Ontario Bar Association launches robe bank for new lawyers

The Ontario Bar Association has launched a robe bank program that will match new lawyers with senior lawyers, judges or law school professors who want to donate or lend their robes.

Ontario Bar Association launches robe bank for new lawyers
Heather Donkers

The Ontario Bar Association has launched a robe bank program that will match new lawyers with senior lawyers, judges or law school professors who want to donate or lend their robes.

The OBA’s robe bank is a direct response to some of the pressing concerns about the practicalities of entering the profession that new lawyers have been expressing recently, according to a statement by the association.

A launch party for the robe bank will be held on June 12 in Toronto, while students outside of the GTA are being matched with robes electronically with drop-offs and pickups being co-ordinated individually in various communities. These come ahead of call to the bar ceremonies that will take place in Ottawa (June 17), London (June 20) and Toronto (June 25 and 26, Sept. 25 and Jan. 21, 2020).

“Court robes are an added cost new lawyers have to deal with at a time when many can’t afford any additional expense,” said OBA president Lynne Vicars. “OBA members heard the call and, as our members usually do when issues affecting the profession arise, they immediately jumped at the opportunity to help.”

“Robes add to the already high cost of getting a law degree,” said Heather Donkers, chairwoman of the OBA’s student division. “Access to the profession needs to be improved, and this is a great initiative that shows that OBA members want to welcome the new generation of lawyers into practice.”

Aside from addressing a pressing need, the robe bank is also a celebration of tradition in the legal profession. When a student receives a robe, they will also get a story or brief history of the robe from the lawyer, judge or law school professor who donated it.

“It is our hope that the anecdotes and stories attached to the robes will provide career inspiration to new lawyers entering the profession and that recipient lawyers will, in turn, share the new adventures of the robes with the donors,” Vicars said.

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