Mike is a partner with Mackesy Smye LLP in Hamilton, Ontario
FOLA is an umbrella organization representing the members of the 46 County Law Associations spread across Ontario. The 46 County Law Presidents – volunteers elected by their peers in the local law associations – are the officers of the FOLA corporation. From these ranks of presidents, 13 are elected to the Executive of FOLA for 18 month terms, and this executive meets monthly to discuss the business of the Association and matters impacting the legal industry and profession.
The 46 Presidents and other interested stakeholders meet twice a year in a Plenary meeting (in May and November) to set the general direction for the Executive and to debate matters affecting the legal industry in Ontario. The November Plenary meeting is set to coincide with the Convocation of the Law Society of Upper Canada and is always held in Toronto so that Benchers can conveniently participate with the FOLA Plenary.
The Toronto Law Association (TLA) – the largest “County” in Ontario – is an affiliate member of FOLA and, by convention, its past-President sits as a member of the FOLA executive. Together, the FOLA and TLA represent over 12,000 lawyers across the Province. FOLA does not represent members of the judiciary and its membership does not generally consist of in-house legal counsel, students or lawyers employed directly by the Province or Federal government as Crown Counsel, though some of our local associations have members from this part of the profession.
Jaye is a partner with Hooper Litigation of Ottawa, Ontario
Eldon is a partner with Horner & Pietersma in Morrisburg, Ontario
The Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA) represents the interests of more than 12,000 practising lawyers working in communities across Ontario.
Our members are the 46 local law associations (plus the Toronto Lawyers' Association), found in every judicial district in Ontario. These local law associations collectively represent nearly 12,000 lawyers who are in private practice in firms across Ontario. These lawyers and our member associations are on the front-lines of the justice system and see its triumphs and shortcomings every day.
We’re an important professional association with a big mandate. Our primary mandate is to advocate and promote the legal profession and deal with the ever changing business of providing legal services in Ontario. We also provide an important professional networking, communication and informal professional development platform for our members.
For most of our history we were known as "CDLPA - The County & District Law Presidents' Association" - but in November of 2015, the Presidents voted to change our name to better reflect what we had become, and what we aspire to be. We are more than the representatives of the "Presidents" of local law associations across Ontario; we are representatives and advocates for all lawyers in private practice and who choose to be represented by their local law associations.
FOLA Executive Members and committee volunteers are dedicated volunteers from a wide variety of practice backgrounds. FOLA relies on its ability to attract strong people to speak and advocate on specific issues on behalf of the entire membership. The ability to consult with the practising lawyers of Ontario and to reach a consensus on these same issues has long been a strength of the organization.
The Important Role of Lawyers in Ontario Society
The provision of legal services is an important industry in Ontario, and not just to the lawyers who practice and earn a living in the profession. Having access to legal services is critical to Ontario’s business community, to families who need to navigate the family law system, to those who stand accused of a crime and to anyone who wants to properly execute a will or complete a real-estate transaction. In other words, legal services are a critical part of Ontarians everyday lives, to our economy and to the proper functioning of our democratic institutions.
An Ever-Evolving Profession
The business of law and the provision is legal services are undergoing a profound change in Ontario and across Canada. The court system across Ontario is under extreme funding pressure as our government struggles to keep up with growing demands and competing priorities. At the same time the complexity of our laws and regulations is greater than ever. The legal services industry is being transformed by new technologies, different business models and increased competition from various consultants and professional service providers who are not trained or licensed lawyers.
FOLA is not the regulator of lawyers in Ontario, but we work closely with our regulator – the Law Society of Upper Canada – on matters of professional standards, integrity and the new business realities of our profession. We share the Law Society’s goal and mandate to promote the highest of ethical and professional standards for our industry and work collaboratively with the Law Society to constantly update and review our codes of conduct, regulations and guidelines to ensure they meet the needs of the modern legal profession and the expectations of the general public.
FOLA's primary mandate is to advocate on behalf of its members and the legal industry. We regularly engage the Ontario and Federal government, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and other stakeholder groups, such as business associations, in our efforts to promote the role of lawyers in Ontario’s social and business fabric.
We engage through direct communication with elected officials and civil servants, through the media and through partnerships and alliances with like-minded industry groups. FOLA often collaborates with other legal professional associations and constantly seeks out the best and most effective methods to advance our interests.
FOLA will aggressively and persistently stand up for the interests and integrity of the legal profession in Ontario because we believe strongly that our profession is critical to the functioning of Ontario’s economy, its social fabric and its democratic institutions.
FOLA's Executive Director, Michael Ras, acts as an advisor to the Executive and to local association members across Ontario and is a spokesperson and advocate on behalf of the Association.
To deal with the many issues affecting the legal profession, FOLA regularly strikes working committees on specific subject or practice areas such as real-estate or family law or on topics of interest to the legal profession, such as access to law libraries or alternative business structures. These committees are struck by the Executive and confirmed at the semi-annual Plenary where reports from the committees and other interested stakeholders are heard and debated. Our committees produce considered and comprehensive policy recommendations which are used in consultations with government or the Law Society as they develop new policy, laws or regulations.
Currently, the issues of greatest interest to FOLA are symptomatic of the major transformations sweeping the legal industry and of the financial pressures facing the administrators of our justice system. These issues include:
FOLA is working collaboratively with government and other stakeholders to find solutions to these vexing public policy challenges and to represent the best interests of the legal profession in all of these discussions. For many of these issues, short-term solutions are unrealistic, but FOLA will continue to press decision makers and present workable solutions and suggestions.