For the Record: The Globe and Mail on the legal profession

Letter to the Editor of the Globe and Mail, for the record - November 26, 2012

Please allow me to correct the irresponsible assertions your paper offered up when members of the legal profession grappled with the changing needs of their members and the public they serve. There was a time when Globe and Mail editors would have written Kirk Makin’s piece off as ‘just another good story spoiled by the facts,’ but, as the person who chaired the ten-hour debate in Convocation, I observe that the even the Globe can no longer be relied upon as a source of balanced reporting.

With respect to his reporting of the Parental Leave Assistance Program (PLAP), Mr. Makin was offered an opportunity to interview one of the principals in the debate — the chief architect of the program — who spoke at some length about the history of PLAP, whether its goals had been achieved, and the ongoing costs of the program. He declined to interview anyone and declined to quote anything she said in Convocation. Instead he and his editors opted for the same soundbite journalism that passes for news today. It’s easier than taking the time to research a subject and present a balanced and thoughtful commentary. As a result, no facts were reported — only the opinions of a few.

Similarly, when it came to reporting on the recommendations of the Articling Task Force, Mr. Makin chose to report only those few comments that would help the headline writer suggest that the profession was "broken." By doing so, Mr. Makin failed miserably to provide your readers with a balanced report of the debate in Convocation of this very serious issue. If he had taken his journalistic responsibilities seriously, your readers would have learned that the debate was vigorous, thorough and civil. They would have learned that, far from being "broken," the profession has become invigorated by the challenge of improving the lawyer licensing process in Ontario.

Democracy in action is messy. People who care about an issue hold impassioned views. Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals understand that their professions must change and evolve to continue to meet the public’s legal needs. So they argued long and hard about the best way to ensure that legal training in the future continues to produce lawyers who are competent and ready to serve their clients.

And they argued about the best way to continue to support women lawyers trying to maintain service to their clients through the challenges of early parenthood.

Did they get it all right? Maybe, maybe not. Should we care? Well, you would have a lot of trouble finding out from Mr. Makin’s article what really is at stake.

Ontarians are served by lawyers and paralegals that are fully competent and professional, and they deserve to continue to be as the legal profession responds to change. Fulfilling that obligation is worthy of the courageous and principled debates that the Law Society of Upper Canada engaged in. It is equally worthy of careful analysis and insightful and balanced news reporting.

Thomas G. Conway, Treasurer,
The Law Society of Upper Canada