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Sa'd calls on young lawyers to vote in bencher election

Boosting voter turnout among younger lawyers in the upcoming Law Society of Ontario (LSO) bencher election is vital, bencher candidate and Toronto criminal and landlord/tenant lawyer Caryma Sa’d tells

Sa’d, founder and principal of SADVOCACY Professional Corporation, is looking to convince young LSO members to cast their ballots at the end of the month.

She says recent calls to the bar often fail to cast a ballot in bencher elections, which can leave them poorly represented at Convocation. According to the LSO, voter turnout in the last bencher election for those called to the bar between 2011 and 2015 was 34 per cent.

To promote more participation, Sa’d and fellow bencher candidate Sean Robichaud have organized #RecentCallsVote, a website that encourages those called to the bar in the past 10 years to vote in the election. As an incentive, participating candidates have pledged to make a donation to a cause of their choice for every vote cast by a recent call.

As well, if elected as bencher, participating candidates have also promised to advocate on behalf of new lawyers.

“I want to encourage people to vote. The stakes are high," says Sa’d, who will be donating to Cannabis Amnesty. “We’re not asking voters to cast ballots for particular candidates. It's simply an initiative to get people more engaged.”

If elected, Sa’d says she would:

  • promote mental wellness initiatives, including examining the strengths and weaknesses of the current Member Assistance Program
  • advocate for improved support to recent calls and solo/small firms
  • continue to push for platforms to amplify unheard voices

Sa’d, who spearheaded the #WhatsABencher social media campaign to elicit discussion about key issues facing Convocation, says casting a ballot is an important right.

She points out that bencher candidates who have many years of experience, or the backing of a large firm, can have an advantage in a bencher election.

"For candidates who don't have access to these networks, it's an uphill battle to get your name out there. This pattern favours incumbent benchers or those backed by big firms,” Sa’d says.

She says participating in #RecentCallsVote is “something of a social experiment ” that she decided to try as a way to boost her profile and address low voter turnout.

“It seems like there was a way to bridge these two issues by providing an incentive for recent calls to vote,” she says. “In my mind, that means a more democratic process. It remains to be seen whether this affects turnout or shifts any of the voting patterns. It may well be that recent calls want to see the most experienced candidates elected. But, there's a chance that they want to see change too.”

Sa’d says because she doesn’t “have years of experience or name recognition on my side” she is reaching out to voters to do a little homework and explore the issues that are important to them.

“There are resources like that have helped me formulate my thoughts. Reading what some of the other candidates think has been a springboard for my own research,” she says.

Sa’d says she hopes lawyers will look at some of the issues and share their thoughts with colleagues, which in turn might lead to increased dialogue and more people willing to cast ballots.

“I guess the message is 'please vote' because there are important issues that must be addressed,” she says. “As lawyers, we would be remiss not to exercise our vote, especially considering we’ve taken an oath to protect and champion the rule of law and to promote access to justice.”

Sa'd says it is “Convocation’s duty to protect the public interest by ensuring licensees meet high standards of learning, competence, and professional conduct.

“There should be a voice that speaks to the experiences of recent calls,” she says. “The spirit and energy that I brought into my campaign, that’s what I would bring to Convocation if elected. If anything that I have put out there has resonated with anyone, I encourage them to vote.

"Hopefully, instead of just talking about reform in an abstract way, we can actually elect people who will offer a fresh perspective,” Sa'd says.

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.

For more information, click here.

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