable policy making.  I believe that we have to be cautious about what might be overregulation and regulating in matters outside of the mandate of the Law Society.  Benchers have to know that regulation must be reasonable, practical and productive.  Overburdening lawyers with regulation to achieve what some people think society should look like is not the Law Society's mandate.   Common sense must prevail in our decision making.  Proper governance requires the appreciation of our mandate and fair process in decision making.  

The candidates of the Good Governance Coalition are not aligned on anything but good governance, responsible and thoughtful decision making, hard work and civil discourse.  We are all tested and trusted leaders and that should be all that the law society needs and should want at the convocation table. 

I believe that I have earned the trust of lawyers all over the province for my work as a leader in the real estate bar.  If you have trusted me through the years, trust me on this.  The future of the profession depends on who is elected as a Bencher in 2023.  Please support me and my colleagues on the Good Governance Coalition.    

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