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Monday, February 16, 2015

Bob Ward announces plan to retire

Legal Aid Ontario president and CEO Bob Ward has announced he will retire by the end of this year.

“I have concluded that now is the right time for me to begin to transition to retirement after a career in public service of nearly 42 years,” Ward wrote in a memo to staff. “This would enable LAO to pass the torch to a new generation of leadership to chart the course and commit to the long term effort required to continue to further the interests of our clients.”

Ward said he has advised the LAO board he intends to step down 11 months from now. The exact date of his retirement is yet to be determined.

In his memo, Ward thanked staff for working to improve legal aid in Ontario by “reflecting the highest principles of both public service and social justice.” He also said LAO has benefited from strong political support over the years.

“Successive attorneys general have all well-understood the needs of the legal aid system and each one of them was successful in securing significant additional funding for legal aid,” he said. “To these Ministers and to their able deputies and officials, who worked diligently and effectively behind the scenes on these initiatives and many others, much gratitude is owed.”

Ward also said there is still a lot to be achieved in legal aid.

“The many stubborn barriers to access to justice that persist need our constant attention to overcome; the evolving nature of the justice system requires continual re-thinking to ensure our clients are well-served,” he wrote.

“The changing dynamics of poverty requires us to be updating our programming all the time; and the welfare of our dedicated colleagues in the private bar and clinic system, who all do so much to further our clients’ interests, merits particularly innovative, ongoing support.”

New regional JP appointed

Justice of the Peace Linda Leblanc has been appointed the regional senior justice of the peace for the east region of the Ontario Court of Justice.

Leblanc was originally appointed as justice of the peace in 2005. In her new role, she replaces regional senior JP Bernard Swords, who was appointed as senior advisory JP in December 2014.

As regional senior JP, Leblanc will assist the chief justice, the co-ordinator of justices of the peace, and the regional senior judge in all matters related to justices of the peace.

Shapiro to lead Canadian practice at Dickinson Wright

Dickinson Wright LLP has appointed lawyer Mark Shapiro to lead its Toronto-based Canadian practice.

Dickinson Wright, a business law firm with offices on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border, says Shapiro will be responsible for providing “overall strategic direction of the practice” and managing the firm’s internal committees.

“Mark brings over 19 years of legal and management experience and is a recognized leader within the firm. As we continue to grow our presence in Canada, I am confident that Mark possesses the leadership and management skills to lead our Canadian practice,” said William Burgess, CEO of Dickinson Wright, in a press release.

Shapiro, for his part, said he is looking forward to his new role.

“I’m honoured and excited to lead Dickinson Wright’s Canadian practice,” Shapiro said. “Our practice has grown significantly over the last seven years and now includes so many well-respected and recognized lawyers. I look forward to leading the firm as we continue to serve both our Canadian and U.S. clients in a wide variety of transactional and litigation matters across a range of industries and legal practice areas.”

Construction Lien Act goes under review

The Ministry of the Attorney General has launched a review of the Construction Lien Act to look into payment issues within the construction sector.

The government selected Borden Ladner Gervais LLP senior partner Bruce Reynolds to conduct the review, which comes in response to “stakeholder concerns related to prompt payment and effective dispute resolution in Ontario’s construction industry, such as encouraging timely payment for services and materials, and making sure payment risk is distributed fairly,” the MAG said in an announcement.

Another BLG lawyer, Sharon Vogel, will assist Reynolds with the review, which is expected to conclude by the end of this year. It will involve “extensive consultation” with the construction industry and a report to the province.

Liberals call for diversity on the bench

Two Liberal MPs are calling for greater diversity of the judiciary. MPs Irwin Cotler and Sean Casey say “there is no shortage of meritorious candidates” for the bench who come from minority backgrounds.

“Canada’s judiciary should be made up of highly qualified people who reflect our country in all its diversity. It is therefore unacceptable that, according to the government, statistics about the diversity of judicial appointments are ‘not readily available,’” the MPs said in a statement released last week.

“While merit and judicial excellence must clearly be prerequisites when making appointments to the bench, there is no shortage of meritorious candidates from minority communities. In fact, as a whole, the judiciary can only be truly excellent if it reflects the society it is entrusted to judge.”

Canadians are more likely to have confidence in the legal system “if judges share our variety of experiences and backgrounds,” the MPs said.

“Moreover, in the words of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, judges ‘arrive at the bench shaped by their experiences and by the perspectives of the communities from which they come.’ A broader range of judicial perspectives can only enhance the quality of court decisions.”

The MPs cited a 2012 investigation by The Globe and Mail found that just two of 100 new judges named by the federal government were visible minorities.

Law Times poll

The results for the latest Law Times online poll are in. Respondents are divided about what the Law Society of Upper Canada should do about the Law Practice Program in light of law students’ concerns about it.

Law students recently wrote to LSUC treasurer Janet Minor with concerns that unpaid placements under the LPP could affect paid articling positions. They also said there are significant equity concerns as disadvantaged groups are more likely to turn to the program.

But 37 per cent of poll participants said the law society should do nothing now as the program is a pilot project and should be left to run its course. Another 35 per cent of respondents suggested scrapping the project altogether and coming up with something better.

Still another 20 per cent of respondents said the law society should mandate paid work placements to address the concerns about affordability and equity, while eight per cent said LSUC should provide more financial assistance to students.

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