While I reflect on the Law Society’s work throughout 2019, and my time as Treasurer, I would like to recognize that at the time of this writing we are continuing to respond to the far-reaching social and economic impacts of the pandemic, across the globe and society, and throughout the practice of law, the justice sector and the public we serve. As a profession, we have responded to this extraordinary event with collegiality, collaboration, innovation and some ingenuity.
Likewise, we are in the midst of important discussions about anti-Black racism, highlighting the need to reduce barriers created by racism and by unintentional and indirect discrimination. Also of importance is the Law Society’s commitment to implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and working toward reconciliation with First Nation, Inuit and Métis Peoples.
This context is significant as we reflect on our work in 2019 and as we look ahead to the future. Together, we must remain focused on our goal to increase fair representation of racialized licensees and members of equity-seeking communities and as we integrate insights from the pandemic into the practice of law to improve access to justice for the people of Ontario. There is basis for optimism as we listen and reflect on learnings that may be applied in future.
Over the past year, the Law Society made significant and meaningful progress as we entered the final and culminating stage of implementation of the Law Society’s 2015 to 2019 strategic priorities. Highlights this year include enhancing professional competence and working with our stakeholders and partners to address strategic issues and to advance access to justice for all people in Ontario.
Professional competence is integral to the professions and part of the Law Society’s mandate to regulate in the public interest. Over 2019, the Law Society has focused efforts to help lawyers and paralegals with practice supports, educational activities, information and resources aimed at enhancing competence.
An important element of competence includes the provision of legal information and library services for licensees. In collaboration with stakeholders over the course of the year, we set the direction for the evolution of library services through the Legal Information and Resource Network (LIRN). This new approach to governance brings enhanced librarianship expertise to the oversight of legal information and library related services for practitioners across the province.
Throughout 2019, we continued to rely on justice sector stakeholders for input and collaboration as we position the Law Society to lead the professions strategically into the coming years. This includes the important work of our task forces and working groups, focused on addressing strategic issues facing the professions such as technology, mental health, proportionate regulation and family law.
In 2019, the Law Society continued to work to help ensure accessible legal aid services are available to low-income Ontarians. With a long history in the provision of legal aid service to Ontarians, the Law Society, with input from stakeholders, advocated for improvements to the Legal Aid Services Act.
Much progress has been made in relation to the Family Legal Services Review over the last year. We are proceeding in a careful and thoughtful way as we continue to consider the parameters for change and to consult with subject matter experts, stakeholders and the public, regarding a potential family legal services provider licence.
It has been an honour and privilege to lead the Law Society as Treasurer over the last two years, supported by a dedicated group of benchers and an equally dedicated and professional operational staff led by our CEO Diana Miles. I am confident that with that support and the guidance of its many stakeholders and partners, the Law Society will continue to be a competent and effective public interest regulator.
Heading into my third year as CEO, I continue to be honoured to be part of an organization that is public-focused and future-oriented, yet founded in a long, proud history. This perspective — looking to the future by building on the success of the past, ran through many of our activities in 2019.
The past year saw the successful completion of the Law Society’s strategic priorities for 2015-2019. Under the direction of our board, we implemented a significant number of objectives in all of our core policy areas. Following the first simultaneous lawyer and paralegal bencher elections in April 2019, our new board will be assessing and building on these accomplishments, setting priorities for the ongoing work of the organization.
Significant achievements in 2019, operationally, also involved examining our approaches and positioning the organization to operate more effectively with a focus on the future. We revised the approach to our budgeting process to more accurately forecast annual outcomes and expenditures, and to focus on approved projects and programs supported by formalized policy and business plans. This new approach to the setting of priorities and longer-term planning led to a decrease in annual fees for Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals for 2020.
Perhaps the accomplishment that best demonstrates our vision for the future is the establishment of our corporate values. With participation from across the organization, we identified a set of shared values to shape our work together and with others. This project was the culmination of a series of improvements that our operational teams have embraced to communicate more effectively, set clear performance plans and reinforce our commitment to the Law Society’s mandate. We are a multi-faceted regulatory and business corporation with a positive reputation domestically and internationally as a result of our regulatory leadership, subject-matter expertise and skills. Our people are proud of our public interest regulatory focus because they know that what we do matters. We will strive to continue to serve that public through the lens of our newly adopted values: Excellence, Responsiveness, Compassion, United in Purpose and Legacy.
I look forward to continuing to build on our many accomplishments in 2020. I thank my team for their dedication and great work, and Treasurer Mercer for his thoughtful and supportive leadership throughout the past year.
Lawyers Practising Law
Paralegals Providing Legal Services
Complaints referred to Professional Regulation Division
Discipline Notices Issued
The Law Society of Ontario governs the legal professions in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct.
In fulfilling its regulatory mandate, the Law Society observes principles that encompass a duty to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.
In 2015, the Law Society developed a four-year strategic plan with five key priorities:
The work set out in the 2015-2019 strategic plan is now complete. You can read about our most recent accomplishments in the Strategic Initiatives section of our annual report.
With the election of a new board of directors (known also as Convocation) in April 2019, the Law Society has begun the process of forming a new strategic approach for the next four years. We look forward to reporting on the activities related to that plan in upcoming annual reports.