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Cancel culture and Law Society of Ontario | Gary Joseph

Tuesday, December 08, 2020 @ 8:28 AM | By Gary Joseph

Gary Joseph %>
Gary Joseph
I have long been a critic of the cancel culture. While I support constructive change, the idea that all in the past is wrong, colonial, racist and worse, is a concept I cannot accept. Yes, we must always strive to eliminate wrong and improve our society but to ignore and destroy our past is not the way forward.

Now for some hypocrisy, while I oppose cancel culture, I suggest that we cancel the Law Society of Ontario! What social or professional purpose does the LSO serve? The protection of the public? Surely that task could be rolled into the Ministry of the Attorney General, which administers justice in this province. We lawyers are all a part of the system. As soldiers in the field of justice, we can surely be regulated and “controlled” by government and the public can be protected against us for whatever that truly means.

Access to justice? My view is that the LSO adds an unnecessary layer to the cost of justice. Lawyers are weighted down with administration and fees. Yes, I know that government will not be significantly less arduous to deal with, but I resent this mystery of “self government.” Changing the name of the organization that protects the public against us (from the esteemed, in my view, Law Society of Upper Canada) was a meaningless salve to cancel culture mentality. If we really want to cancel, let’s cancel the LSO and start over.

Here’s my suggestion: Cancel the LSO and move the administration and governance of lawyers to the Ministry of the Attorney General. Paralegals can have their own self-governing system if they wish or join us under the AG. Now the payoff, with no disrespect to the current leaders of the Ontario Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association, let’s develop a robust organization to promote the value that lawyers bring to society in general and to their individual practice areas. Let’s collect continuing legal education under one organization and eliminate the profit aspects of this very necessary part of our professional lives. I present constantly at Continuing Professional Development programs. Nobody pays me for my time or effort, and I do not want to be paid for it. However, I often wonder where the very significant program fees go. Lawyers rightly have mandatory CPD requirements. These costs get passed along to clients in increased fees. Lower the cost of these programs and eliminate the passing on of these fees to clients. Lower fees, more access to justice!

COVID-19 has had a silver lining for lawyers. We have learned that we can practise successfully and bring value to our clients with less — less office space, less staff, less costs. These savings can be passed along to clients. As a family lawyer, I have seen the courts help me bring value to my clients. Those who run our courts have done a magnificent job of adapting to change. Zoom attendances on conferences and regular track motions eliminates the waiting around courthouses and the passing along of these costs to clients. A one-hour motion costs my clients one hour of my time plus preparation, not, as in the past, preparation time plus a half day waiting around court to be called. Less costs, less time, less charges to the client, more access to justice.

Those of you who read my regular rants know my simplistic theory of access to justice. Eliminate waste, eliminate unnecessary and expensive administration, improve court and lawyer efficiency, properly fund the agencies that provide legal services to those who truly cannot afford them and promote the value of lawyers in the system. Do all of this and the current debate over paralegals in the family law system will be moot. Clients will consistently choose fully trained lawyers to assist them rather than undertrained paralegals. Most importantly, the public will have better access to trained professionals to help them navigate our system of justice which, while not perfect, is among the best in the world.

A little bit of an unfocused rant this time but these are ideas I truly believe in and am prepared to write about. Let the hate mail begin!

Gary S. Joseph is the managing partner at MacDonald & Partners LLP, family law practitioners.

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