For Quinn Ross, it’s never trite to remind the world the role lawyers play as the guardians of the rule of law.
The new president of the Ontario Bar Association says that repeating the mantra that lawyers are doing work in the public good will be one of three main focuses for him in his one-year term.
“Sometimes, it’s difficult to see it because you get down in the trenches with respect to the minutia of the matter that you’re dealing with and it’s not easy to see that the greater good is being served,” he says.
Under his direction, the OBA will also look at how it can further promote inclusiveness, both organizationally and in helping practitioners better serve their clients. The OBA will be rolling out a CPD program this fall that will look at what lawyers can do to battle racism and xenophobia.
Ross’ third area of focus will be to help lawyers integrate new skills and tools into their practices so that they can take advantage of new technological advances.
“The challenge for lawyers is they’re buried with the practice of law and sometimes the process and business of law is a challenging topic to address when you’re spending a great [deal] if not all of your energy and focus on serving your client’s direct needs,” he says.
He says the OBA will also continue to work with the provincial government to further modernize and digitize the courts, a priority for Ross’ predecessor, David Sterns.
Ross is the managing partner of the Ross Firm PC and focuses his practice on corporate commercial transactions and real estate. The firm has offices in Goderich, Kincardine and Stratford, Ont.
The OBA alternates its presidency every year between lawyers from Toronto and other regions. Ross says he hopes to bring a regional perspective to the role but that he also understands the sensibilities of urban practitioners, having worked in that environment, too.
Ross grew up on a farm property that was outside of Auburn, Ont.
Both his parents are lawyers and founding partners of the firm that he eventually joined in 2004 as an articling student. Dinner table conversations in the Ross household often revolved around legal topics of the day.
He says that fundamental concepts of justice, fairness and equity were drilled into him from an early age.
He observed his mother, Heather Ross, who is an ex-officio bencher at the law society, advocate on behalf of abused women at a time when the justice system was not properly equipped to deal with such issues.
“I watched her develop and advocate and stand as a fierce ally for issues relating to women in those situations and women generally,” Ross says. “And that was the broth that I was steeped in and it informs everything that I do and was one of the primary drivers as to why I became a lawyer.”
Ross says one of the issues the OBA will be paying close attention to this fall will be the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decisions on Alternative Business Structures.
An LSUC committee looking into the issue released a report in June that recommended allowing non-profits, charities and trade unions to offer legal services directly to clients.
Convocation is expected to vote on those recommendations in the fall.
Ross says the OBA is still in the process of formulating a position on the proposal.