The name remains the same

More than 50 Law Society of Upper Canada members showed up at the regulator’s annual general meeting last night and overwhelming showing their support to keep its 215-year-old name.

The lively debate at Osgoode Hall last night was mixed with passionate comments and bursts of laughter to discuss Federal government lawyer Thomas Vincent’s formal motion in a battle that saw traditionalists and modernists divided.

“I didn’t expect the motion to go forward. But I do think it was important to have that discussion,” says Omar Ha-Redeye, a family lawyer in Toronto and one of the few who supported Vincent’s motion. “From my impression of the debate, the vote wasn’t actually based on merits but rather on tradition, which is disappointing, given lawyers are trained to debate issues on their merits. “

The formal motion to change the law society’s name to the Ontario Law Society was brought by Vincent last month and has been a hotly contested issue among members of the bar ever since.

Vincent argued the law society’s current name created confusion among the public and needed to be modernized to reflect Canada’s current geography.

“Typically law society members are dealing with highly educated and sophisticated individuals and so they may not be aware of people in the general public who might be confused by the name,” says Ha-Redeye. “In this case, I would say the absence of information doesn’t lead to a conclusion and we should study the issue further to see if there truly is a problem and then find the best way to address it.”

Still, Alan Heisey, a lawyer at Papazian Heisey Myers who has been following the debate and opposes the name change, says he was encouraged by the debate.

“I thought the debate was very healthy and it was encouraging to see so many people who knew about the law society’s history,” says Heisey. “I learned quite a bit and I think those who were dissatisfied with the name perhaps didn’t know the law society had such a history. Maybe there should be a component in the bar admission course related to that.”

A formal vote was not taken at the annual general meeting, however, of the more than 50 members who attended, three supported the motion. Those three were Vincent, Ha-Redeye, and past Ontario Bar Association president Lee Akazaki.

During the meeting, it was estimated the cost to the law society to change its name would be between $1.4 and $1.5 million — a figure that would likely come have to come from increases to member’s annual fees.

See Monday’s issue of Law Times for more on this story.

Update: 4:39 p.m. - Clarify that Alan Heisey was not at the LSUC meeting.

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