We are only two months in to 2018 but already so much has happened at our Association this year.
February kicked off with the OBA hosting the largest legal conference in Canada. As President, I have the distinct pleasure of leading an association of almost 16,000 lawyers; however, I rarely get a chance to meet so many of you in-person. With over 2,400 registrants and 300 speakers, that opportunity arrived in spades at this year’s event.
If you didn’t have a chance to join us this year, I would strongly encourage you to consider attending our 2019 conference. No other CPD in Ontario comes close to providing the same access to colleagues from across the province, leading legal minds and numerous judges and masters from across all levels of court.
While the new-year was not kind to the value of bitcoin, the explosion of crypto-currencies and the technology behind them has increased demand for legal expertise in this area. One of our most interesting and successful Institute programs this year looked at Blockchain, Smart Contracts and AI. If you have an interest in this area of law or any other program we hosted this year, I’d highly recommend you buy the archive video or join us for an upcoming replay in March. Aaron Grinhaus has an excellent article for cryptocurrency and blockchain beginners in this edition of JUST.
If I had one small regret from Institute 2018, it was that I couldn’t make it to the opening of our Thunder Bay hub. Each year, we embed Institute in a community outside of Toronto. The last two years had us in Ottawa. At these hubs, we recruit legal experts in those communities to join us as speakers and invite practitioners to hear from the very best legal minds regardless of whether they work across the street or across the province. It’s a rather unique experience in the Canadian legal CPD marketplace, and really highlights the amazing capabilities of our association.
Before I leave this topic, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the numerous Institute CPD program co-chairs, hundreds of speakers, the Institute Committee and of course Institute Co-Chairs Jeffrey Percival and Marcia Oliver. And, a special thank you to OBA staff, who worked so hard to produce this event, which continues to hold value for all who attend. The behind-the-scene details are numerous, constantly unfolding and are always handled with the highest level of professionalism.
On the topic of exceptional staff, I am very pleased to announce that Elizabeth “Betsy” Hall will take over the executive director position held by Steve Pengelly. No stranger to the OBA, Betsy was the OBA’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs for five years. Before joining the OBA, she practised law in a variety of practice settings - from large national Bay Street firms to a small firm in her hometown. She has also served in a number of government roles, including Chief of Staff to the Attorney General. Betsy’s official start at the OBA was February 20th.
Finally, as the March 31st deadline approaches, lawyers will complete their annual Law Society Reports, which now include acknowledgments with respect to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion. I discussed these in my last President’s Message and I hope our members take these obligations to heart. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are some who continue to oppose even small steps forward – including a recent campaign in the Ontario Reports encouraging lawyers to reject the Statement of Principles. I’m hopeful the profession can stop debating diversity and just get on with it. There is nothing wrong with respectful debate about challenging issues but it can’t become a mere excuse for inaction. In December 2016, Convocation passed 13 recommendations to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion. Over a year later, the Law Society must get going on the steps needed to successfully implement these - for the sake of our profession and the public we serve.