Shouldn’t highly engaged licensing candidates have a say in who represents them?
In the recent bencher election of the Law Society of Ontario (“LSO”), only lawyer licensees whose licenses had not been suspended as of April 5, 2019, were eligible to vote. I believe that licensing candidates who only had the experiential training component left to satisfy on April 5 and who are scheduled to be called to the Bar in June or September of 2019 should have been permitted to cast their votes. Allowing these licensing candidates to vote would not only increase participation in the election, but also strengthen the LSO’s legitimacy, and give a voice to those affected by its decisions.
Comments about the participation rate in the 2019 bencher election dominated my LinkedIn feed during the voting period. Only 16,156 of the more than 50,000 who were eligible to vote did so. The newly elected benchers can change this by allowing licensing candidates to participate in the 2023 election.
Including licensing candidates is essential to ensure greater voter participation during the election and more comprehensive contribution to the LSO’s initiatives. The dialogue on licensing is evidence that a transition period between law school and the call to the bar is important. During this transition period, the LSO ensures, through the first chapter of both the Barrister and the Solicitor exam materials, that candidates become well versed in its constitution and mandate. Although the examination materials mention the existence of the LSO’s initiatives, they do not provide any particulars. Given that the LSO now has 22 open initiatives, it is imperative that it encourage licensing candidates to participate in the bencher elections and to contribute meaningfully to these critical undertakings that will directly affect them.
The legitimacy of a governing body rests on its acceptance of self-rule by its members, expressed through the vote. Licensing candidates should be eligible to vote because their conduct is regulated by sections of the Law Society Act, sections of By-Laws 8 and 11, as well as the Rules of Practice and Procedure. Furthermore, their licensing process fees are more than double the annual fees paid by lawyer licensees. The invoices they receive for licensing process fees are paid to the LSO. Licensing candidates should not have their conduct regulated and should not have to pay the entry fee without representation.
The issues debated during the election will impact licensing candidates while they are fulfilling the experiential training component and once they are called to the bar. In the last election, I identified 20 major issues on which the candidates presented a position. Of these 20 issues, nine impact licensing candidates and 17 will impact new calls. Licensing candidates must be able to voice their position by voting during the bencher elections on issues like the cost of legal education, the pathways to licensing, diversity, and mental health. Their perspectives are likely to be unique and relevant, as well as different from those of current members of the Ontario bar.
There is minimal cost to the Law Society to implement this proposal. It would require an amendment to section 16 of By-Law 3.
In order to govern Ontario’s lawyers in the public interest, the Law Society ensures that lawyers meet the high standards of learning, competence, and professional conduct. It is by learning more about their regulator and participating in its initiatives that the lawyers of tomorrow will meet these high standards.
LSO, you regulate Ontario’s lawyers in the public interest - but you are also meant to be my society. A licensing candidate without a vote is a licensing candidate without a voice. There is no such thing as a vote that doesn’t matter. LSO, I want you to be my society.
The author thanks Chantal Ma, student-at-law at the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, for her contributions to this article.
About the Author
Vincent Rocheleau is a student-at-law in the Ministry of the Attorney General, Crown Law Office – Civil. He will begin his career as an associate at Van Kralingen & Keenberg LLP in September of 2019.
 The 22 open initiatives are: (1) Accessible Customer Services, (2) Advertising and Fee Arrangements, (3) Alternative Business Structures, (4) Compliance-Based Entity Regulation, (5) Dialogue on Licensing, (6) Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (7) Family Legal Services Review Reports, (8) Governance Task Force, (9) Harassment and Discrimination in the Provision of Law Society Services, (10) Human Right Monitoring Group, (11) Indigenous Initiatives, (12) The Justicia Project, (13) Member Assistance Program, (14) Money Laundering Rule Consultation, (15) Parental Leave Assistance Program, (16) The Action Group on Access to Justice, (17) Trinity Western University Accreditation, (18) Unbundling of Legal Services, (19) Access to Justice, (20) Civil Society Organizations, (21) Call for comment Finance company, and (22) Call for comment Pro Bono Legal Services.
 Law Society of Ontario, by-law 4, Experiential Training (January 15, 2018), s 17(1).
 The 2018-19 Lawyer Licensing Process fees were $4710.10. The 2019-20 Lawyer Licensing Process fees are $5010.00. These amounts do not include HST and GST.
 The 20 major issues are: (1) Improving Access to Justice, (2) the Statement of Principles, (3) the Cost of Legal Education, (4) LSO Governance Reform, (5) Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery, (6) Pathways to Licensing, (7) Unbundled Legal Service Delivery, (8) Entity-Based Regulation, (9) Duty of Technological Competence, (10) Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities, (11) Advertising and Fee Arrangements, (12) Diversity and Inclusivity, (13) Alternate Business Structures, (14) Specific Enhancement to the Licensing System, (15) the LSO’s involvement in CPD, (16) the ways the LSO can support licensees, (17) Improving Mental Health, (18) the Scope of Practice for Paralegals and non-licensees, (19) the LSO’s Funding Priorities and (20) Funding staffed local law libraries.