Mandatory pro bono hours for Ontario lawyers?

We want to know where you stand on this issue. Let us know what you think

By Todd Harrison

On Monday August 31st, 2009

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In an op-ed piece in today’s Toronto Star, Parkdale Community Legal Services Past-President and Co-Chair Mike Foderick weighs in on the legal aid boycott. In the piece, he advocates for more than just an influx of cash into legal aid. Foderick argues that all licensed Ontario lawyers should be required to work a small number of pro bono hours in order to address the acute need for top-tier representation for people who could not otherwise afford it. He writes:

Legal aid in Ontario doesn’t just need a Band-Aid, it needs a triple bypass to reflect the changing attitudes of lawyers and the modern needs of Ontario’s poor…. By requiring small mandatory minimums, Ontario would be at the leading edge of recognizing lawyers’ commitment not just to themselves or their firm, but the access to and facilitation of justice as a whole.”

Foderick’s aim, it seems, is to encourage every Ontario lawyer to take on a charitable workload similar to that of many of those who have chosen to boycott major legal aid cases in protest of the system’s lack of funds. He acknowledges that some lawyers do a tremendous amount of pro bono work already, and suggests that the scale differ depending on income. “Only ambitious ideas like this will revolutionize access to justice in Ontario,” he writes. “Although helpful, a few million more dollars to phase in an increase to the woefully inadequate legal aid tariff won’t.”

What’s your take on the legal aid boycott? Weigh in by voting in our latest poll, to the right of this post.