Editorial: A good campaign so far

If you can say anything about the Law Society of Upper Canada bencher election campaign so far, it has at least been more vibrant than in the past.

Already, a group of candidates got together to host a series of virtual town halls. At the same time, the Ontario Bar Association held three receptions for bencher candidates, the last of which took place in London, Ont., last Tuesday.

It has also surveyed bencher hopefuls for their positions on a number of issues facing the law society and posted the responses online.

Law Times, too, has gotten in the game. Since February, we’ve been running a web site, lawtimesnews.com/2011bencherelection, featuring stories, poll questions, and candidates’ responses to the issues. This week in print, we’re running an 11-page spread dedicated to the elections.

It includes stories and profiles as well as a map of the province showing where all of the candidates are running.

Besides being more active, the campaign has also featured interesting discussions on the issues. At last week’s virtual town hall, for example, the issue of the dearth of articling positions was a hot topic.

Already, an online Law Times poll had shown 96 per cent of respondents felt the law society isn’t doing enough on the articling issue.

And while Treasurer Laurie Pawlitza said there had been extensive efforts last year to call 8,000 firms outside of Toronto to canvass them on articling and that just two jobs had resulted, people clearly aren’t happy with the current situation.

In fact, during the town hall, one participant in the audience asked candidates whether they supported the idea of a new law school at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.

But while current Bencher Susan Hare said she “wholeheartedly supports” the idea, others were cautious about increasing the pool of new graduates without some action on articling. Solutions include abolishing or revising the articling requirement altogether.

“I cannot support a new law school unless we get articling sorted out,” said Toronto candidate Mitch Kowalski. “We have to revisit the articling program.”

Other ideas raised included having older lawyers pay higher LSUC member fees in order to lower the burden for new practitioners who may be struggling. For his part, Kowalski said that rather than base the levy on age, it may be “more palatable that lawyers making tons of money will pay a higher fee because they can afford it.”

Of course, there have been a few hiccups in the campaign so far. Some lawyers, for example, have reported that e-mails from Compushare containing voting information have been going to their spam folders.

But overall, the law society and candidates have been doing a good job of ensuring the 2011 campaign goes well. At the same time, the issues discussed so far show that the next Convocation will have lots on its plate to deal with. As a result, let’s hope we see higher turnout than during the last election.
— Glenn Kauth

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