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Joseph Neuberger hits the ground running as TLA president

Criminal lawyer Joseph Neuberger begins his term today as president of the Toronto Lawyers Association with a mandate to tackle two ongoing issues – access to justice and maintaining proper funding for Legal Aid Ontario.

Neuberger, senior partner with Neuberger and Partners LLP and certified specialist in criminal law, is moving into the president’s seat after serving for the past year as TLA vice-president. Neuberger joined the association board as a trustee in 2004 and has been on the executive since 2009, previously serving as secretary and treasurer.

“An ever-increasing issue is access to justice which encompasses issues such the education, licensing and regulation of paralegals, and maintaining government support for the legal aid certificate program,” he explains in an interview.

With respect to legal aid, Neuberger says the TLA will monitor the new public defender project to see if it “improves access to justice or if it has the opposite effect; that it may erode the ability for a client to exercise their right to counsel of choice and receive solid personalized representation.”

The TLA has been at the forefront of a number of important issues, including a diversity initiative for the past three years which was put in place originally by past-president Sam Marr. Outgoing president Miriam Young has “done a wonderful job of expanding our diversity initiative that has now led to the creation of a new organization called the Roundtable of Diversity Associations (RODA)," says Neuberger.

Beyond tackling diversity issues, RODA creates programming to bring all diverse members of the legal community together for exciting and enriching programs, says Neuberger.

The TLA covers all areas of law in Toronto providing services, including educational programming and advocacy, on behalf of lawyers on issues that impact the practice of law in Toronto but that may have effect well beyond Toronto. For example, the TLA is often invited to make submissions on changes in legislation and practice procedures in Toronto courts.

“The association works closely with the local judiciary on facets of practice in all levels of court and tackles difficult issues such as backlogs in our courts. The TLA also works closely with other associations on broader issues in order to develop meaningful responses to issues that affect lawyers across Ontario or Canada,” says Neuberger.

The TLA's overall mandate is to provide education, advocacy and information for the membership. “This is the main cornerstone of what we provide to our membership of 3,000,” says Neuberger, adding the TLA operates the library at 361 University Ave., and manages the lawyers’ lounges and facilities in the downtown courts.

“One of the things that I want to focus on for the next year is expanding our community reach which includes enhancing our relevance to our members through what we call the 'soiree series,'” says Neuberger. The series are small events for individual bars to have an opportunity to come together with the bench and share ideas in a social setting.

Neuberger says he also plans to focus on the nutshell educational programs and continue with fundraising for the Toronto Lawyers Feed the Hungry program of which he is a past-co-chair. He notes the program has been under “tremendous financial strain for many years and is in desperate need of funding to help the most vulnerable in our city.”

Neuberger says another TLA initiative is the Ontario Justice Education Network where “we work with and connect TLA members with children in some of the least advantaged schools in the city for the Grade 5 mock trial program. It’s terrific for the kids and they do a fantastic job litigating cases. Our involvement has been an incredible experience for our members and the students we work with."

Neuberger says his thrust for the year in general is to “continue our involvement in the Toronto legal community and encourage our members to become more involved in our programs and committees to feel engaged. Through that, we as the executive members, will better understand the needs of our membership and how best to address those needs and provide them with services that they find relevant and helpful.”

Says Neuberger: "My involvement with the TLA has given me the privilege to work with many dedicated individuals in our profession on important issues, but equally as important, it has allowed me to make lasting and meaningful friendships that have enriched my life both as lawyer and regular person.”

The author of the leading text in Canada on assessing dangerous offenders, Neuberger has conducted over 740 trials in 21 years of practice, including 66 jury trials with only four losses. He specializes in defending domestic, sexual-related offences and homicide.



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