Editor's Note

Disbarment is not an option

By Melissa Kluger

On Tuesday June 3rd, 2008

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Melissa Kluger, Editor & Publisher

I have good news: you can no longer be disbarred. In the unlikely event you commit an act so egregious that you may no longer practise law, recent decisions by the Law Society dictate that you must now have your “licence revoked” instead.

This is just one example of how amendments to the Law Society’s bylaws have erased important pieces of our profession’s tradition. And I’m not the only one who’s noticed: at the Law Society’s annual general meeting last month, a group of concerned lawyers brought forward a motion demanding that the original language be restored.

In 2006, the Law Society agreed to take on the regulation of paralegals in Ontario, and the Law Society Act and its accompanying bylaws were amended to accommodate the society’s expanded responsibilities. Language that was written to govern lawyers was rewritten to apply to both lawyers and paralegals. We are now two classes of “licensees.” We swear virtually the same oath (replacing the century-old Barrister’s Oath), and we can both have our licences revoked.

These changes are not insignificant. The revised language reduces the responsibility and respect that comes with membership in a society that stands for the administration of justice to the perfunctory issuance of a simple licence. And if paralegals were unpopular among lawyers before, being inadvertently responsible for erasing a part of our tradition and history certainly won’t help.

If the regulation of paralegals is going to work (and we are the first jurisdiction in North America to try it) each group should have its own rules. This would leave those rules governing lawyers unchanged and allow the Law Society to work with paralegals to develop their own specific policies, unencumbered by the history and occasional
anachronisms of “barristers and solicitors.”

The motion passed at the AGM, and Convocation has six months to decide whether to adopt it. During that time, in the interest of both lawyers and paralegals, it is incumbent upon us to demand change.

Matt DewarIn other news, Precedent has been nominated for a 2007 National Magazine Award in the category of Best Portrait. The photo, taken by Liam Sharp, featured lawyer Matthew Dewar who plays ’80s covers in the B.A. Baracus Band.

Precedent was created as a magazine that lawyers would read for both business and pleasure. We knew our content and design had to compare with the best magazines in the market, and finding ourselves on a shortlist with Report on Business, The Walrus, and Toronto Life, shows we’re reaching that goal. Thank you to our writers and artists who bring a high level of professionalism and creativity to this new independent publication.