My LSUC Bencher Endorsements

The voting list for the 2011 Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) Bencher Election is set on March 25, 2011, with a voting deadline of April 29, 2011 at 5:00 pm EDT.

This means that the July 2011 calls to the bar are ineligible.  Since I can’t vote this year, the next best thing to do is offer my endorsement of the following candidates:

Emir Aly Crowne casts an enormous shadow, well beyond the University of Windsor where he teaches.  He is The Essential Guide to Mooting, and has founded or administered more moots than I can keep track of.  I’ve done relatively well in internal and external moots, but the few times I’ve been clearly trumped has been at the hands of some of his proteges.  His dedication to students is also manifested through his participation in the Canada Law Student Conference, hosted by the Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues.  Having participated in the conference and the law journal, I can say first-hand that both are executed absolutely professionally.  He’s also a prolific writer, as evidenced by his SSRN page.  Given all of his academic and professional activity, it’s no surprise he was awarded the Young Practitioner Award at the 2010 South Asian Bar Association (SABA) Gala.  For everything that Prof. Crowne has done, not only for his students but for law students across Canada, a word of support is the least that this law student can do in return.

Michael M. Lerner doesn’t share a surname with Lerners LLP by coincidence.  I went to law school at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario, the same city where the litigation boutique was originally founded in 1929.  During my time there, Michael Lerner was conspicuously present as a representative of Lerners LLP, who supported many aspects of my student life including the Mature Students Club while I was President, the 2009 UWO Law Alumni Dinner,  and of course, the highly-coveted Lerners LLP Cup, where I finished as a finalist and was awarded the Justice C.D. Stewart Trophy.  The Lerners Moot is UWO Law’s premier advocacy competition, used to rank and finalize all of the school’s external mooters, and Michael Lerner personally awarded the trophies.  All of these law school activities would not be possible without the support of Michael Lerner, who is also a graduate of Western Law.

Stephen G. A. Pitel is a former litigator at a prominent Toronto litigation boutique, and currently teaches at the University of Western Ontario.  I was introduced to him very early during my time at Western, when he would pick on me to answer questions in Ethics, even when I didn’t raise my hand.  Not that I had a problem answering the questions.  I got to know him much better through the 2009 Davies LLP Corporate Securities Moot, where he tirelessly offered countless hours assisting our team, even though he was not formally our coach.  I attribute my placement in the top 15 largely due to his support.  He also provided considerable career advice and guidance when it came to considering a career in litigation.  I got to know him further when I took his International Commercial Litigation class.  The the Van Breda case was released by the Ontario Court of Appeal at the time of this course, and his insight and commentary on the subject was extremely informative. Given my extensive interaction with him over 3 years of law school, I believe Stephen Pitel would be a good candidate for bencher.

R. Lee Akazaki is the current President of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA).  In my capacity as Articling Student Ambassador for the Toronto Region in the past year, I have the privilege of attending many OBA events and have gotten to know Lee Akazaki relatively well.  He has made a concerted effort to broaden the mandate of the OBA and expand participation in the organization beyond its traditional base.  For example, I’ve made a strong case for extending free OBA memberships for law students, a case that has positively received by Lee and the OBA.  He is also strengthening the ties of the OBA with practices outside of Toronto.  Despite running for bencher in the Toronto region, Lee would be an asset to the entire province by bringing fresh ideas and a new outlook.

Basil Alexander is the one bencher candidate I’m nominating that I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting.  An associate at Klippensteins, his practice is largely comprised of social justice and pro bono work.  We simply don’t have enough people making the sacrifices to do the work that most of us appreciate so much, and giving those who are making the effort a greater voice simply makes sense.

Raj Anand is running for re-election as a bencher this year.  As a former Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, equity issues is a high priority for him.  You can see a sample of his many activities on his LSUC bio, recognized in 2003 by the Law Society Medal.  I first met Raj in 2009 at a Labour Law Conference at UWO, and continue to run into him repeatedly at various legal events and activites since. He most recently a recipient of the Distinguished Career Award at the 2010 South Asian Bar Association (SABA) Gala.

Christopher D. Bredt is another bencher running for re-election.  To understand why I’m endorsing him you’ll have to listen to this podcast interview I did with him last year.

Julian N. Falconer is the third bencher running for re-election that I’m endorsing, as a strong advocate for marginalized communities.  One of Julian’s notable projects includes legal assistance for Maher Arar.  The legal system is the last defence against governmental abuses, and those who have already demonstrated the courage and fortitude to take a tough stand are exactly what is needed for the law society.

Monica Goyal is the founder of My Legal Briefcase, a website dedicated to assisting the public with Small Claims Court, with fees ranging from $24.99 to $249.  Access to justice is one of the most pressing needs in Canadian society today, and self-represented litigants are clearly on the rise in Ontario.  Technology can play a central role in addressing these concerns, and someone already involved in the delivery of cost-effective information to educate the public can certainly spearhead similar projects within LSUC.

Nabeel Haque will probably be one of the least renown candidates for bencher this year.  However, he also happens to be one of the few lawyers I’ve actually known before considering a legal career (to understand how, see the Chris Bredt podcast mentioned above).  With a small family-based practice based in western Toronto, primarily serving visible minorities, his perspectives of an entirely different type of legal career should be useful for addressing niche concerns.

Mitch Kowalski is best know for his column in the Legal Post.  As an information junkie I certainly appreciate anyone who makes the effort to keep track of trends and challenges in the industry, and is willing to share these findings with others.  The law society plays an important role in communicating with not just lawyers, but the public as well.  Lawyers who have already developed a communication network and infrastructure can assist the law society in delivering their messages more effectively.

There are many other candidates that I have not mentioned above, which is not meant as a snub or opposition.  It simply means that I have not had the opportunity to interact with any of them and appreciate what I am certain has been a career full of public service and advocacy.

You can read more about the use of social media and the Internet during these elections on Slaw.