Inside a Call to the Bar Ceremony

Last week I was called to the Bar in Ontario (my second Call ceremony since I am called in BC). Bar Call ceremonies are events  filled with tradition and history, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some modern flare. This year the Law Society of Upper Canada encouraged Bar Call participants to post photos and videos of the ceremony on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #Called2015.

It added some fun to an otherwise serious affair, with people taking goofy selfies and posting fun photos online. Here is a timeline of photos I took to document the day:

 

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The day kicked off at Roy Thompson Hall in downtown Toronto, where excited lawyers-to-be congregated outside wearing their robes, tabs, court shirts and vets with grey or black pants/skirts. This look never goes out of style!

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Roy Thompson Hall is packed and the opening speeches and keynote address have been given. The candidates for the Call to the Bar are called individually and presented to the Treasurer by members of the Convocation, which include Law Society Benchers, Judges and other distinguished guests.

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After all the candidates are Called, the Convocation adjourns and a special sitting of the Court of Appeal and the Superior Court of Justice takes place immediately, where the newly called lawyers swear their oaths.

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Let the festivities begin! Ontario now has some newly-minted lawyers, and some very excited family and friends.

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All in all, it was a great day!

By: Kathryn Marshall

 

 

 

 

Is it time to bring in Bencher election campaign spending limits?


By: Kathryn Marshall

The Law Society of Upper Canada Bencher election is over. Thankfully this means no more campaign pitches appearing in our facebook feeds and in our email inboxes. Now that the dust has settled, people are starting to question the money that goes into running a bencher campaign. In an article published in the Law Times, a current bencher Jeffrey Lem says that he would not be surprised if some candidates spent close to $75,000 out of pocket on their campaigns.

While many candidates likely only spend a few thousand dollars on their campaigns, it is surprising to think that some are spending almost as much if not more money then provincial or federal election candidates.

There are currently no spending limits for bencher candidate campaigns. Candidates can spend big money on everything from pricey email lists and flashy campaign websites to targeted facebook ads. It can all add up quick. The concern is that the lack of spending cap is making it harder for young lawyers without the big bucks to run a winning campaign.

How much is too much to spend on a bencher campaign? Where do we draw the line?

Maybe it is time to bring in a reasonable spending limit to level the playing field and make it easier for young lawyers to get elected.

Ultimately, merit and qualifications should win the day – not campaign spending.

Lawyers defeat controversial new articling motion

At the Law Society of Upper Canada AGM on May 13, 2015, lawyers voted against a controversial motion that would have forced law firms of 8 lawyers or more to hire an articling student(s). Further, the motion would have required law students to be randomly assigned to firms. The failure of the motion comes as welcome news to many lawyers who expressed their concerns about a system that would remove free choice from the articling hiring process.

Law Society motion wants firms to be forced to accept articling students

This column originally appeared in the Law Times.

By: Kathryn Marshall

How to fix the articling problem is the ubiquitous topic of discussion among lawyers. From the LSUC’s controversial new “two-tier” articling program, to calls from many lawyers to scrap articling all together, the debate has become extra heated in recent years.

A group of 15 Ontario lawyers are about to shake the debate up even more with an extreme proposal that, if put into practice, would have disastrous outcomes. On May 13 they will be tabling a motion at the LSUC’s AGM that proposes making it mandatory for law firms of 8 lawyers or more to hire an articling student who will be randomly selected and assigned to that firm.

The rationale is that it will make things fairer for everyone and cut back on the rivalry and anxiety felt amongst law students as they compete for coveted articling spots.

This is, by far, the most flawed solution that has been proposed in the great articling debate.

Firstly, it kills competition, and that’s a bad thing. A healthy dose of competition motivates people to work harder and be better. It goes without saying that law school is a competitive environment. It is the natural outcome of putting hundreds of ambitions, bright students together for three intense years. From grades to moots and even law rugby, students are pitted against one another from day one and strive to come out on top. It should come as no surprise that law students are competitive when it comes to job opportunities too. Just like there are only so many A’s to go around, there are only so many jobs available too. So students need to ensure they are doing the right things both inside and outside of the classroom to give themselves a competitive edge.

Secondly, it wrongly assumes every student is entitled to a job. Getting a university degree does not mean you deserve to have a job waiting for you at your doorstep the moment you graduate. A degree from a good school certainly gives you an advantage, but you still need to go out and hustle to land a great gig. Law grads, like all other job seekers, need to make their own opportunities. When I was searching for articles, I ended up getting hired by a firm that hadn’t hired a student in 9 years. I was able to convince them that taking on a student was a great move, and that I was the right person for the job. Students shouldn’t expect a job to land in their laps, they should get out there and network, hit the pavement and even cold call if necessary.

Thirdly and most importantly, it strips both the students and the law firms of their free choice. Many articling jobs lead to permanent law positions. One of the most important factors in hiring a new inexperienced lawyer is whether that person is a good fit for the firm. Personality plays a big part in this. If students are being randomly paired with law firms, neither the firm nor the student has any say in the hiring process. Students cannot seek employment at firms they gel with, and firms cannot hire students they feel would fit in well with their firm culture. This is a recipe for unhappiness in the workplace. This could have a very detrimental impact on the legal profession as a whole, which already struggles with an attrition problem.

Hopefully this motion will be scrutinized and swiftly voted down. While there is no doubt a problem with the articling system in Ontario, going to the extreme and forcing students on firms and vice versa in a random lottery system is not the answer.

Kathryn Marshall is a lawyer and columnist. She tweets about all things related to the law in Toronto at@TOLawsome.

In 140 characters – LSUC Bencher candidates on why you should elect them

By: Kathryn Marshall

We asked and they answered! Bencher candidates say why they would make a good bencher in 140 characters or less:

Tanya Carlton @TanyaLCarlton New call, solicitor, previous professional experience, aware & understand A2J and Diversity issues and want to bring about change

Mitch Kowalski ‏@MEKowalski  Passion, vision, leadership, wide and varied perspective, good governance, good decision-making

Steven Benmor ‏@SteveBenmor I don’t need 140 characters; only 30: I really care about the legal profession. That’s it.

David Howell ‏@dwhowell1 Experienced, thoughtful, practical Hamilton solicitor and immed past Pres @HLAlibrary

Sandra Nishikawa ‏@nishikawasandra @TOLawsome Fresh ideas AND experience getting things done collaboratively esp. re #diversity & #a2j

Tannis Waugh ‏@tanniswaugh I’m collaborative and bring a vastly under-represented voice to the table.And…I can teach the other benchers how to bench press

Bob Tarantino ‏@bobtarantino I believe in enhancing accountability – of LSUC to its members and of the profession to public it serves. http://www.bob4bencher.ca 

Doug Downey ‏@douglasdowney Experienced, straight-forward and concise: http://www.dougdowney.ca 

Isfahan ‏@Isfahan_Merali  I have shown my commitment to equity, inclusion and access to justice in all my professional career + service to profession.

Rebecca Durcan ‏@Durcanrebecca Experience (work solely with regulators) Fresh eyes (2002 call) Commitment 2 helping public by helping profn (Esp small firms)