The great divide

For any reader who has checked out an issue of Law Times recently, you’ll be aware that we’ve been covering issues of interest regarding the upcoming bencher election.

For any reader who has checked out an issue of Law Times recently, you’ll be aware that we’ve been covering issues of interest regarding the upcoming bencher election. While turnout for the 2015 election was 33.84 per cent, this year, a record-setting number of candidates is running and there is hope the turnout will be higher.

In conversations I’ve had with bencher candidates — and reviewing nearly 60 candidate profiles that have been submitted to our dedicated bencherelection.ca site — some have expressed a sense of distance with the regulator when it comes to fees they are expected to pay or rules they are expected to follow, particularly within the scope of their practice.

In fact, this is what led, in part, to a piece this week focused on how some candidates say Convocation needs a larger voice for solicitors, a comment I’ve heard echoed elsewhere before, often by those outside of Toronto.

“I find that more and more, some decisions coming from the law society tell me how to practise law in the abstract . . .” says Sylvie Patenaude, a partner at Sicotte Guilbault in Ottawa. Ian Speers told writer Carolyn Gruske that, “litigators tend to dominate Convocation . . . so [solicitors] do tend to feel that when it comes to setting standards, they’re being set by someone whose experience is litigating.”

Law Times has covered lawyers who are solo lawyers or sole practitioners who say their voices are needed or young lawyers who say Convocation needs to hear from those who are grappling with issues that affect newer members of the bar. In many of my conversations, what has motivated people to run is their sense of disconnect from the regulator and from the profession at large. This can be based on a sense of disconnect at fees they’re being charged, their gender, their age, their background, their location, the type of law they practise or the training they received. Regardless of who is elected — as Convocation is a chosen microcosm of the profession at large — I encourage you to listen as much as possible to all of those running. There is much to learn.

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