President's Message

  • November 23, 2015
  • Morris Chochla

Morris ChochlaIn the last issue of JUST., I wrote about four organizations that were committed to working towards a cleaner, safer, healthier and more just society. As I stated, it is my hope that this will encourage our members to continue their committments to the betterment of the communities in which we live. This month, instead of writing about lawyers helping others, I would like to talk about lawyers helping lawyers.

At the Canadian Bar Association mid-winter meeting in February, the CBA Board and Council received the results of a survey indicating that one in four lawyers suffer from work related burn-out, anxiety, stress, or depression. I was startled by the reported high frequency of work related stress.

The CBA and its branches have lawyer assistance programs in place to confidentially assist lawyers with work related stress issues. In Ontario, we established the Ontario Bar Assistance Program which, in 2007, became the Ontario Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP). As of January, the Law Society and LawPro ceased funding of OLAP and established a new assistance program. Central to the new program and its predecessors is peer-to-peer assistance through a network of lawyer volunteers. This is a shining example of “lawyers helping lawyers.”

We can do more in helping one another deal with the significant stresses associated with our profession by breaking down the perception that lawyers must be strong and to admit to anxiety and stress issues means we are weak and cannot be good lawyers. We must not be afraid to seek help ourselves and we must encourage colleagues, associates, students, partners and staff to seek help when required. Notably, CBA Second Vice President Michele Hollins is to make wellness the cornerstone of her presidency the year after next.

The Ontario Bar Association is all about “lawyers helping lawyers.” Here are some other examples:

OBA members are participating in the national CBA effort looking at the future of the practice of law. This initiative will help lawyers adapt to the changing expectations of clients and will help us understand how we must modify the way we deliver legal services. “Lawyers helping lawyers” to better serve our clients.

The OBA has presented 125 CPD programs with more than 6,775 registrants thus far in 2012-2013. “Lawyers helping lawyers” to be better lawyers.

We will be presenting our distinguished service, volunteer, and section awards this spring to celebrate the excellence of our members. “Lawyers helping lawyers” by celebrating achievements and urging one another to reach for the stars!

The Ontario Bar Association launched its “Why I Went to Law School” communication campaign at the OBA Institute on February 7, 2013 (see Why I Went to Law School in the February 2013 issue of JUST.). It attracted significant media attention with a front page story in the Globe and Mail and interviews on CTV, CBC and CBC Radio. A week later it was presented to the CBA Council at the mid-winter meeting. It was well received with up to six other provincial branches expressing interest in adapting the campaign to their respective provinces.

The campaign is aimed at encouraging our members to talk about the significant contributions lawyers make in their communities, and in doing so, over time, possibly improving the way lawyers are perceived publicly. The campaign is not so much designed to move public opinion and dissuade the proliferation of bad lawyer jokes, but instead, as noted, to encourage our members to talk about the nature of our work and the extent of the good work we do for our communities. If nothing more, it is my hope that it will make us prouder of what we do as problem solvers for our clients and significant contributors to the betterment of the communities in which we live.

In its initial stages, the campaign is focussed on encouraging lawyers to remember why they went to law school and to talk about their aspirations at that time in their lives. “Lawyers helping lawyers” by telling their stories and encouraging one another in the work we do.

I encourage all of you to visit and follow the instructions to add your story to what we expect will be hundreds, if not thousands, in the months ahead.

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