Ontario Bar Association Robe Bank

Narrative Threads

  • June 06, 2019
  • Emily Sinkins

If your robe could talk, what stories would it share? Would it boast of the time you won a complex case? Would it dish about that document-drafting slip-up you made that left you red-faced but determined to fight another day. Would it describe the daunting surroundings and formidable opponents faced on your first day in court, or recount an epic series of legal maneuvering that led to much-needed legislative reform?

Maybe your robe would confide that it’s eager for more adventure, since you no longer have the use for it you once did. If that’s the case, the OBA’s Robe Bank is your opportunity to give new life to your trusty gown, while easing some of the financial burden for up-and-coming lawyers who are eager to carry the story of the robe forward.

The OBA’s Robe Bank program allows members to assist the next generation of legal leaders by matching those who wish to donate or lend their robes with lawyers who need them, across all judicial regions in Ontario. That robe – an investment you made at the beginning of your career when you had little idea what lay ahead but were full of optimism about making a difference through the practice of law – can provide similar promise, and added confidence, to others in their professional pursuits.

Beneficiaries of the bank are not only receiving a robe; many will also gain a glimpse of where that robe has been, who has worn it, what advice the original owner would offer its new one. One comes with a name; one comes with a poem; one even comes with collars, tabs and a bag; all come with the best wishes of the previous wearer. Robes donated to date have glided through courtrooms across the province, including the Supreme Court of Canada; bedecked sole practitioners and ‘big law’ litigators; and been embroiled in ground-breaking criminal and civil trials and pioneering patent and copyright cases.  

These robes have been witness to personal and legal history.  Program participant Marsha Faubert, who cites her involvement in developing training for tribunal adjudicators as a career highlight, was also among the first generation of her family to complete postsecondary education and the only lawyer in the group. “I was privileged to be part of an earlier generation of women who helped move the profession towards true gender equality (still waiting) during an exciting period of transition in the law,” she explains. “The Charter was proclaimed, women made gains from family law reform, workers’ rights were expanded, and the administrative justice system was transformed.” The hope she now offers along with her robe? “That the law, and lawyers, move forward in these areas, not backward.”

As a new legal generation joins their predecessors in a common purpose to promote justice, many up-and-coming and established lawyers will now find their career stories and service woven together by a shared robe and sense of community.

The OBA Robe Bank will make robes available to anyone who needs one, no matter where their Call to the Bar ceremony is being held. To learn more, visit https://www.oba.org/robebank.