Is the Law Society of Ontario “Fiddling While Rome Burns?” by Julie Macfarlane, June 26, 2019, NSRLP
If you asked a member of the public what they consider to be the most important issue facing the legal profession in Ontario, their answer will be some version of the following:
“Making themselves relevant. Making themselves affordable. Showing the public how they can serve the public.”
But for members of the profession, apparently the most pressing current issue is whether they should be required to promise to support and protect equity via a Statement of Principles, as opposed to making the same voluntary commitment.
This is a distinction that few outside elite professions and academia are going to spend time fretting about. Particularly when the core idea is eschewing unfair discrimination and the perpetuation of historic injustices.
This esoteric debate has become so heated that it consumed the Law Society of Ontario’s April election, and will dominate the upcoming June 27 Convocation meeting. (“Convocation” is the meeting of the governance representatives of Ontario lawyers who are members of the Law Society of Ontario.) There are two motions calling for the rejection of a mandatory Statement of Principles, making this a proxy vote on the leadership of the Society (see below).
The Statement of Principles
The debate over whether lawyers and paralegals in Ontario should be obligated to create an individual statement of principles respecting equality, diversity, and inclusion captures the navel-gazing of some in the legal profession in Ontario, while Rome burns down around them.
NSRLP believes that all members of the legal profession should be expected to respect equality, diversity, and inclusion, and held to account if they do not. But this debate is not over the content of the principles, nor is it about whether or not they are implemented in practice. This is not a debate about real-world practice, people, or justice.
The statutory mandate of the Law Society of Ontario is to function in the “public interest”. The public interest requires that the legal profession respect all members of society, not just a privileged few. The arguments of the opponents of the Statement of Principles does not feature any consideration of “public interest”. Instead, their focus is on themselves and their points of “principle”. Their principle appears to be claiming the right not to have to do something, even though that something (supporting equality, diversity, and inclusion) is something that all professionals would say they support.
The Statement of Principles argument feels like an echo of issues playing out elsewhere, where the assertion of abstract “freedoms” – here the “freedom” to ignore the public interest and focus on the profession’s own interests – are used as a distraction from what is most important and urgent to most people.
Real priorities for the public
But what makes the current focus on the Statement of Principles even more alarming is that the legal profession appears to be fiddling while Rome burns.
The idea that in 2019 – with more than half the people in family court coming without a lawyer and without the funds to pay for one, sweeping Legal Aid Ontario cuts, increasing public disillusionment with the fitness of the legal system [HA~! what a fancy way to say the public has educated itself and now has zero faith in lawyers (including convicted child porn offender!) and their insanely greedy invoices, Canada’s old-white-supremacist-man legal system or even in “sex hurts” and “why didn’t you keep your knees together” judges!], and despair felt by users of the system at all levels– the Statement of Principles should be the most talked-about issue among some members of the legal profession is just wrong.
This debate reinforces the public’s perception of the profession as self-serving, out-of-touch, and increasingly irrelevant.
The Law Society of Ontario is fiddling about while Rome is in flames. It is arranging breakfast dates on the deck of the Titanic. The house is on fire and the LSO is doing hospital corners in every room.
Malcolm Mercer, the current Treasurer of the Law Society, knows this too. At NSRLP we have seen Malcolm reach out to members of the public who are forced to represent themselves many times in the past year. He is the first Treasurer to do so, and his efforts are hugely appreciated by SRLs. Listening to SRLs is just part of Malcolm’s effort to refocus the Society on its public interest and Access to Justice mandate.
The bargain of self-regulation for the legal profession is that they will govern themselves, but do so in the public interest. This “freedom of expression” debate would be a waste of energy even if the public interest were served by the regulation of the profession in Ontario. But it is plainly not.
The public interest requires access to affordable legal services.
It requires lawyers to be available to protect and defend public rights and freedoms, not squabble about their own perceived abstract slights. [Got that Mr. Murray Klippenstein?]
A few of the Comments
Grace M Joubarne
The Statement of Principles issue is a dog-whistle situation designed to distract from the fact that the Law Society is useless and self-serving. It is in a gross conflict of interest and provides no recourse for dealing with dishonest and incompetent lawyers, and despite the self-serving rhetoric about how honourable the profession is, the smell of rot can no longer be ignored.
Why should anyone have to go to court to recover fees paid to a lawyer who misses limitation periods on not one but several files and causes their client huge costs awards, not to mention the fallout of not having had their case heard fairly?
The Law Society is a corporation that controls LawPro and TitlePlus, both corporations. It also had a huge hand in creating the Land Titles computer system that is now facilitating massive land titles and mortgage fraud. Thousands of people have lost their properties and had false mortgage charges put on their properties by lawyers — that again is just brushed aside.
Self-regulation in any field DOES NOT WORK for the public, ever. The commercial system we are burdened with must end and judges must be appointed by the People before anything will change.
Community Law School
June 26, 2019 at 11:57 am
Lawyers are not well-enough trained. They simply don’t know enough. They charge as if they have the knowledge of a highly trained specialist when they are broadly trained generalists. A good understanding of law requires PhD level knowledge and training; most lawyers barely rate a BA.
Lawyers don’t write well enough. They are warriors of words who make gross errors in spelling, syntax and grammar that can have huge implications and then send a bill for $5000 for the favor of doing so.
Lawyers take on too much work in order to make fabulous amounts of money. So they don’t do enough research and reading in their specialization and not nearly enough in related areas (e.g. mental health and the 2017 SCC ruling). They’re spending too many hours billing clients and not enough keeping up. They use the same tired case law and fail to read the landmark cases and related areas of law.
No one in the general public cares about their position statements. We just want good work and representation. it’s not being provided, and I, for one, am tired of the arrogant and smug, badly researched, prepared and written representation that lawyers want to ding me $400/hour to receive. I’m not paying it.
June 26, 2019 at 11:54 pm
Grace M Joubarne
At this point, I don’t care if they think I am equal and wish to treat me with dignity…all I want is half-way decent legal service and a clear, unobstructed means of recourse when I don’t get the service I paid for.
As long as LawPro can torture you for years when you try to recover the fees and costs awarded against you when a lawyer misses a limitation period and/or abandons your file without notice, things can only get worse. On top of that, there is a punishment for even daring to try to recover the wasted fees and costs awards…the judges will award costs against you to send you a message that the profession has a license to steal and defraud and you better accept that.
It is very sad, because many SRLs do a better job of research and writing than most lawyers, yet the Judges refuse to even read their materials.
June 26, 2019 at 11:59 pm
Relevance vs rationale??? I often wonder how a lawyer charging $500.00 per hour would feel: IF WHEN they are faced with their first serious problem they had to pay $8,000.00 per hour and a $750,000.00 cash retainer up front with no real guarantees of success? ( all the while forced to “hurray up and wait” for??? )
These elite have created a parallel reality which on its face serves themselves and I do not appreciate it in any way shape or form they create it. Our free will is being usurped by duress and fraud and the financial freedom we posses is being redistributed to those who do NOT deserve it. In my case even though I am a 14th generation farmer with only grade 8 education I am in a situation where a member of the law society whom i retained to take care of a legal contract completely let me down and even with their own expert admitting the gross professional negligence and lack of standard of care and conflict of interest … the “legal” problem is somehow my fault and that is their reasoning and rational to not pay what is owed.
The only real option and the only effective way to put these elite in their place is to say NO to them every time a parallel version of truth or justice is presented! (rationalize this: Oh how they hate it! and how I love it because it is true… this is the real conflict)
The worst case I have ever experienced is when a lawyer and judge “refuse to accept the truth” and instead create/make up their own story [Ha! Just like AER’s lawyer Glenn Solomon did in his briefs filed at three levels of court, including Supreme Court of Canada, and just like Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella (Global Jurist of the Year in 2017) did in her ruling in Ernst vs AER! The nastiest aspect of Abella’s fact fantasy and fabrication is that the other 8 Supreme Court judges knew they published a ruling with a lie in it, yet specifically sent the lie to media. Defamatory Supreme Court of Canada?] version/intentional parallel construction and thus corrupting both the Legislation AND the common law!
The resulting Case Law is like a bad joke!!! Truth makes us all free and the legal system must accept this as a starting point and as the end result!
Refer also to:
2019 06 30: How prevalent is racism (and misogyny) among Canadian lawyers & judges?
2019 06 08: Who orders a new hearing for a Supreme Court of Canada ruling where 9 justices knowingly published a lie and sent it to the media? Who “slaps” Justice Rosalie Abella for knowingly lying in her ruling and belittling the applicant? Certainly not the Canadian Judicial Council!
2018 01 24: No wonder Canada’s legal system slithers around in Hell: ‘Knees together’ ex-judge Robin Camp should be able to practise law again, his lawyer argues