Several candidates in the Law Society of Ontario’s bencher election say they will donate a sum of money for every lawyer who was called to the bar in the past decade and casts a ballot.
Caryma Sa’d, founder and principal at the Law Office of Caryma Sa’d, who is running for bencher, says she is spearheading the campaign with fellow candidate Sean Robichaud, lead counsel and founder at Robichaud’s Criminal Lawyers.
The pair announced on April 1 a new website advertising their push to get younger lawyers involved in voting.
Several other candidates — Douglas Judson, E. Patrick Shea, Deepa Tailor and Billeh Hamud — have also pledged to donate a sum for every vote cast by a recent call.
In addition to a donation to a charitable cause, the website says the named candidates will make “a commitment to advancing a recent call category of bencher.”
“The idea is: How do we get recent calls, who are a particularly underrepresented in terms of votes — which then translates into underrepresentation in terms of presence — how do we make them feel like their vote matters?” says Sa’d.
Sa’d says each candidate has chosen their own charity to patronize, including Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Cannabis Amnesty, Pro Bono Ontario, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario and Black Action Legal Centre.
The amount each candidate is donating per vote ranges from five cents per vote to 20 cents per vote, the website said when it launched.
Voters do not have to reach out to candidates or prove they voted a certain way — Sa’d says the group will use the data released by the LSO after the election to determine the voter turnout in each age group. Sa’d says she isn’t sure if a similar initiative has been launched before but says there is no LSO rule prohibiting the donations.
The website, http://www.recentcallsvote.org/, did not, as press time, detail the positions of each candidate on issues such as law education, licensure or support for early-career lawyers. However, several of the candidates have individually spoken out on social media, advocating to help younger lawyers pay for robes, shrink law school tuition or for a designated bencher position for new calls.
Sa’d says other candidates can join the initiative.
The bencher election ends on April 30 and will determine the board of directors that regulate Ontario’s lawyers. The election comes amid Convocation’s considerations of issues that affect young lawyers, such as licensure reform.
Rocco Galati, a Toronto-based lawyer and bencher seeking re-election, raised issues with the proposed recent call initiative, tweeting that it “amounts to vote-buying by any other name.”
Despite questions from online commenters, Sa’d — whose candidacy has been endorsed by Galati — says the candidates involved in the reached out to the LSO and confirmed it is within the rules. In an e-mail to Law Times, Robichaud noted that donations are voluntary and independent of whether a candidate is elected, and voting is anonymous.
“If the result is that more recent calls vote and a sizeable donation is made to charitable legal organizations, that is a controversy I will readily embrace,” he said.