We are members of the Ontario Solicitor Network, a group of lawyers who believe that a more diverse Convocation that includes a larger and fairer number of solicitors is in the best interests of the legal profession and the public.
The lawyers and paralegals who practise in Ontario are regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada which, in turn, is governed by the benchers. Next to the federal and provincial elections, the bencher election is arguably the most important election in Ontario given that the legal system is critical to the economic, cultural, and social well-being of every person in Ontario.
Convocation should be composed of accomplished and public-spirited benchers who reflect the demographic and practice diversity of the profession. Eight bencher positions are reserved for appointed lay benchers to reflect the public perspective. By statute, five bencher positions are reserved for paralegals. The academic and government bars are fairly represented. Historically, there has been a large preponderance of barristers in Convocation but a dearth of solicitors. Currently, there are about six times as many barrister benchers as solicitors even though the latter, including in-house counsel, make up more than half of the practising bar.
The historic underrepresentation of solicitors on our governing body has meant that the solicitor bar has not been fully engaged in making policy. For example, many committees have no or very few solicitors on them. It has also meant that many important solicitor issues have not received the attention they deserve. For example, Convocation has had a real estate committee for only seven of the last 30 years despite the immense challenges faced by the real estate bar and the fact that that area of practice is so thorny that it consistently results in a large number of complaints and negligence claims.
We firmly believe that a Convocation that is more balanced between barristers and solicitors is in the best interests of the public. It is also in the best interests of our profession as a whole. As the next Convocation will address such difficult and multifaceted issues as access to justice and alternate business structures, it is important that the two key components of the profession have strong representation at the table.
This year, term limits and other factors have resulted in only two solicitor incumbents running for re-election.
With approximately 20 vacancies this year, it is critical that a larger and fairer number of solicitors be elected.
When casting your votes for bencher, we respectfully urge you to keep in mind this need for balance. Let’s elect a strong, diverse Convocation that includes meaningful numbers of both barristers and solicitors.
Soloway Wright LLP, Ottawa;
The Wright Law Firm,