I am currently VP of the Americas and co-chair the Family Law Committee with Mark Woods. I am also running for one of the five Members At Large spots on Council.
Why run for a Member-At-Large spot when I am already on ExCo?
I think one of the most effective ways to contribute to the CLA and promote the organization is to serve on either ExCo or Council. The terms of Council and the VPs are now ‘staggered’: the term for the Council elections being held ends in 2026; the VP term ends in 2025.
I would like to remain on Council after my VP term ends.
A bit about Canada
As a lawyer in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), I live in a commonwealth jurisdiction with more lawyers per capita than any other commonwealth country other than India.
Canada has over 110,000 practicing lawyers (with about 50,000 being licenced to practice in the province of Ontario). Despite our size, however, we have only one designated Council representative, as our Constitution has established a Council of only one Council rep per member jurisdiction.
I practice exclusively family law and am also a family law mediator and arbitrator. In Canada, family lawyers mediate all financial issues as well as parenting and related issues. I write a family law column for one of Canada’s national newspapers. I started practice in 1986.
About my involvement in the profession
I spent much of my career being very active in our province’s law society as its elected Treasurer (President). Our Law Society regulates about 50,000 lawyers and 9,000 independent paralegals. Through the Law Society I have been active in our National Federation of Law Societies and have been involved in provincial and federal law reform. I have an honourary LLD for my work in the legal profession.
This experience has given me a level of knowledge related to issues facing the profession that I put to use at the CLA.
Why I am involved with the CLA
In the Americas, the Commonwealth countries geographically sandwich the United States. We are heavily influenced by their political situation and economic health. The lack of faith in democratic institutions in the U.S. has affected the rest of the Americas and the rest of the world. Without a vibrant legal profession and the rule of law, I believe our democratic systems will continue to decline.
The CLA’s emphasis on the rule of law attracts me to the organization.
What I would like to do for the CLA
A legal regulation committee
I would like to encourage more engagement in the CLA by having a committee that focuses on legal regulation. Many Council members are current or former executive members of their law societies and bar associations. While there is an existing international organization for legal regulation, it involves many different legal systems. I think the CLA could have much greater engagement with our members by providing a forum through which we can exchange ideas and focus on specific areas relevant to legal regulation, including competence and training, insurance and legal advertising.
Increasing engagement and enthusiasm
My Caribbean colleagues tell me we need to do a better at engaging lawyers with the CLA. This is not an easy task: lawyers are in the service business and the current speed of practice has made our work lives increasingly difficult.
Having participated as a member at large on Council since its expansion, as well as having been acclaimed to ExCo earlier this year, I believe one of the most important things we could do within ExCo and Council establish closer personal and professional relationships.
a. Connecting Council
This is not an easy task given the number of time zones we span, and it is made harder because our Council is comprised of successful and busy lawyers.
My ideas include simply having 45 minute ‘meet and greets’ on Zoom with small groups of six or eight Council members (perhaps 2 from each hub) together with at least one ExCo member, to being to establish rapport amongst council members.
The ExCo member would be responsible for setting up these Zooms—our staff of three simply can’t ‘do it all’. These groups could also discuss issues for which ExCo needs feedback. Feedback could be simple: an email with a short summary, which would be provided to Exco prior to its meetings.
b. In person AGMs in years when there is no CLC
An annual in person meeting of council in non-conference years would also encourage both collegiality and engagement. The meetings would have to be hybrid, so those Council members unable to attend could attend the formal part of the meeting. Even if 25% of Council members were able to attend in person, we would begin to establish a more solid personal connection and foundation for working together.
c. Earlier notice for in person Council meetings at CLCs
It is difficult to find enough time at our CLCs for all the meetings people would like to have in person. However, if we could confirm with Council at least 6 months before the next CLC that there will be a pre-CLC Council meeting and reception, and a post-CLC Council meeting and reception, that could ensure that every Council member arranges their practice and travel schedule around meetings they need to attend.
I encourage everyone to vote and participate in the upcoming election!