The Law Society gets relevant

The election of many reform-minded candidates to Convocation means the shift to a more modern LSUC is just beginning

The election of many reform-minded candidates to Convocation means the shift to a more modern LSUC is just beginning

benchersFifteen new benchers will take their seats at Convocation in June, following the April election. That’s more new faces than in the previous three elections — thanks, in part, to the 2009 governance reforms that imposed a three-term limit (12 years total), forcing seven senior benchers out.

Overall, it’s a reform-minded Convocation, which will likely make LSUC more accountable, accessible and exciting to lawyers. Incumbents like Linda Rothstein, Paul Schabas and Christopher Bredt, who pushed for the 2009 governance reform, were soundly returned.

Also returned is Raj Anand, partner at WeirFoulds LLP and a member of the governance reform task force. He thinks term limits have created new momentum — toward a more diverse, younger and representative bench. “The genie is out of the bottle,” he says.

New Oakville bencher, Virginia MacLean, wants more governance reform. “I’m concerned about dollars and cents,” she says. Anand wants to monitor the impact of the recent reforms before going further, but says more change is likely. “There’s no doubt the last round of reforms was a compromise, there were live issues like whether the bencher limit should be two or three terms,” he says. Many of the new benchers, notably Torys LLP partner Wendy Matheson, and Janet Leiper, the City of Toronto’s integrity commissioner, ran on platforms that focused on the need to engage younger lawyers. Matheson wants to use social media to make new lawyers more aware of LSUC programs and issues.

Eighteen of the 106 bencher candidates were in their first 15 years of practice, but only two were elected (both from outside Toronto). Incumbent Jennifer Halajian, assistant Crown attorney in Newmarket, ran on a platform of making LSUC relevant to her generation. New bencher Jacqueline Horvat, a lawyer at Sutts, Strosberg LLP in Windsor, says it’s time to rethink articling to serve new graduates.

Horvat credits her win with a well-run social media campaign and her work as a litigator, which regularly takes her to London and Toronto, extending her reach of the bar. As the youngest member of Convocation, Horvat says winning has left her a little overwhelmed, but far from intimidated. “I’ve been practicing almost 10 years,” she says. “Age is just a number.”