On April 30th, over 40,000 lawyers in Ontario will elect from their ranks the 40 Benchers who will govern the legal profession for the next 4 years. As a profession made up of well over 40,000 lawyers and 10,000 paralegals and having the privilege of self-governance, the role of Bencher is one of significance and responsibility not to be taken lightly. Within the profession, we are struggling with new economic and technological paradigms at the same time more law school graduates than ever before are seeking admission to the Ontario Bar. We continue to deal daily with a court system that has yet to harness the power of technology and operates at a pace inconsistent with the needs of the profession and the public. The changing face of the profession is bringing a diversity that all but ensures the end of the old boys’ networks that were still all too common at the time I graduated law school in 1991. All of which means that in the coming years, issues such as law school education, bar admission standards, and court reform will be near the top of the Law Society’s agenda.
Publicly, lawyers remain the face of a justice system that is increasingly out of touch with, and out of reach for, most Ontarians. Access to justice issues, such as legal aid funding, duty counsel programs, pro bono initiatives, non-traditional fee arrangements, alternative business structures, and the public image of the profession in the wake of recent trust fund scandals, are certain to top the agenda in the next Bencher term.
The legal profession is finally talking about substance abuse, mental health issues, family troubles, financial struggles. Lawyers, particularly those involved in family and criminal law, see the impact of these issues through their clients every day. As a profession, we are finally realizing that we are not immune ourselves to these problems. This needs to factor into the governance of the profession.
For those reasons and many more to be discussed in the coming weeks, I am pleased to announce that I am a candidate for one of the 40 Bencher seats in the April 30th elections. All Ontario lawyers in good standing are eligible to vote for up to 20 inside Toronto candidates and up to 20 outside Toronto candidates.
In the coming weeks, the Law Society website will be publishing profiles of all the candidates. Below I have reproduced the Election Statement I submitted to the Law Society for publication on the candidate information page:
Darryl Singer’s Election Statement
For too long now, the LSUC has been governed by a group not representative of the changing face of our profession. Past and current Benchers are well-meaning, but a Convocation lacking youth, diversity, and representation from those who toil in the trenches of the profession cannot properly understand and address the issues facing the overwhelming majority of lawyers in Ontario. Most members do not practice in the biggest firms or with any measure of career security.
After 21 years in small and mid size firms, as a solo practitioner, and now as the owner of a 6 person firm, I know what it’s like to have to pay my bills even when clients haven’t paid theirs. I know the pressure of being a one-person show going toe to toe with firms that can out-staff and out-paper me on a file, not because they are better lawyers, but because their firms are larger and their clients wealthier. Having been through divorce and slow economic cycles, I know what it’s like to deal with financial pressures while trying to keep my firm running and maintain the highest standards of our profession.
Having suffered from and triumphed over substance addiction and depression, I understand the silent pressures suffered by so many of our peers. Having been on the receiving end of a discipline hearing as a result of the aforesaid issues, I have truly been in the shoes of those who lack a voice at the Law Society.
The success I have found at this stage of my career is as a result of my ability to build bridges; to find common ground with even the most entrenched opponents; to turn competitors into referral sources. I will bring these experiences and values with me to Convocation so that I will be able to build coalitions to ensure a Law Society responsive to the changing needs of our profession.
Many lawyers have commented that the Law Society doesn’t have its members’ backs. Elect me on April 30th and let me have yours.