Darryl's 5-Point Platform
After my own struggles with addiction and mental health, including facing Law Society discipline, I have spent the last near-decade since my recovery speaking and writing about wellness issues in an attempt to shed light on a very real issue in our profession. Along the way, I learned the overwhelming majority of lawyers have struggled (or will) with some sort of crisis in their career: addiction, depression, anxiety, financial stresses, marital strife, physical illness, job dissatisfaction, and other external stressors.
And yet, despite all the evidence to prove my point, including the Law Society’s own studies, the LSO has not changed the way it helps lawyers, nor considered the harm it does to them by heavy-handed discipline.
I have made it part of my career mandate to routinely fight for lawyers with these issues at the Law Society, and to publicly shine a spotlight on this unfortunate by-product of our stressful profession.
To that end, I have told my story of struggle for numerous large law firms, in-house legal departments, the Law Society, the Advocates’ Society, the York Region Law Association, as well as to the public on CBC Radio, Newstalk 1010, in the Globe and Mail and the National Post. I write the monthly Wellness Column for Lawyers’ Daily and have also written for Law Times on the subject.
I have not been afraid to argue vociferously in front of the discipline panels for understanding and leniency for lawyers whose addictions and mental health issues led them to the Tribunal in the first place. Electing me as a Bencher will ensure that I get to sit on those panels.
The reality is that the Law Society is out of touch with the real pressures faced by lawyers and has been more interested in disciplining us than helping us.
I will lead the charge for a more progressive and humane LSO.
For most of my 25 years in law, I was a sole practitioner, small firm lawyer or owned my own growing firm.
As such, I understand the unique challenges facing the majority of lawyers in the province. I have never had a guaranteed salary. I know what it’s like to meet a payroll, deal with the LSO, hustle to get business, and do my own photocopying to meet a deadline. The realities of main street law throughout Ontario need to be represented with a strong voice at Convocation.
The Law Society needs to care as much about its members as it does about our clients. Its mandate to protect the public seems to trump any measure of protecting its own members.
Most lawyers I have spoken to across the province tell me the LSO is not there for them in general, and particularly when they need it, yet when the LSO is there, it is when pitted as an adversary against its own members.
I am not suggesting that the mandate to protect the public be abandoned. The privilege of self-regulation requires it. Yet, there is better way to balance the rights of our membership with the protection of the public.
We need a Law Society that supports lawyers to be the best that they can be, which is in fact the best way to protect the public.
Despite a lot of surveys, committees and studies, the reality is that racialized lawyers are still far more likely to miss out on traditional articling, lack mentorship, be sole practitioners, practise in less lucrative areas of law, service more marginalized members of the public and thus earn less money. This inevitably means they more likely to run into trouble with the day to day of running a practice, and thus more at risk of attracting the attention of the law Society.
Despite the fact that half of all new lawyers are women, the reality is that women still leave the profession in droves. Those that stay have to make the kinds of sacrifices that their male counterparts don’t even think about. The Law Society needs to develop real programs to ensure that racialized lawyers receive the same opportunities as their non-racialized peers.
Further, the Law Society needs to develop some sort of comprehensive programmes to retain women lawyers, including maternity leave assistance and a structured locum program such as some of the regulated health professions.
It’s 2019 people!!! Why are we still faxing and photocopying? So many ways to modernize the courts, practice more efficiently, resolve the articling crisis, reduce tuition fees, and increase access to justice.
LSO is a key influencer of government policy in this regard and I will work to ensure LSO’s voice is heard at Queen’s Park.