As the deadline draws nearer, a growing number of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are refusing to draft a controversial new document aimed to advance “culture shift” within the profession.
To date,1,125 licensed members of the legal profession in Ontario have signed a petition on the website “stopsop.ca” indicating they will not be drafting a Statement of Principles. (cautionary note: It is not clear whether all those who signed the petition are in fact validated members.)
Introduced in 2017 by the Law Society of Ontario, the Statement of Principles is intended to advance equality and diversity in the profession to facilitate a cultural shift of equality among racialized licensees who face discrimination.
Licensees aren’t actually expected to show anybody their Statement of Principles. But on their 2017 Annual Report, which is due on March 31, lawyers and paralegals will clearly have to declare in black & white terms whether they abide by the spirit and intent of the statement's goals to advance (and actively promote) equality in their lives as legal professionals.
So far the LSO, Canada's largest regulator of lawyers, says licensees who fail to draft a Statement of Principles will merely be sent letters as a punishment. In future years, however, this may change.
While some licensees--perhaps the silent majority--are merely checking “yes” in order to remain in compliance with the Law Society, a sizeable group of lawyers and academics continue to generate push-back against the intended goals of the regulator--and they’re taking them to court.
Ongoing constitutional challenge
With the support of Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Law Faculty and the Canadian Constitutional Foundation, Prof. Ryan Alford launched a constitutional challenge against the LSO on this very issue in November 2017.
In the wake of publicized backlash to the Statement of Principles, many Ontario lawyers have taken to social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn to show their adamant support of a Statement of Principles, often by taking a screenshot of their personalized policies.
uLawPractice is giving users of its legal bookkeeping and practice management software the option to produce and automate pre-formed Statement of Principles with the mere click of a button.
For lawyers who want to remain compliant and worry-free, the option is always open to produce a number of pre-filled court form templates, such as accident benefits, SLASTO, and many others.