I’ve written a lot in these pages about the issues of diversity and equality — much of it directly related to maintaining the number of women in the legal profession. But inequality in the law goes much further.
Monday, 07 January 2013 08:00 Written by Neill May
This month’s cover story looks at the thorny issue of how discipline is doled out in the profession. There will continue to be disagreement over whether certain members of the bar are treated differently than others, but it is fairly undisputable that small firm and sole practitioners end up in the crosshairs of regulators more often than big firm, government, or in-house lawyers. One of the most controversial discipline proceedings in recent memory is that of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s prosecution of Joseph Groia for incivility, the details of which are covered in the article “Discipline dichotomy.”
|Image: Jacqui Oakley|
As we go to press, the Law Society of Upper Canada has decided to put off a debate and vote on the future of articling in Ontario. In mid-October, the LSUC finally released its long-awaited task force report on the future of articling. The issue is so divisive and challenging even the task force could not agree on a single course of action to recommend to Convocation to vote on.
Last month, the Access Pro Bono Society of B.C. organized Pro Bono Going Public, a free legal advice-a-thon with volunteer lawyers doling out legal advice in several local parks to those unable to afford legal services. The now-annual B.C. event is one of many pro bono activities running across the country. Pro bono legal work has become widespread, from Big Law to law school, and it’s a great way for lawyers to give back as well as get the chance to practise types of law they may not otherwise be involved in. All of this is good.
For this month’s cover story, we convened a panel of experts on law firm management with representatives from firms of different shapes and sizes as well as lawyers and non-lawyers. We gathered in Toronto in late June to discuss the hottest topics — vexing issues, even — on the minds of law firm leaders. Some of them resonated across all the firms, including that of transparency within the firm. Law firms are partnerships and one thing everyone at the table agreed on was the need for openness, particularly the sharing of financial information and strategies. That doesn’t mean everyone has to know how much everyone else makes, but being open about how it works so everyone from articling students to senior partners feel they understand the system, where they fit into it, and what to expect.
My favourite aspect of putting together Canadian Lawyer’s annual Top 25 Most Influential is receiving nominations for it. Some nominators are very brief, providing simply a name and one or two other bits of information. Others wax poetic for hundreds of words describing the work and accomplishments of the person whose name they have put forward. But no matter how they come in — and I urge readers to keep their eyes open for the request for nominees next spring — I’m always impressed by their variety and quality.
In 25 years of writing, I have interviewed thousands of lawyers, in private practice and in-house. What strikes me about in-house lawyers is they think differently than their private-practice counterparts.They see their primary task as risk managers and they ask two key questions: how can I help my company and what value does the legal department bring?