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Generational change

Editorial Obiter

This issue contains different stories involving issues facing young lawyers and their representation at bodies such as the Law Society of Ontario. The issue is top of mind in the lead-up to the upcoming bencher election, which will take place in April.

“It’s so difficult for new lawyers to get on their feet, so that idea of being able to contribute to the legal profession, supporting its self-regulation, is a really difficult one to imagine because of other pressures,” says Signa Daum Shanks, who is running for a seat.

A Law Students’ Society of Ontario survey indicates that nearly 83 per cent of law students had at least one parent who had a post-secondary credential.

The survey troublingly indicates that first-generation law students in their third year of law school have an average of $32,066 more debt than students whose parents have post-secondary education.

These generational divides are evident elsewhere, such as an unusual discipline case that has emerged.

In the recent matter of Law Society of Ontario v. Forte, 2019, I felt the stirrings of sympathy for the lawyer involved, Marco Giuseppe Forte, who got into trouble with the regulator for his student’s inappropriate social media postings.

“[The] [l]awyer’s failure to adequately supervise his student’s use of social media in relation to his practice led ultimately to a situation where he became associated with uncivil and inflammatory communications made by her about other lawyers, police, judges, and court staff,” said the decision.

The sole practitioner — who the decision says “was not a regular user of social media and in particular Twitter” and who was supervising Nadia Guo as his first articling student  — will now have to attend Law Society of Ontario education programs and pay $3,500 in costs.

The case is troubling on a number of levels to me. I am sure other lawyers will find it troubling, particularly if they’re contemplating bringing an articling student on board.

(A worthy calling in a time where an articling crisis persists.) 

Young lawyers need guidance, mentorship and support — and a system that incorporates their voices and factors it into policy-making decisions.


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