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Should LSUC change its name?

|Written By Kendyl Sebesta

The Law Society of Upper Canada will consider a motion to change its name next month after more than 200 years under its current moniker.

Changing the law society’s name would erode its proud legal history, says Alan Heisey. Photo: Robin Kuniski

The regulator will hear a formal motion brought by federal government lawyer Thomas Vincent on May 9 at its annual general meeting.

The motion asks to change the name to the Ontario Law Society.

If the motion is successful, the name change wouldn’t formally take effect until July 1, 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Vincent says he brought the motion forward in an attempt to modernize the law society’s image. “We’re coming up to the 150th anniversary of the Confederation and it seemed to me it was time for the law society to be modernized.

The motion was intended to generate more conversation about the topic and to offer a realistic and modern reflection of Canada’s current geography.”

Vincent, who began a petition to change the law society’s name last month and sought signatures of support from several fellow government lawyers, adds that while he feels it’s unlikely the motion will pass, he hopes the name will change at some point.

“When I was called to the bar, I remember thinking how strange the name was. It’s been that way for over 100 years, and while traditions tend to hang and most people seem quite satisfied with the name, I was hoping for modernization.”  

But not everyone agrees with Vincent’s approach.

Alan Heisey, a lawyer at Papazian Heisey Myers, says changing the law society’s name would erode its proud legal history.

“I think anyone can agree that the name is quaintly archaic,” says Heisey, who opposed the idea of a name change when he ran as an LSUC bencher candidate last year.

“I’m a traditionalist, so I think it speaks to the legal history of the province and the many traditions that we should be proud of. It’s a personal thing among those of us who are more traditional.”

While other jurisdictions have long since changed the names of their law societies in favour of more modern titles, that doesn’t mean Ontario should do the same, according to Heisey.

“We have to make our own decisions,” he says. “I think when we forget our history, we lose a very important part of who we are, a part that we should celebrate and be proud of.”

But Duaine Simms, a lawyer at the Department of Justice, says such an approach could limit a law society that has already been working to change in other ways.

“In all other areas, law societies are identified by their province,” he says. “It appears as if we are a bit of a relic, and I think we should fall into the same practice.”

Simms, who signed the petition, believes that because the law society has been considering and has enacted many other changes, a new name would be a logical next step in that process.

“They’ve begun regulating paralegals and introducing a number of other changes, so this seems like a another positive step toward modernization,” he says.

Heisey, meanwhile, says the name change is the kind of issue that the profession should decide as a whole. “This really is an issue that should be decided by everyone at the law society and not just benchers,” he says.

From his interactions so far, Vincent says the petition has received mixed reviews with many practitioners in Ontario seeing the name change as unfavourable and government lawyers stationed in Quebec showing strong support. Vincent himself works in Gatineau, Que., in his job with the federal government.

For her part, LSUC Treasurer Laurie Pawlitza says changing the name wouldn’t be simple. “This would require an amendment to the Law Society Act,” she tells Law Times.

“Experience has shown that it is not easy to get our governing legislation changed. Changing a name steeped in history must be done for a purpose. Presumably, a name change ought to clearly describe our function to the public.

A more accurate name would be the Lawyer and Paralegal Regulator of Ontario. With that said, I believe that there are more important priorities.”

  • Harried member
    How about LSUCK?
  • Red Forneri
    If it were up to me.

    L.S.U.C. - Lawyers Screwing Uninformed Clients.
  • James Anderson
    Is this guy crazy? The name is part of our tradition and our culture. It is totally unique. New and modern names don't make it more relevant or better, it just makes it bland and insignificant. I worked long and hard to be a member of this organization and I'm not in the mood to have it change the name.
  • Brian
    Wow - that a proposed LSUC name change gets so many lawyers so reved up that they abandon their usual indifference to post on Law Times is stunning. The public give's a rat's ass what you call your self-regulator. What matters to them is that it has long been a dysfunctional mess. Ontario's health care system is in a shambles second only to the mess the province's legal system is in (only BC is worse). Both doctors and lawyers are self-regulated. What does that tell you?
  • Humantouch
    what difference will it make, will it make lawyers accountable? answer to that one is NO they only want money from their clients and the immigrant people and poor do not have any chance of accessing Justice because of their greed. I have suffered insurmountable pain because of misguided information by lawyers. When are you all going to get a conscience and do the job properly. Justice is not only for the Rich
  • Justin J Robinson
    I stenuously oppose your motion. I have never had to attend a meeting before, however you have now given me good cause to do so. I invite you to withdraw this nonsence before the commencement of the meeting or I will seek leave to speak upon it briefly at the meeting. Justin J. Robinson (LSUC # 38765G).
  • Anonymouse
    Yes, the power of weirdos in law society is receding. Character is everything. The name change can be many things to many in Ontario but actually it'll help building 'Courage and Self-respect' in legal profession and improve its perception with the public. Go for it.
  • Jim Hamilton
    Saying LSUC out loud the name seems weirdly appropriate :-)
  • Usman Hannan
    Ontario Lawyer and Paralegal Regulator (OLPR): what is so wrong with such a name? It describes exactly and succintly what the current LSUC is all about.

    Aside lawyers, who are by training tend to be traditionalists, must we not take take the opinion of people, whom the lawyers serve? To most of the commoners (i.e., non-lawyers), a name like OLPR would make way more sense than LSUC.

    While history is important, clinging to outdated historical symbols is nothing short of hindering historical progress.
  • Gzrry J. Wise
    I said my piece in thisover the weekend - see "Name That Regulator: The Law Society of Upper Canada's #Hashtag Problem" at http://wiselaw.blogspot.ca/2012/04/name-that-regulator-law-society-of.html
  • James R. Crate
    I am not in favour of the proposed name change; "Upper Canada" is historically correct.
  • Carolyn Crate
    Please don't waste precious resources on something like this.
  • Don
    No, the law society should not change it's name. Upper Canada, was the name of Ontario, when the law society was founded over 200 years ago. It does not hurt any citizen of Ontario to learn a little history, might even do some good.
  • Mukhtiar Dahiya
    You cannot suppress the idea whose time has come.
  • Julie Jai
    I support the proposed name change. While steeped in history, the name "Law Society of Upper Canada" makes it harder for the public to undertand who we are. Our goal as lawyers and particularly as the LSUC is to serve the public interest and encourage accessible legal services. The current name is a barrier. However, any change should be done in a cost-effective way.
  • Ian Flett
    I agree with Mr. Heisey's assessment that the name is quaintly archaic. It reflects the common law's quintessential personality: A way of thinking about rights and obligations that embraces long standing principles and the contemporary condition. Somehow, our quirky name reminds us of the latter while we serve the public firmly rooted in the former.
  • Paul Courey
    Great idea, but no chance of success. If we as a profession have been content to be out of step and archaic for nearly 150 years, I think we must like it that way.
  • BP Stelmach
    Change it for no other reason than to stop referring to it as ell suck.
  • Sheldon Caplan
    A reminder of the our past,when women and minority groups were not members and discrimination was accepted. We are no longer the law society of white male. Let us recognize how far we have progressed and how much still needs be done.
    It seems a similar "traditional historical relevance" argument is made by the southern states to justify the ongoing use of the confederate flag.
  • Neal Kearney
    There is no compelling or urgent reason to incur the cost of this name change.
  • Keith
    Tradition or not, the use of "Upper Canada" might reasonably be seen as confusing or misleading to the general public. It refers to a jurisdiction that no longer exists, and frankly, was poorly named in the first place. It was called "Upper Canada" because it was further upriver from what was then "Lower Canada". No doubt the so-called traditionalists like the "Upper" part of the name because it could mistakenly be seen to denote superiority. They might feel differently if history had more correctly named it "Upstream Canada" or even "Lesser Canada" given its less established population at the time.
  • Stephen Scott
    Section 138 of the Constitution Act, 1867, in effect makes the terms "Upper Canada" and "Ontario" legally equivalent. "138. From and after the Union the Use of the Words “Upper Canada” instead of “Ontario,” or “Lower Canada” instead of “Quebec,” in any Deed, Writ, Process, Pleading, Document, Matter, or Thing shall not invalidate the same."
  • Al Vinni
    If it was the Law Society of Lower Canada it would have been changed long ago. Should not even be legal to represent Ontario with the name Upper Canada which was an historically, geographically and culturally different region than Ontario of today. Come on, it's 2012 not 1812.
  • Joyce
    Hallelujah!!!! Finally finally sanity may prevail.

    I have been a member of the LSUC for over 30 years. Do you know how incredible weird it sounds when you tell e.g. an American or other foreigner that you are a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada. When you tell them the historic background and that you are really a lawyer in Ontario - some people say "how quaint" or similar adjective.

    I therefore really like the recommendation of the new name. It is both modern and succinctly describes who we are. Hope it passes.
  • Gordon Wood
    If it ain't broke,why fix it?
    The apparent felt need to expunge ancient nomenclature from the language is perplexing.Is there anything to suggest the publiic is confused or misled by the name?
    What's next ? How about The House of Commons? A lot of work to be done out there.
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