At the May 10, 2023 Annual General Meeting of the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), voting members of the legal professions adopted a motion by the Federation of Ontario Law Associations (FOLA) that called on the LSO to do more to encourage lawyers to practice in under- served communities.
The motion (which was amended, with FOLA’s consent, to include paralegals) cited longstanding concerns about the ‘greying of the bar’ in many parts of the province and pointed to the LSO’s statutory duty to the public “to act so as to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario”. The motion called on the LSO to develop and implement “financial and non-financial strategies and incentives for the purpose of encouraging lawyer licensing candidates and recently- licensed lawyers to locate their practices in under-served communities.”
While the motion did not prescribe specific policy proposals or outcomes, it did make reference to licensing program fees for new lawyers annual fees paid by licensees. The motion also referred to the need to improve mentorship for newer lawyers (underscored by the recent work by the LSO’s Competence Task Force) and the ongoing policy development process on succession planning for small firms and sole practitioners. Both are areas which may provide opportunities to address the challenges facing under-served communities and a greying bar.
“Our motion enjoyed the support of law associations from across the province – county law associations like Rainy River, Huron, and Frontenac, but also practice-area and equity-seeking bar associations like the Family Law Association and the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers. The common thread in that broad base of support is the recognition that lawyers who are connected to and understand their communities – whether they are geographic, cultural, or racialized communities – can provide better service to their clients.”Douglas W. Judson, Chair
FOLA is a non-profit organization that represents Ontario’s 46 county and district law associations, and through them, their members.
Douglas W. Judson