Civil Litigation, The Profession

Bencher candidate Lesage running to be 'voice' of small firms

By Tony Poland, Associate Editor

Toronto litigator and Law Society of Ontario (LSO) bencher candidate Michael Lesage says it’s crucial that the voices of the smaller firms are heard at Convocation.

“I run a sole proprietorship, and I wear all the hats, so I understand the struggles that apply,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com. “There are many important issues at play, and I think, at this point in time, the LSO is out of touch with the public and profession.”

Lesage, who practises insurance, business law, personal injury, malpractice and other liabilities at Michael’s Law Firm, says if elected he will:

  • push for common-sense solutions, such as using technology to allow lawyers to save time and money
  • encourage belt-tightening at the LSO
  • advocate for tougher bar exams
  • endeavour to keep bad ideas from Convocation at Covocation by insisting on further committee study and more discussion and debate

He says there are five key points in his platform — LSO inefficiency, rising civil expenses, the overabundance of lawyers, increasing professional fees, and poor judgment shown in such matters as the expanded scope of paralegal practice and Alternative Business Structures (ABS).

Using the current system of filing legal documents as an example, Lesage says the LSO has failed to embrace simple cost-saving technologies, and the public and lawyers pay the price.

"The LSO has really committed the profession to being technologically backwards,” he says. “And they’ve gone full speed behind in terms of pursuing that goal.”

Lesage says “civil expenses in many cases have gotten so out of hand” that the time and expense necessary to prosecute outweighs expected returns, leaving lawyers with little choice but to turn files down.

“The economics no longer make sense to justify taking the work,” he says.

Lesage notes that despite a “stagnant or declining demand for legal services,” the LSO continues to licence more lawyers and accredit more law schools. The problem, he says, is too many lawyers are struggling to get a piece of “a smaller and smaller pie.”

Another issue Lesage says has hit small law firms hard is LSO fees, which he points out are higher than those paid by doctors and dentists. He says the law society could cut fees if they were more efficient.

“I don’t know how many lawyers are happy that the LSO spends their money advertising the greatness of the law society to the Ontario public,” Lesage says.

He says if elected he would oppose ABS, which he doubts is “going to lead to a higher calibre of lawyer in the province.” Lesage says it’s a plan that needs more thought.

“I don’t think there’s any harm in allowing ABS to be explored by other jurisdictions and if it turns into something that’s wonderful, we could adopt it here,” he says. “I’m a little confused as to why there’s this big impetus behind altering the business structures in Ontario."

Forty lawyer benchers will be elected — 20 from inside Toronto and 20 from outside. The deadline for voting is 5 p.m. April 30, 2019.

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