The team at Milosevic Fiske LLP is proud to be supporting one of our partners, David Milosevic, in his bid to join the board of directors of the Law Society of Ontario.
The Law Society of Ontario is the organization which governs lawyers and paralegals in the province. Members of the board, known as benchers, are elected from throughout Ontario. Every four years, forty lawyers are elected to become benchers by other lawyers in the province (they are joined on the board by a number of non-lawyers, paralegals, and ex-officio benchers). We are thrilled that David has put his name forward this year and would love to share some of the reasons we believe he would be an excellent bencher.
David’s practice focuses on complex commercial litigation, fraud, and securities legislation. However, it is his dedication to Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) that has pushed him towards becoming a bencher and making access to justice a reality.
David is PBO’s most active volunteer. For over ten years he has had a weekly shift at the PBO Help Center. His work here has seen him handle appeals for PBO clients at the Court of Appeal for Ontario and the Supreme Court of Canada.
David has worked with thousands of clients in his ten years with PBO. This has given him a first-hand understanding of how critical access to justice is to Canadians, and the devastating impact that a denial of access can have on families and individuals. The potential impact of such a loss almost became reality in 2018 when PBO ran out of funding to keep its centres open. It was through the urgent appeal for donations that the centres were able to remain open, and the experience underscored David’s commitment to ensuring people in Ontario have access to justice, particularly through the important front-line access provided by PBO.
David believes it is the responsibility of the Law Society of Ontario to take a lead role in developing a sustainable funding model that will allow PBO to operate without the fear of running out of money. The legal profession demonstrated its commitment to access to justice by contributing over $250,000 to PBO last year. David would like to see the Law Society of Ontario expand that commitment and enable PBO to not only maintain, but improve the work it does. David would like the Law Society to encourage lawyers to spend more time working on pro bono activities by recognizing these activities as part of its membership’s continuing professional development hours.
David recognizes that the self-governance of Ontario’s lawyers creates a public trust. It is his belief that lawyers, and the body that governs them, have a duty to give back to those who need access to justice, particularly our province’s marginalized populations. Voting for David and having him elected as a bencher will bring this mission to the forefront of the Law Society’s agenda, making access to justice a reliable reality for all.
In addition to access to justice, David has the following positions on the issues:
LSO Governance Reform
We must reduce the number of Benchers and ensure a diversity of representation among Benchers. There are currently 90 members of convocation (40 lawyers and five paralegals), 8 lay benchers appointed by the Ontario government, the Treasurer, the current Attorney General of Ontario and 35 ex officio benchers).
The Board, as outlined in the “Hansell Report” is far too large for an organizations such as the LSO. The Hansell Report also outlined potential conflicts of interest in how Benchers were permitted to serve on boards of organizations governed by the LSO itself.
Such conflicts have led to self-regulation having been revoked in the U.K and Australia. No doubt we can agree that we wish to preserve self-regulation. In order to do so, we must address the issues that risk this mandate.
Artificial Intelligence in Legal Service Delivery
A.I. in delivery of legal services is a reality. Recent court decisions have emphasized that lawyers have a responsibility to use A.I. where doing so can reduce time and disbursements claimed.
The LSO should assist licensees by providing access to CPDs that train lawyers in the use of AI in their practices.
Unbundled Legal Service Delivery
I support them. They provide opportunities for many younger lawyers to gain access to files and they provide many clients necessary and lower cost options for legal services. I have seen Unbundled Legal Services enhance access to justice for Ontarians with the thousands of clients I have served at Pro Bono Ontario.
Cost of Legal Education
The cost of legal education, as with most forms of higher education, continues to rise dramatically.
The LSO should work closely with law schools to address this issue and advocate for tuition increase restraints.
However, ultimately this is an issue that lies outside of our mandate and is difficult for the LSO to influence directly.
Duty of Technological Competence
I support it as a statement of what lawyers should be required to know, but do not support it as a new area for disciplinary measures. It is a useful goal and the LSO should assist lawyers in reaching it by providing free CPDs aimed at lawyers who need to develop this area of their practices.
Statement of Principles
I support it. It is not an onerous requirement, and it sends an important message about our values as a profession.
Alternative Business Structures
We have a thriving Bar in this province, made up of many small firms, especially in the personal injury field. I am concerned that ABS, as we have seen in the U.K., could have a negative impact on the quality and diversity of choices of legal service providers available to the public.
Pathways to Licensing
The results of the LSO “Options for Lawyer Licensing Consultation Paper” released in May 2018 recommending articling/LPP with the addition of work placements is a good addition to the licensing process.
It is important that this process acknowledges that there are barriers to licensing faced by certain licensees and that the LSO takes steps to ensure such barriers are reduced as paid positions are implemented as part of the licensing process.
Specific Enhancements to Licensing System
According to the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, by 2025 there will be 29,500 law school graduates per year, but only 11,000 articling positions.
The LSO proposal for mandatory paid articling is a good one. But the effect on articling positions may exacerbate an already growing problem. We need to continue to support and develop the LPP to balance what will be a problem of even fewer articling positions going forward.
The “Practice Management Principles” adopted by the LSO are a good guideline. However, these guidelines do not answer a fundamental issue of entity regulation: how are rules that apply to larger firms going to apply to sole practitioners and small firms?
Entity regulation is a good start toward ensuring that the regulatory playing field is even, but it is important that it does not slowly result in an undue burden for smaller firms.
Should LSO be in the CPD Business?
Yes, but with many more lower cost and free options. The costs of programs are far too high. We need more options to fulfill mandatory CPD hours at lower cost. This is a requirement we have no choice but to fulfill, we should have options regarding costs.
Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities
This is an important goal for the LSO, especially as regards bringing in more indigenous lawyers into the profession.
My office has recently provided a 4 year bursary for an indigenous student to study law at my alma matter, McGill University.
Initiatives such as this should be supported by the LSO as well.
Improving Mental Health
Mental health issues are a major reason for complaints made against lawyers by clients, fellow practitioners and the court. They are a major contributor to disciplinary measures. Mental health is a medical matter and is one that can have a devastating effect on a lawyer’s career, through no fault of his or her own. The LSO should take the lead in addressing the mental health needs of practitioners.
An ombudsman office at the LSO, to which members can reach out confidentially if they are suffering from a mental health crisis would be a good way to address mental health needs in a confidential manner before these health issues lead to more serious problems for clients and for the lawyer.
Advertising and Fee Arrangements
Regulation of the content of lawyer advertising is a central part of the LSO mandate. Advertising is the way we communicate with the public, and the quality and content of that advertising must be regulated strictly in the public interest.
However, I do believe that the referral fee regulations are too restrictive. It would be better to sanction individuals or firms that abuse referral fee arrangements, rather than to make referral fees unduly limited for all practitioners.
Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities
Priorities should be on retaining women in the profession and providing greater opportunities to racialized licensees.
Regarding retaining women in the profession, I support the Parental Leave program, but would raise the means test and would raise the maximum eligible amount and the duration of leave. Right now, the LSO expense for this program has averaged $205,000 over the last five years. Even doubling this program within our overall budget of $133 million (in which significant efficiencies can be found) would not be too onerous. Supporting this program is a policy choice we should advocate for. The effects on retaining female lawyers in the profession yield significant dividends for a low cost with this program.
Regarding racialized licensees I agree with the recommendations in the “Final Report of Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group.”
The inclusion index is a valuable proposal as is the inclusion survey to develop adequate quantitative information about the effects of these policies in addressing lack of diversity in the profession.
However, I think that the benchmarks are set too high. I do not think that it would be unduly onerous to have the inclusion index apply to firms of 5 lawyers and more (not 25) and that the inclusion survey interval of 4 years is too long. This should be reduced by half to every 2 years at most.
How Can LSO Support Licensees?
The LSO can support licensees by reforming aspects of the tribunal system, in particular, the Proceedings Authorization Committee (PAC). It is the PAC that authorizes a conduct application into a licensee. Yet the deliberations of the PAC are confidential, and the materials upon which they base their decision to proceed are not disclosed.
An opaque system such as this is not acceptable for the LSO. As part of the reform of the tribunal process, the LSO should establish a duty counsel office within the LSO to help licensees. Far too many licensee are unrepresented in disciplinary matters, and far too many of these licensees are small firm or racialized practitioners.
This system requires reform to make it more transparent and to provide more resources to those facing professional sanctions that can have serious consequences for their careers.
LSO Funding Priorities
LSO has declared the following 5 strategic priorities for the period ending in 2019:
1.Leading as a professional regulator
2.Increasing organizational effectiveness
3. Prioritizing life-long competence for licensees
4.Engaging stakeholders and the public
5.Enhancing access to justice
There is much that can be said about each of these priorities. My main critique is on the access to justice priority, which emphasized increased collaboration with access to justice organizations.
The goal of increased access to justice is one I strongly support and is why I ran. However, the plan to meet that goal is underdeveloped and does not have the necessary commitment of funding to make a real difference in this area.
Scope of Practice for Paralegals and Non-Licensees
I do not support proposals for increasing the scope of practice of paralegals and non-licensees. Access to justice is a concern, and methods to address it such as rules changes and increased support for pro bono are important tools. But I do not believe that permitting paralegals and non-licensees to practice in areas for which they do not have training are appropriate for the public in Ontario.
Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries
There are 48 county and district law libraries in Ontario, and 28 of these are local and small libraries.
These libraries are crucial to the ability of lawyers in smaller firms or smaller jurisdictions to provide legal services to their clients. There is no cost proposal on this issue as yet, and more detail is required on the specific staffing recommendations and costs, but I can agree that it is a significant issue affecting many practitioners and I would be prepared to approach it with a view toward preserving and enhancing the availability of these library resources.