Monday, May 10, 2010

Counsel for both sides in the disciplinary hearings against two Torys LLP lawyers who once represented Conrad Black are scrambling to convince former clients of the pair to waive their solicitor-client privilege so the proceedings can remain public.

Lawyers representing Darren Sukonick and Beth DeMerchant have teamed up with the Law Society of Upper Canada’s counsel, Paul Stern, to contact clients whose communications with the lawyers are central to the case against them.

Ian Smith, who is representing Sukonick, said his client was keen to keep the hearing as open as possible.
“It’s important for our defence to be public given the allegations have been made so publicly,” Smith said.

Phil Campbell, who is representing DeMerchant, said his client was opposed to holding hearings in camera unless waivers had been sought and refused.

Black has already denied a request to waive his privilege, but Campbell identified three key clients for whom waivers were a more realistic option: Hollinger Inc., Hollinger International, and Hollinger Canadian Newspapers LP.

“If we get those waivers, the implications for an extremely open hearing are encouraging,” Campbell said, noting progress had been made on all three fronts.

On Thursday, counsel for Hollinger Inc. confirmed her client would waive its right while lawyers for the two other companies said they would get answers from their respective clients.

Earlier this week, a motion from Stern to close portions of the hearings to the public threatened to make most of the proceedings secret because of the pervasiveness of privileged information in the case.
  On Thursday, Stern again emphasized the primacy of solicitor-client privilege, arguing a publication ban wouldn’t provide sufficient protection. He said parties with interests adverse to those involved could come to the hearings and take notes on privileged material and noted a publication ban could hold little or no sway outside Ontario.

That prompted Paul Henderson, a member of the hearing panel, to worry the arguments were too one-sided.
“Is it really your position as counsel for the law society to make this argument?” he asked.

“Normally, this would be something that would be presented by the defence. The problem is we’re only getting arguments that it should not be held in public.”


A Law Society of Upper Canada disciplinary panel has given a Cincinnati lawyer 30 days to turn in his licence or be disbarred.

The decision comes after the panel found Steven Randy Solway to have engaged in professional misconduct.

In particular, it sanctioned him for “acting in a way that failed to maintain the integrity of the profession when he directed that a portion of legal fees paid by a client, properly belonging to his employer, be diverted and paid directly to him between October 2002 and April 2005.”

A paralegal proposing a controversial motion at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s annual general meeting last week says he was erring on the side of caution when he withdrew the idea just before the vote.

“A number of people were concerned that if this motion was brought forward and was defeated, the paralegal standing committee in the law society would have difficulty getting these items on the agenda in the foreseeable future,” says Marshall Yarmus, adding he believes defeat was inevitable given the ratio of lawyers to paralegals eligible to vote on the motion.

There are 40,000 licensed lawyers in Ontario compared to a few thousand paralegals.
“Defeat could hurt all the paralegals we’re trying to help, so I decided to err on the side of caution,” Yarmus adds.

The motion called on the law society to look into extending paralegal practice into family law matters. It was due to go to a vote at the law society event in Toronto last Wednesday, but Yarmus says he changed course after consulting with his colleagues at the Paralegal Society of Ontario’s own annual general meeting last weekend.

A legislated review of the 2006 Access to Justice Act, which brought paralegals under the regulatory authority of the law society, is due to take place in 2012, but Yarmus says members of the paralegal standing committee have assured him they will tackle the scope of paralegal practice before that date.

For more on this issue, see "Paralegals call truce over law society motion"

The Law Society of Upper Canada plays host to its fifth annual Solo and Small Firm Conference and Expo this

The event, presented jointly with the Ontario Bar Association, will for the first time be available live via webcast, allowing solo practice lawyers the chance to view the opening plenary and five other key sessions from the comfort of their own offices.

All of the remaining sessions will be recorded and made available after the conference.
The event will feature sessions on current trends, including smartphones and virtual offices as well as social media.

Heenan Blaikie LLP hosted a fundraiser last week to support the work of the Belinda Stronach Foundation, a charitable organization founded by the former MP.

Stronach and Dragons’ Den star Brett Wilson spoke at the event, which raised funds to address social, economic, and political challenges.

“The [foundation] does important work, and Heenan Blaikie is honoured to be able to contribute to the foundation’s endeavours to benefit the lives of marginalized people, not only in Canada but around the world,” said Norman Bacal, Heenan Blaikie’s co-managing partner.

Michael Eizenga has swapped London, Ont.-based Siskinds LLP for Bennett Jones LLP as he becomes a partner in the firm’s Toronto litigation department.

A former president of the Liberal Party of Canada, Eizenga is a prominent class actions lawyer. He has also taught at the University of Western Ontario’s law faculty and was president of the Advocates’ Society from 2007-08.

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