When I started my presidency, I told the CBA’s National magazine that my goal was:
To work with volunteers and members to ensure that the OBA champions, supports, and inspires lawyers and advances justice through: effective advocacy, high quality legal education, vibrant practice sections and effective networking opportunities.
Over the past year, I travelled around the province on the President’s Tour to provide a one-hour module on professionalism accredited by the LSUC, raise the profile of the OBA and to reassert the benefits our association provides to its members. Regrettably, I was unable to visit as many places as I had wished.
I consider the ability to meet lawyers throughout the province a real privilege. I am reminded time and again of the values we share as lawyers: our commitment to serve to our clients and the community, our desire to improve the justice system and the law, and our awareness of the obligations we owe to others.
The OBA has continued to offer high quality, relevant professional development programs, and our annual Institute was an outstanding success - the 2013 Institute is already being planned as we speak.
This year, the OBA offered almost 200 programs, the majority of which were webcast and are available online for our members. I am particularly pleased that we have produced some French language programming; this is an area where cooperation from all branches of the Canadian Bar Association can help to serve our French-speaking members.
Our advocacy and law reform has had many successes but I am particularly pleased with our work on Bill 34. The OBA was front and centre on submissions dealing with courthouse security. We ensured all stakeholders were advised of this important piece of legislation and the issues it raised. We wanted to ensure that all organizations were in a position to make submissions before the Standing Committee on Justice Policy along with the OBA. At the end of the day, we wanted to ensure that courthouses, where lawyers work, are safe and open and a model of the justice that is dispensed in them. We were successful.
As I have said on many occasions, at the Ontario Bar Association we advocate, we educate and we also celebrate.
We celebrate the achievements of our members. The annual section awards dinners provide an opportunity for collegiality, networking and to recognize the very best of our profession. The Gala Awards Dinner recognizes exceptional volunteers and individuals and provides us with an opportunity to champion, support and inspire lawyers.
We are continuing with our campaign to improve the public perception of lawyers by improving the public’s perception of the value of lawyers. It is our desire to create a platform from which we can have our members tell their stories in a way that brings home to our members and the public the vital role lawyers play in society while avoiding arrogance, self importance and hubris. It is a delicate balance but I am convinced that we are on the right track. Incoming President Morris Chochla has asked me, and I have enthusiastically agreed, to continue to be involved in this important process. Stay tuned!
The business of the Ontario Bar Association continues unabated. Our excellent staff continues to support our excellent volunteers. We are advocating for improvement to the law and access to justice. Our CLE programs are continuing to run with superb technological support and we are continuing to build on our social media presence.
I want to thank the incoming president, Morris Chochla, First Vice-President Pascale Daigneault, Treasurer Doug Downey, and Secretary Sean Kennedy for their support and guidance over the past year.
It has been an honour and privilege to have been the president of this great association.
Paul R. Sweeny, Evans Sweeny Bordin LLP