SCOPE presents the seventh 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.”
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 during the campaign, rather than after the election?
The term “conflict of interest” is a euphemism for “corrupt behavior” and it must be reported by all who know it exists. If a paralegal fails to do so, they become a party to the corruption and should be dealt with as an accessory.
I have no conflict situations which would prevent me from serving on the Paralegal Standing Committee.
I am acutely aware that a conflict situation may arise at any time during my career and I will not hesitate to declare it as soon as it is apparent.
I am also aware of the necessity to identify and address any situation which may be perceived to be a conflict of interest.
Michelle Haigh, Cathy Corsetti and I have the necessary experience in Convocation to ensure the continued development and expansion of our profession.
Learn more about Brian Lawrie
Benchers must avoid conflicts of interest. Between my role as legal service provider, and Convocation responsibilities, I have no divided loyalties, no personal or volunteer activities that pose a conflict.
Bound by Rule 3, involving ‘conflict of interest,’ I maintain strict boundaries, and a positive attitude, even when it’s hard. In our profession, precision and perfection are not dispensable luxuries, but a simple necessity.
Passions are the same in every conflict. Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas. Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world, can movement or change occur, without that abrasive friction of conflict.
Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it: attitude. Attention to detail, awareness of the possible conflicts at all times, is crucial.
In Rule 6, by which we are governed, we have a duty to the administration of justice, and the courts; rules governing a paralegal’s conduct toward licensees and others, including the duty to act with courtesy and good faith, are part of our duties.
The better able team members are to engage, speak, listen, hear, interpret, and respond constructively, the more likely their teams are to leverage conflict, rather than be levelled by it.
A paralegal’s primary duty is to their client. However, we also have duties to others. These other duties often conflict with client duties, and temper the zeal with which the paralegal is permitted to act on behalf of the client. We have obligations to other lawyers and paralegals. That is mandatory at the PSC.
I face challenges/conflicts, head on. When presented with confrontations, I will offer solutions and ideas that will benefit both the PSC and Convocation. I shall recuse myself, if ever a conflict arises, immediately.
Real generosity toward the future consists of giving one’s all to what is present, as I shall give to the Paralegal Standing Committee if elected. Paralegal Rules of Conduct prohibit me from taking a file for which I lack the necessary skills and knowledge. Un-conflicted, determined, I can be your Candidate!
I have no conflicts of interest.
However, by definition, to some degree every active P1 has a general conflict of interest, as PSC resolutions can impact members directly. As example — for a resolution regarding expanding the scope of practice, a member could push for immigration as opposed to family law, if that is what they wanted to practise themselves. This can’t be entirely avoided (we all practise something), but is a matter of degree that would have to be managed.
But remember, it is not just conflict of interest that is important, but the perception of conflict of interest by a ‘reasonably thinking’ third party and any real question should be resolved on the side of eliminating any perceived conflict of interest. Procedurally, when that question meets the ‘evidentiary burden’ then the person concerned should consult other PSC members and ‘seniors’ to determine if it is enough to warrant recusing themselves. If there is any doubt, they should do so voluntarily. PSC members are expected to act according to the mandate of public interest.
Any potential conflicts should be put forward as such, so at least they are known. Having said that, there should be no requirement for anyone to give up any current ‘situation’ on the chance that they might be elected. The obvious example here relates to executives of the PSO/LPA who are current candidates. Recognition and funding of one professional association should be a priority, but I understand that they would resign if elected to the PSC, so this is not a real issue.
Learn more about Ian Wilkinson
I believe my only potential conflict of interest is that I am an occasional instructor at the Algonquin Careers Academy, Ottawa Campus. I do participate in presentations to paralegal students and potential paralegal students through a variety of venues, one of which is the Algonquin College, Ottawa Campus.
I also sit on the Board of Directors of the Learning Disability Association of Ottawa-Carleton, which, other than a demand on my time, does not conflict with the PSC.
Being affiliated with accredited paralegal programs, I am afforded insight as to how the programs are implemented. I am familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the implementation, both from the co-ordinators’ perspectives and from the students’. It also provides me with an opportunity for networking with future paralegals, and open communication with the co-ordinators. Any changes to the accredited programs will be changes that affect all programs, not only the institutions that I have been affiliated with.
There will always be different perspectives on which activities or affiliations are conflicts of interest. Largely, what constitutes a conflict of interest is how those activities or affiliations are used to the benefit of one group over the interests of others. This speaks to the integrity of the individual in the position of authority.
I do not think that during an election is the right time for candidates to sever their ties with organizations with potential conflicts. This would be detrimental, potentially, to a candidate who is not successful in the election. These ties and how the candidate interacts with the organization during the election also provide the electorate insight into the candidate’s character.
However, once elected, it will have to be determined if there is a fiduciary relationship. The bencher would then have to decide whether to remove himself/herself from the discussion, or sever their relationship.
I have dedicated the last seven years to the PSC and have always made it my priority, together with family and my law practice. I was urged to take on this position in 2006 by my colleagues who also offered to assist me with my practice in order to fulfill my responsibilities on the PSC. My colleagues have been true to their word and I appreciate their ongoing support.
I am also a board member at Legal Aid Ontario, where on one occasion I had to declare a conflict on a specific topic as it conflicted with my role on the PSC. The PSC is my top priority. Other than on this one occasion, I do not believe I hold any conflicts. If I had a conflict I would declare it and correct it. I would step down from one of the positions and work effortlessly to promote my decision and show the voters what I truly believe in.
As many of you know, I am not a person who seeks the “spotlight.” I work tirelessly on more than 10 committees and working groups at the Law Society. I provide insight to these committees, from the view of a paralegal. I am very mindful of the position I have been asked to fill. I work to make sure the public interest is protected, while maintaining the confidence of the profession.
If any of the candidates has a conflict, I would expect that they take a leave of absence from the position that creates the conflict and dedicate their time and efforts to showing the profession why their loyalties now belong to the PSC. If not elected, I would support these individuals returning to the post from which they took a temporary leave of absence. Integrity and respect will always follow those who do the right thing.
Cathy Corsetti, Brian Lawrie and I have the necessary experience in Convocation and on the PSC to ensure the continued development and expansion of our profession.
During the past four years, as a member of the PSC, I truly have committed my time 100%. This position has taken time from my family and business, but that is what I was elected to do. I was inspired to develop the profession that I have been a part of for 37 years. I have the business and family support in place to give the time that is required to commit for the next four years.
One activity that I have continued throughout is competitive tap dancing. I don’t see it as a conflict; it has helped me with some of my negotiation skills!
PSC members work on numerous other committees. In fact, every single committee and working group includes a paralegal. When members have other commitments to other organizations, or even a demanding practice without support, this is where one or the other will suffer. If you don’t attend, you may leave the profession unrepresented.
I have seen some posts advising that if the candidates get elected they will step away from their other commitments. There are so many ways to promote our profession, through our current paralegal organizations, through teaching and mentoring, and through the PSC — but not necessarily both.
So yes, I think if you are passionate about being a member of the PSC, then step away from your other commitments. Show the profession this is your passion, and not just a line for your resume.
Elaine Page did just that. She withdrew, stating: “I simply could not fulfill the role of Bencher in an effective way given my time constraints. It pained me to withdraw but in the end I know I would not have been in a position to serve you in the manner in which you deserve.”
Make sure on election day the candidate you vote for has the time and the passion to do the job.
Michelle Haigh, Brian Lawrie and I have the necessary experience in Convocation to ensure the continued development and expansion of our profession.
The first and overriding principle of any election, including the PSC election, is that all paralegals should have the right to run. It invariably will be true that many of those who do run will be individuals who are already active in academic and administrative roles on behalf of the paralegal profession.
The key is to have an open and transparent framework within which elections can be held. There must be clear conflict of interest guidelines established that are adhered to.
The second “anchor” principle should be that individuals who are interested in running for office or committee membership have a professional responsibility to ensure that any real or perceived conflict of interest be addressed before running, but failing that, deal with it immediately when the conflict becomes evident.
Declaring conflicts beforehand gives the voters a true sense of whether the vote of five will be diluted at any convocation vote, or whether any association affiliation precludes them from participating to the fullest extent on any sub-committee activity.
It is important also to make a distinction between conflicts that would preclude holding office and those that simply need to be declared as a matter of transparency in order to avoid misunderstandings or confusion.
I personally do not have any conflicts of interest to declare. I believe my position as chair of the PSO policy committee is in no way a conflict of interest. I do not sit on the executive and am not privy to any information of the executive board agendas or topics, or the day to day decisions that get made.
If I have the privilege of being elected to the PSC, and in the absence of clear guidelines, I will step down from my position as chair. It is clearly the duty of any elected member to step down from a position that puts any association interests ahead of the fiduciary duty to their role on the PSC.
The role of the PSC is quite specific in its mandate to protect the public interest. One cannot and should not wear two hats.
Learn more about Paula Callaghan
Paralegal benchers may be asked to serve on working groups, panels and committees, in addition to the Paralegal Standing Committee. What special skills and experience would you bring to Convocation committees?
Visit the Candidates’ Q & A pages, to learn more about where SCOPE-listed Candidates stand on specific issues:
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