By Andrej Litvinjenko in Canadian Lawyer Magazine, April 14, 2023
For Ontario lawyers and paralegals, this April’s Law Society of Ontario bencher election promises to be pivotal. Candidates represent two opposing visions. I am among these candidates.
I am part of the FullStop slate. We envision a rejuvenated LSO that is transparent, accountable, depoliticized and committed to ensuring competency and integrity in our profession.
This means (1) reducing your fees; (2) reducing regulatory intrusions; (3) refocusing the LSO’s budget on practice resources (e.g., libraries and training) instead of costly politicized projects better suited for non-profits, and (4) improving transparency. You can learn more about our platform and candidates here.
The (ironically named) Good Governance Coalition (GGC) is committed to the status quo. It supports the divisive and presumptuous culture that gave us the Statement of Principles (SOP). It believes in the politicization of the LSO, fixated on telling us how we can practise and with whom. Its priorities include (1) reinstating verifying client identity in person; (2) ad-hoc panels empowered to discipline and sanction – publicly – before due process; and (3) bankrolling Bay Street’s “firm diversity index.” And you can forget about getting access to committee meetings or having a detailed accounting of the LSO’s budget and how your dues are being spent.
But who am I, and why am I asking for your vote for bencher?
My name is Andrej Litvinjenko. I am the managing director of TAAG Law. I have held senior roles in the federal public service, parliament, and private sector and have served on the boards of various institutions, most recently the University of Ottawa. In addition to my Juris Doctor, I hold graduate degrees in political science and economic policy and undergraduate degrees in political science and history.
I did not aspire to run for bencher. I recently became a father. My priorities are raising my little girl and supporting my wife’s return to her career. Instead, I am compelled to run for bencher because our regulator has lost its way, and the GGC candidates are determined to take us further down the wrong path.
I cannot stand by while the LSO devolves into an ideological, vindictive, and bloated institution. I have seen firsthand where such well-intentioned but misguided initiatives lead.
I fled to Canada from the former Yugoslavia: a failed state that erupted into civil war in the 90s. We had become obsessed with the siren song of “diversity and inclusion” a decade prior. Ethnic and religious quotas became vogue. The economy worsened; we doubled down. Each side claimed “systemic discrimination” by the others. Unscrupulous politicians exploited these shallow differences to bloody effect. For my daughter’s sake, I must safeguard her against these dangers.
To be clear, I am on the record encouraging practitioners to champion “diversity and inclusion,” but through appropriate mediums, such as non-profits, community advocacy, or running for public office. The LSO’s mandate is narrow and straightforward: to ensure professional competence and integrity. Nothing more and nothing less. As such, we must resist the urge to co-opt our regulatory institution to advance the cultural politics of the day.
We should also resist the premise that change can only come from above. We are all in charge of and responsible for our practice, and our ability to impact our communities is profound. The LSO is neither a suitable medium for nor capable of resolving socio-economic issues. We have distinct orders of government and institutions for a reason – their limits and specialization are an intentional feature.
The choice we make in this election will have generational impacts on our profession. We must choose between keeping ourselves in the driver’s seat of our practices or accepting that “benchers know best” and going along with whatever we are told (or endangering our licences).
Believe it or not, the LSO’s budget is now well over $100,000,000. That money hasn’t come from the province but from us. Our fees are feeding a sprawling and growing bureaucracy. It’s not just going to libraries or professional training, but to pet projects and special initiatives, no one consulted you about.
We are at an inflection point. We must rejuvenate and recalibrate the LSO to empower and embolden practitioners to innovate and remain nimble within this dynamic post-pandemic environment. We need humble leadership that welcomes transparency.
My FullStop colleagues and I respectfully submit that we hold such qualities. We ask for your vote and the mandate to (1) restore the LSO to its core mandate, (2) reduce fees and streamline compliance, and (3) ensure transparency and accountability.
This is a secret ballot. Please vote your conscience.