I was raised and schooled in New Liskeard, a small town in Northern Ontario. My parents wanted us all to “get educated”. I headed off to University of Toronto for undergrad.
A weekend waitressing job led to an interview on graduation for an entry-level job in television. That, in turn, led to a mini-career in television production as a production assistant and then a director. I loved it but I wanted law school. Throughout Law School, I did both. It was my freelance business, using those production skills that allowed me to attend and graduate from Osgoode Hall in 1984. I was called in 1986.
I have practised civil, commercial and then intellectual property litigation in small and large firms in Toronto. In 2005, I moved to Bennett Jones. Over 30 years of practice, I’ve acted for clients from every walk of life. I’ve represented both plaintiffs and defendants in family matters (in the early years), real estate litigation, professional negligence claims (engineers, lawyers, architects), contract disputes, actions against employers and government, construction disputes and, more recently in intellectual property litigation. Practising law has never been boring.
I have been a bencher since 2011. I’ve focused on adjudication, tribunal reform, competence and women in the profession. I also serve as a director of Law Pro. I chose my priorities as a bencher not only based on my interests, but also on where I perceived there were needs. It’s important that we all participate in the many issues that Convocation decides but it is impossible to be fully knowledgeable in every area. I play and have played leadership roles on the Tribunal and Professional Development and Competence Committees and on the Retention of Women in Private Practice Working Group.
Tribunal – I found my work as a litigator with broad experience in many areas helpful as an adjudicator at the Tribunal and on the Tribunal Committee. The Tribunal is the last step in our Discipline process and an important public protection feature. I have authored many decisions on all sorts of misconduct alleged against lawyers and paralegals in their practices as well as applications for licensing on the basis of good character. I regard this bencher responsibility as one of the most challenging that I undertake. The public and the profession must be protected from lawyers who misconduct themselves but, for the lawyer who might face the loss of a licence to practice, the process must be fair and transparent. I will continue as an adjudicator if re-elected.
At the Tribunal Committee, we are currently working on reforming the rules of practice to better accommodate vulnerable witnesses and to make them simpler and more accessible. I am confident that the Rules we are proposing will help move us towards our goal of a Tribunal that is transparent in its processes and fair and accessible to all.
Competence – Lawyers must be competent. We must also know our limitations. The Professional Development and Competence Committee has been consumed with licensing discussions and decisions for the last 8 years. Once the examination question is answered, we will turn our minds to how to best support and ensure the competence of lawyers throughout their careers. We need to look at the effectiveness of current CPD programming and what might be added, and whether spot audit and practice reviews are successful in ensuring lawyers are practising to appropriate standards.
Women in the Profession and Diversity – I was the final co-chair of the Retention of Women in Private Practice working group and have been a strong supporter of the Justicia project and its resources. It’s time to see if the initiatives we introduced were successful in keeping women in private practice and, if not, where women went. On diversity, I supported the Recommendations in the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees Report. I moved to extend those recommendations to all equality-seeking groups as appropriate. I also moved to clarify the Statement of Principles which lawyers were finding confusing. The motion became moot when the Law Society agreed to publish the Guidelines which I believe are clear.
Director at LawPro – I have been a director on the LawPro board for 8 years. In my view, we are well-served by LawPro and its board. The executive and staff on the LawPro team keep a close eye on the expense ratio, the efficient handling of claims and the trends in the industry and the legal profession. Surveys indicate that 96% of lawyers are satisfied with how their claims were handled and well over 80% with counsel that represented them. Law Pro works hard to educate lawyers about risk management and how to avoid claims. It is a success story. I look forward to continuing on the Board if asked to do so but will support the addition of new benchers to this role as well. It’s an opportunity to serve the profession in a practical way.
I have been a teacher and mentor throughout my career. I have taught at programs presented by TAS, the OBA and other service providers. The most extensive and lengthy contribution I can claim is my 2005 -2019 role as Regional Co-Chair of the Advocates’ Society, Court House Series. The program is presented across Ontario in Sudbury, Kingston, Thunder Bay, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Kitchener, Owen Sound, Ottawa, Toronto, and Milton.
I served as a director of The Advocates’ Society and continue to sit on its education committee. I was a Trustee and President of the Lawyers Club and am a member of CBA, OBA, TLA, IPIC and WLAO. I look forward to celebrations of WLAO’s 100th anniversary. It’s sometimes hard to believe women have been in the profession for that length of time.
I have served as Chair and Director of Casey House Foundation (1996 -1998) and Chair and Director of Ovarian Cancer Canada (1999-2010).