The 2023 Toronto Lawyers Association Awards Gala

During the awards presentation, some of Toronto’s most well-respected lawyers brought up the ongoing access-to-justice crisis

On March 2, 280 people gathered at The Carlu for the 2023 Toronto Lawyers Association Awards Gala. A long-standing tradition in the Toronto legal community, the gala celebrates outstanding lawyers at all stages of their careers.

At the event, Chris Paliare, a founding partner of Paliare Roland, received the TLA Award of Distinction in recognition of his storied litigation career. The Honsberger Award was presented to Pro Bono Ontario, marking the first time an organization, rather than an individual lawyer, has won the award. And Devin Persaud, a senior associate at Goodmans LLP, received the TLA Emerging Excellence Award, which recognizes lawyers in their first 10 years of practice.

The celebration began with a cocktail reception, featuring hors d’oeuvres and several food stations throughout the room. Next came the awards presentation, during which all three winners delivered an acceptance speech.

A unifying theme of the speeches was the legal profession’s duty to strengthen and promote access to justice. Sarah Armstrong, the vice-chair of Pro Bono Ontario’s board of directors and a partner at Fasken, noted that calls to the organization’s free legal advice hotline have doubled since the onset of the pandemic. Staff and volunteers, she told the audience, can only answer around half the calls that the hotline receives every day. Paliare and Persaud also highlighted the access-to-justice crisis and encouraged audience members to donate their time and expertise to initiatives like Pro Bono Ontario.

“Celebrating the achievements of these unique and impressive awardees invigorates the board of directors to continue with our relentless commitment to the TLA’s three pillars: knowledge, advocacy and community,” says Aitan Lerner, the vice-president of the TLA’s board of directors. “This year, the gala was truly inspiring. We look forward to another incredibly successful event next year!”

The 2023 Toronto Lawyers Association Awards Gala

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Photography by Matt Tibbo Photography.