Much has happened of interest to the profession since my last JUST. President’s Message. In March, OBA Council discussed and approved a resolution proposed by our Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Section and Equality Committee relating to the covenant Trinity Western University requires all students at its potential law school to agree to before being admitted. I conveyed Council’s position to the Law Society, and it was circulated to the Benchers prior to the matter being debated at two separate meetings of Convocation. Notwithstanding the Benchers’ decision not to accept graduates from TWU for admission to the Bar in Ontario, the issue remains alive with talks of judicial review.
Elections were underway everywhere, it seemed, with the OBA Board and Council elections and of course the snap provincial election. Hopefully our members did not suffer election fatigue. Every year we elect a new Board, and every two years a new Council. This year we voted for both, and for the first time the OBA conducted an electronic election. This is a great cost-saving measure and I was happy to participate in its implementation.
I extend my congratulations to our new LSUC Treasurer, Janet Minor, a long-time member and dedicated volunteer of the OBA. The OBA looks forward to working with her in her new capacity as Treasurer.
On a national level, the CBA is looking to undertake a complete audit of how it and its branches function, and what could be improved in these times of pressure for increased relevancy and efficiency.
Of particular interest to the profession in Ontario is the alternative pathway to articling, known as the Law Practice Program (LPP), which is set to begin this August. The OBA has entered into a strategic alliance with Ryerson University, which will be providing the English LPP. We have also partnered with the University of Ottawa, which will be providing the French LPP.
The program at Ryerson University will consist of two parts: the first is a hands-on training component that will last four months, followed by a four-month practice placement. The training component will consist of a combination of in-person and interactive on-line training. Students will be organized in random groups of four that will function as a ‘virtual law firm’. One of the first things they will be required to do will be to negotiate and draft their partnership agreement. These ‘virtual firms’ will be supervised by a mentor, a practising lawyer who will be acting as “senior partner” to the firm. Candidates will be provided with the opportunity to develop their skills by completing tasks in seven practice areas. They will then take part in a four-month work placement.
I am proud to say that the OBA project, whyIwenttolawschool.ca reached over 100 submissions.
This ground-breaking articling alternative is set to start in August 2014, with work placements beginning in January 2015. This is a three-year pilot project will only succeed if the experience provided is as strong as the articling experience. The content of the LPP is being created by the profession and candidates will be rated by the profession; it will only survive if adopted by the profession.
For those of you who do not take on articling students, I would encourage you to consider offering a placement. The placement is not very long but as the candidates will have enhanced practical skills following their four-month participation in the ‘virtual firm’, they should be able to add value to your firm immediately.
This could also assist those in smaller centres and smaller firms who are in the midst of succession planning. A four-month placement is the ideal length of time to determine if the relationship is a fit from both sides.
We have held a number of consultations throughout the province regarding the upcoming Law Practice Program. For those who would like to be involved in the program or apprised of opportunities as they arise with respect to the LPP, the OBA has created a page at oba.org/lpp with additional information.
I am proud to say that the OBA project, whyIwenttolawschool.ca, reached over 100 submissions. A publication of those first hundred stories was distributed to all members; I am pleased that we have stories in both English and French. I would like to thank all those who responded to my requests to share their stories. I personally never cease to be inspired when reading the reasons my colleagues entered our profession. The website remains functional, and available for those of you who would like to add your story for the second ‘100 stories’ publication.
Following the successful program Sharing Success Strategies, which took place last fall in Toronto, the OBA held two additional sessions (CPD professional hours approved) in Ottawa and Windsor, in which I also had the great pleasure of participating. Hundreds of women lawyers have benefitted from the advice and tips shared as part of this program, and for those who missed it, the Toronto and Windsor sessions were video recorded and are available for replay on the OBA website. A special thank you to CBA 2nd VP, Janet Fuhrer, in Ottawa and Avril Farlam, in Windsor, for their help in setting up sessions in their home towns. For those interested, a fourth session is planned in Toronto on Tuesday October 28, 2014!
This is my last President’s Message. It has been a great honour to represent our members. By the time my term comes to an end, I anticipate (in addition to the time spent in trains and planes), I will have driven, over the last three years, in excess of 60,000 km throughout Ontario while representing the OBA as 2nd VP, 1st VP and President. Meeting our many members across the province has been an incredibly fulfilling experience and I have been continually reminded of the incredible dedication of our members and key volunteers. That dedication makes our organization unique and so very important to our profession.
I want to thank you all for your incredible support and the wonderful opportunity I have had to serve on your behalf.