Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Law Society of Upper Canada

It is with undisguised pride that I share with others that I am a member in good standing of the Law Society of Upper Canada.  Though the number of licensed lawyers in the Province of Ontario numbers in the many thousands, at my age (68) there is nonetheless some distinction involved. For reasons about which I am not clear, it is my understanding that if I had retired from the practice of law prior to attaining the age of 65 years I would have forfeited my entitlement to claim that membership. If one continues to practice law after age 65 and pays the mandatory Errors and Omissions insurance premiums through the Law Society or excess coverage through the Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Company, then of course one is entitled to maintain membership in the Law Society.

Created by an act of the Legislative Assembly in 1797, the Law Society of Upper Canada governs Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals 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. 
The Law Society has 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.
The Law Society regulates, licenses and disciplines Ontario’s more than 50,000 lawyers and over 8,000 licensed paralegals pursuant to the Law Society Act and the Law Society's rules, regulations and guidelines
Since I was called to the Bar in Toronto in March of 1975 there have been considerable changes to the licensing process of lawyers by the Law Society of Upper Canada.  From my point of view the most remarkable changes are not the alterations directed to the delivery of bar admission courses but rather the changes to the locations at which those courses were delivered.  When I attended the bar admission course from September, 1974 - March, 1975 it was conducted - and only conducted - at Osgoode Hall at the corner of Queen Street and University Avenue in Toronto. For people such as myself then living in Ottawa (or anywhere else beyond Toronto) the requirement to attend Osgoode Hall to complete one's Articles prior to being called to the Bar was potentially a serious undertaking, the primary feature of which was the cost not to mention the associated disruption.  I was exceedingly fortunate to have been offered a position as a Don of Devonshire House, University of Toronto by Dean Charles Lennox.  Quite apart from the numerous opportunities afforded by the position of Don of Devonshire House, the residence was conveniently located just off University Avenue.  Many times I walked to Osgoode Hall from Devonshire House, passing the Ontario legislature Queen's Park along the way.

The area from Bloor Street (just north of Devonshire House) to Queen Street along University Avenue captured the undeniable commercial flavour of Hog Town. University Avenue is to this day home to the head offices of many leading insurance and financial institutions in Canada as well as several celebrated medical establishments. Ambling about this vernacular made an impression upon me. Since I spent the subsequent 40 years as a sole practitioner in a small rural town (pop. 4,500) the impression though indelible was obviously not persuasive. I think I am safe to say that the fundamental influence of the environment was architectural not psychological.

My time at Osgoode Hall was swift and ephemeral.  The bar admission course was intense; viz., two weeks of vigorous lectures on each topic of instruction followed immediately by an examination; then another lecture series began on the following Monday.  This relentless program continued for six months after which we donned our new gown and robe and enjoyed the ceremony of the Call to the Bar which I recollect was held at the O'Keefe Centre on Front Street.

After my Call to the Bar I seldom returned to Toronto.  Late in my career I attended a Job Fair at Osgoode Hall. Though the predominant objective of the Job Fair was to make opportunities available to young lawyers, it was also a chance for retiring sole practitioners to canvass a purchaser of their practice.  Nothing came of my attendance (other than an exceedingly memorable dinner and martinis afterwards at La Société restaurant in the Colonnade on Bloor Street West).  It turned out that I negotiated a sale of my practice to local solicitor Evelyn Wheeler who is the first female lawyer in the County of Lanark Bar.  This fact has always been important to me.  Only just today I have been listening to a broadcasted lecture streamed on the internet from Osgoode Hall regarding important constitutional lawyers in Canada's history.  Among those mentioned was Clara Brett Martin.

Clara Brett Martin (25 January 1874 – 30 October 1923), born to Abram and Elizabeth Martin, a well-to-do Anglican-Irish family, opened the way for women to become lawyers in Canada by being the first in the British Empire in 1897.

This lecture is illustrative of the forward-thinking of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Amusingly to me, Ms. Martin articled in 1893 with the Toronto firm of Mulock, Miller, Crowther and Montgomery.  I am guessing that Mulock was Sir William Mulock, first Postmaster General of Canada.  I attended St. Andrew's College with Sir William Mulock's great grandson Bill Mulock who I understand died of a heart attack in his 50's while working at a stock brokerage on Bay Street.

The fortuity of my appointment as a Don of Devonshire House and my contemporaneous attendance at Osgoode Hall marked the closing of a circle whose circumference I had unwittingly begun to sketch many years earlier.  When I graduated from St. Andrew's College I and several of my classmates (including Bill Mulock) pointedly decided to attend undergraduate studies at Glendon Hall rather than the more traditional choice of Trinty College, University of Toronto where the balance of our class of twelve Andreans went.  Afterwards I occasionally regretted the decision, sensing that it was a pivotal resolution which changed the entire course of my life as I have no doubt it did.  The lead-up to Devonshire House was that I was effectively blackballed by another candidate and former Glendon colleague for the position of Don at Glendon Hall. That competing candidate (who coincidentally attended Dalhousie Law School with me and was later appointed to the bench of the Ontario Court of Justice) insinuated to Dean Bixley that because of my "persuasion" I might not be suitable as a Don in a men's residence.  Upon hearing this account from Dean Bixley - and fearing the worst - I immediately abandoned my hopes and applied instead to Devonshire House.  Dean Charles Symington Lennox of Devonshire House made it clear that normally a Donship was only offered to a former University of Toronto graduate (which I was not).  He did however offer me the job.  As did Dean Bixley of Glendon Hall (but I turned it down).  The real zinger about being at Devonshire House was that it was located immediately adjacent Trinity College.  While at Devonshire House I started its first debating society in what I believe was its 90-year history.  The exploit culminated in the triumph of challenging the gowned students of Trinity College to a public debate in their former chapel.  One gloomy Sunday morning I met with the Speaker of the House at Trinity College's Great Hall and threw down the gauntlet.  He was naturally surprised to learn that engineers and architects (who were the predominant students at Devonshire House) had the capacity to speak English but he nonetheless accepted the challenge. The event transpired with great success.  I distinctly recall that the resolution before the House was, "BE IT RESOLVED THAT Little Red Riding Hood is a sexual myth".  I cannot remember whether my boys were the government or the opposition but I do recollect that at the celebratory gathering at the Embassy Tavern on Bloor Street afterwards, my men used the Trinity gowns to wipe the beer suds from the tables!

What I imagine will be my penultimate intersection with the Law Society of Upper Canada (succeeded only by today's webcast) was attendance earlier this summer at a series of lectures (some live in Ottawa, others by webcast) concerning the evolving principles governing the licensing of new lawyers in Ontario.  While I readily admit that my off-radar connections with the Law Society have been stimulating, I have come to the conclusion that as with any other hangovers which lingered following my retirement it is now time to capitulate.  Certainly I am inspired by the historical nostalgia but as for the pragmatic contributions which I might make to either the legal profession or the Law Society, I think I'm done. Should I feel the necessity I will consult the annals of the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History of which I also am a member.

One last note of serendipity:
In 1888, Martin was accepted to Trinity College in Toronto. And in 1890, Martin graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics at the age of sixteen, which was almost unheard of because of the masculinity associated with that field.

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