Helping Our Clients by Building Community

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The Ontario Lawyers Association OTLA Code asks: "What does it mean to be a 'good lawyer?'" Being a financially successful lawyer or even one with great success in the courtroom are not the primary means by which we should assess whether we are good lawyers. Rather, according to the OTLA Code: "Being a good lawyer means being a professional lawyer."

Written by Bernard L. Gluckstein, Q.C. Our association expresses confidence that we will ensure our professionalism meets and exceeds standards set by the profession, society, and our own high standards. In this blog post I'd like to offer a suggestion for one simple way we can all exceed these expectations: ongoing involvement in local organizations that support disability.

When a Client's Case Ends, Our Support Shouldn't End

As trial lawyers we represent some of the most vulnerable people in our society at a time in their lives when they are likely especially stressed, strained, and scared. They must put energy towards therapy, medical tests and procedures to aid in their recovery and improve their quality of life, while also contemplating participating in a lawsuit to obtain the funds and resources they need for their long-term care and well being. Striving to be "good lawyers," we take on their files and try to put together strong cases so they can receive these resources in a settlement or judgment. Sometimes we're privileged to help them obtain everything they need to feel secure in their lives going forward; but as we all know far too well, often the funding they receive is inadequate or exhausts itself before the need does. Knowing that many of our past clients may be facing difficult circumstances in the future, is our responsibility to our client over once their case concludes?

Supporting Local Organizations that Support Our Clients

When reflecting on some of the core principles of the OTLA Code, including "the best interests of the client," and the "highest standards of advocacy," I hope our members opt to apply these principles more broadly. As advocates for our clients' best interests, we must think of what we can do as a profession to ensure they have access to the assistance they need regardless of what value of award they ultimately receive. One of the best ways we can continue to help our clients after litigation ends is to support the organizations that support them throughout their lives. Organizations such as ParaSport Ontario, the Ontario Brain Injury Association, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, and many others, provide essential community for persons with disabilities who are at greater risk of feeling alone and removed from society at large. Some of these organizations offer free membership. Others ask for only a nominal fee to join. Of course, becoming involved in these groups and actively participating in their programming and initiatives is ideal, but simply becoming a member can significantly help these organizations when they apply for grants, donations and funding.

Striving To Be A 'Good Lawyer'

Many OTLA lawyers and their firms do hold these memberships. Some of us also volunteer our time at events, make in kind donations and contribute in other ways. But many members of the OTLA are not active or even passive supporters of these groups - and that needs to change. Our livelihoods largely depend on the work we do for our clients. However, the quality of life they can expect to enjoy following an injury depends on more than what we do for them between opening and closing a case. These community support systems are an integral part of enhancing our clients' lives and compensating for inadequate or prematurely exhausted awards throughout their lifetime. It is in our clients' best interests for their staunch legal advocates to extend that advocacy to other aspects of their lives. I strongly encourage OTLA members who have yet to join one or more of these organizations to make a commitment to be a "good lawyer" by supporting the people and groups who support our clients long after their time with us has ended.


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