SCOPE presents the sixth in a series of Q & As for the PSC Election 2014. All answers are posted at the same time. Candidate names are rotated from time to time, to ensure “alphabetical fairness.”
Convocation functions as the LSUC “board of directors.” What business and personal experiences will allow you to be effective on a large board?
When I was elected four years ago, I must admit that I did not know what to expect at the Paralegal Standing Committee and at Convocation. I truly had no idea what Convocation was really all about.
Because I was elected chair at our first PSC meeting, I had to present the material for approval at my very first Convocation. It was quite a thrill, of course. I was nervous, but the support the room gave me was amazing.
I have since built relationships, friendships with the other “board members” at Convocation and have learned more than I could ever have imagined. There is a lot of formality in Convocation; no first names and every time you speak it must with the approval of the Treasurer. Before and after Convocation, there is a lot of networking and deals being made on contentious items. I am not sure I had any idea this was such a political position.
Preparing for PSC meetings and Convocation is like being in court. You must be comfortable with public speaking, be creative, and having solid negotiating skills is a plus. But most important, I think, is to have respect for your fellow benchers.
With my years of education, I have the academic credentials and ability to effectively “stand toe-to-toe” and speak on even terms to a large board of directors, especially one made up of mostly lawyers. As a practising paralegal for more than 20 years, and having franchised offices throughout Southwestern Ontario, I can speak from experience about the law business and “Access to Justice.”
Effective means getting results. It means not only knowing the official process but, as the American Realists would say, knowing the way things really work. The experience I gained when I was elected as a student rep to the Laurentian University Senate during my undergrad years gave me that. I learned that effectiveness on any large board depends on building consensus “inside” and “outside” the committees, to work our priorities into the agenda.
Inside a committee, effectiveness means presenting cogent arguments which aligns the policy priorities of paralegals with the protection and promotion of the public good. That means being competent as practitioners in what we do (read: “specialisation”), creating a holistic (read: “considered”) plan and having the theory and the facts (read: “empirical evidence”) to overcome non-sequitur objections. But this is still not enough to be effective on a large board.
Experience on the Senate taught me that the key to being effective is the work outside the committee. This means networking with benchers individually and being cognizant of their concerns, sensitivities and predispositions, including those who may not be as “far-sighted” as we might wish. Consensus is only obtained when the default premise is that everybody comes to the table as a legitimate stakeholder with a “valid” perspective.
But first, experience tells me that we need consensus within the paralegal “Gang of Five.” That group needs to determine what they were elected to do, what is realistically possible and how it can be achieved within the constraints at hand.
I am a candidate in the PSC election because I truly believe I have the educational background and professional experience to be a strong and effective force for positive change.
Learn more about Ian Wilkinson
As a practising paralegal, I see issues from the perspective of everyday practice. I also have a unique insight into overarching issues and trends that have implications for the profession as a whole. In other words, I can see the big picture and its relevance to all paralegals.
Convincing people that change is necessary, despite the conventional thinking of the day, takes finesse and respect for all involved. As the current Chair of the Policy Committee of the Paralegal Society Of Ontario (PSO), I hold monthly meetings, in which committee members develop policy papers, lobbying for the advancement of the paralegal profession.
My involvement with the County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA-ABCC) includes discussions with the Executive Director on how to serve its paralegal membership through educational initiatives. My involvement in the CCLA “Annual Lawyer Play” for charity puts me in contact with lawyers and judges. I have built relationships with members across the bar.
As a practicing paralegal, I have seen first-hand where the profession can make important contributions with access to legal representation for all members of society. I have also developed a clearer understanding of where improvements can be made.
As a sole practitioner, I have met the challenges we all face when starting a new practice, including capital requirements for business startups and accreditation issues with respect to scope of practice.
In a “previous life,” I was Co-Chair of the Parent Committee at the elementary school my younger child attended. My successful advocacy on that committee benefits future parents and children. Even earlier, I worked as a medical administrative assistant for several hospital Heads of Surgical Departments at McGill University. I dealt with major administrative issues affecting the care of patients and the efficient running of these departments.
My collective professional and personal experiences have seasoned me for the effective, respectful privilege of serving on the PSC.
Learn more about Paula Callaghan
I believe that I have been, and can continue to be, an asset to Convocation. I have spent the last seven years developing my negotiation skills, relationships, and my understanding of the varied subject matters facing the board.
For a board member to be effective, they must participate in and attend meetings. I know when to speak up, what to fight for and most importantly, I know when to listen.
My time at Convocation, and my participation on committees, has earned me the respect of my peers and of the profession. With only five paralegals acting amongst 40 Lawyer and Lay Benchers, it is important to speak with a unified voice. I have the ability to work with the other four paralegals and develop a consensus on a plan to move forward in our profession. I am a cooperative and non-confrontational individual; this assists me in working with other members of the board.
As a member of the board of directors for Legal Aid Ontario and Convocation, I have been able to refine my ability to read and understand financial statements. A board member must have a clear understanding of the financial implications of their decisions.
For 15 years, I have been a sole proprietor in the paralegal profession, and I have also recently had a wonderful opportunity to manage a large-scale and high-volume litigation practice within a law-firm setting. I consistently work with co-op students, new licensees and senior paralegals, all of which have specific and unique needs. These opportunities have provided me with the experience to understand the needs of paralegals at different positions and stages of their careers.
It’s not just skills and expertise that make a valued board member, it is also their character and personality. I believe that I have proven that I can continue to represent paralegals in a professional and experienced manner. I do not take on this position for recognition or financial gain. I take it on to develop and grow the profession, which requires a strong voice. I am that voice.
Every Board of Directors is as different as its Directors, however, each Board does have one common purpose: the good of the organization it supervises.
During the past 25 years, I have served on the following Boards:
- Bencher, Law Society of Upper Canada
- Vice-President, Royal Canadian Military Institute
- Vice-Chair, St. John Ambulance, Toronto Branch
- Chair, Ontario Safety League
- Chair, 23 (Hamilton) Service Battalion Senate, Canadian Armed Forces
- Member, Advisory Council to the Army Cadet League (Ontario)
- President, POINTTS Advisory Limited.
I have learned during my years on these various Boards that each one, including Convocation, is an animated entity, with its own cadence. It is useful for members to pay attention to a Board’s subtle changes and moods. When it comes time to present a contentious item, knowledge of the current prevailing mood is often vital to the presenter’s success.
It is important to know that Convocation does not manage the Law Society of Upper Canada. Convocation sets policies and makes regulations for the governance of the profession, usually relying on research and advice placed before it by various standing or special committees. The PSC is one of those committees.
Since the majority of Convocation members implicitly trust the opinions and suggestions of PSC members, paralegal members should seek positions on other committees and groups at Convocation. These provide opportunities to make persuasive arguments to the committees, and should result in our changes being adopted into any report, and subsequently ratified by Convocation.
Cathy Corsetti, Michelle Haigh and I have the necessary experience in Convocation to ensure the continued development and expansion of our profession.
Learn more about Brian Lawrie
It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge, if you think you look funny on a horse.
I am in the race in which I work and play daily. I have led teams since my first entrepreneurial experience at age 15, owning my own retail boutique. Onward from there, I was the bi-lingual singer on the prime minister’s campaign throughout Canada, and continued to perform throughout Quebec and Ontario, with my bilingual show, managing a team of musicians.
Coming from a family of lawyers, I have witnessed that, when you want something done, ask a busy person. I led five major design corporations for the largest sequin, embroidery/lace manufacturer in North America, with manufacturing, wholesaling, and retailing markets, worldwide. I designed and built homes, had my shows aired on HGTV, raised two amazing children, received honours from all my educations, including my P1 licensing, and real estate businesses, which continue today, while I own and operate Lawfully Yours, as well as work at a leading law firm in York region. Strong people stand up for themselves, while stronger people, stand up for others.
Leadership cannot be taught; it can only be learned. Knowing the questions to ask, the answers to question further, and understanding the reasons why, are fundamental!
I’m aware of vocal tendencies, body language, silent messages, with an attuned sense of listening, I can respond. The mediocre teacher, tells. The good teacher, explains. The superior teacher, demonstrates. The great teacher inspires. I hope to bring inspiration to our young field of practice.
Passionate, determined, and dedicated to the growing field of paralegals, I’m hopeful for its efficient prosperity. Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. I have learnt that I can be gentle and bold, frugal and liberal; I avoid putting myself before others, and I hope to lead in my field. Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen; the ones who win, get inside their players, and motivate. I believe I am that candidate!
Boards and Committees are an interesting study of interpersonal dynamics! A productive and efficient group is comprised of knowledgeable individuals who are skilled at interpersonal relationships. I have been involved with policy making and procedural review since my early twenties, when I began participating with the Canadian Red Cross sub-committees for Emergency Response, First Aid and Water Safety.
My employment history started with Facility Operations Management. Not only did I have to understand the components; I had to understand how the systems worked together – and that included the human component. Organizing people to work together, toward a common goal that may or may not have been very common in the beginning! I learned how to overcome obstacles and find inventive ways around barriers –- I learned how to deal in solutions, instead of becoming stuck in a problem.
When I joined the police service the training did not stop at the police college. I spent 16 years learning how to find balance between two opposed and difficult positions. I learned to listen to all perspectives and look at the ‘bigger picture’ before coming to a conclusion. I learned not only how to stand my ground, but when to step aside. Listening can be more important than talking, and posture can have more volume than someone shouting. I learned to advocate for a position and to negotiate for resolution.
In becoming a paralegal I have culminated my previous experiences. I deal with facts and seek reason over extremism. As a result people are more open to listening to new ideas and finding mutually agreeable solutions.
I am confident that I can be a strong voice and work within Convocation to attain the best possible outcome for our paralegal profession.
Do any of your current work, personal or volunteer activities pose a potential conflict of interest with the PSC and Convocation? Should PSC Candidates deal with their conflicts of interest during the campaign, rather than after the election?
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