The siren song of law school

The siren song of law school
OBA past president Paul Sweeny has shared why he went to law school.
Why did you go to law school?

The Ontario Bar Association wants lawyers to share their stories as part of its campaign called “Why I went to law school.”

The campaign was launched to change the public’s (usually negative) perception of lawyers.

“We wanted to do something to put a good face on lawyers in the public realm,” says OBA past president Paul Sweeny, one of the driving forces behind the campaign.

“You see so many negative portrayals of lawyers in the media and every once in a while you want to see a good image of a lawyer,” he tells 4Students.

Sweeny also says the campaign is a way for lawyers — especially young lawyers — to get themselves out there and better known.

The campaign is meant as a conversation starter, says Sweeny, not as a tool to encourage students to attend law school.

You can see the campaign’s posters at legal events, hear them on the radio, and soon there will be print ads as well.

The OBA is trying to make it as easy as possible for lawyers to share their stories, so they can go to the web site, write their own story, and upload their photo.

“Let’s put some interesting stories about lawyers out there so people can see that lawyers are more than just whatever negative stereotypes they may have affixed to them,” says Sweeny.

The campaign was launched earlier this year and so far the OBA reports more than 75 lawyers have created their stories and the site has had in excess of 4,000 visitors.

In his story, Sweeny explains he originally wanted to be a doctor, but a health law course changed his mind. “It was exhilarating to discover I could help people in important and concrete ways and that no bodily fluids needed to be involved,” he wrote.

Doug Downey, a lawyer at Lewis Downey Tornosky Lassaline & Timpano Professional Corp. in Orillia, Ont., says he never intended to be a lawyer. He was working as a court clerk, but said he “soon realized that I couldn’t affect the kind of change I wanted to without a law degree. I needed the credentials.”

Raong Phalavong, a lawyer at Cambridge LLP in Burlington, Ont., says her goal of becoming a lawyer stemmed from her parents’ struggle as Canadian immigrants.

“I was my parents’ voice from an early age, and I knew that when I grew up only one profession was going to help us,” she writes. “Becoming a lawyer was the tool I was going to use to help not only my family but so many other vulnerable people like us reclaim their dignity and achieve their dreams through due process.”

Carl Fleck, a lawyer at Fleck Law, a personal injury law firm with offices in Toronto and Sarnia, Ont., says his decision to attend law school was influenced by a serious car accident he was involved in that required him to learn to walk again. His parents hired a lawyer who inspired Fleck to become a lawyer himself. “This life-changing event set me on a career course as a trial counsel, where I wanted to be there for others, as my lawyer had been there for me,” he wrote.

To read more lawyers’ stories, go to

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