Know How

The blog of the Great Library

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When One Door Closes, Another Opens

Being as old as it is, it is no surprise that the Great Library at Osgoode Hall harbours many secrets. As we usher in spring (if it ever comes) with our guided library tours and with the City of Toronto event Doors Open, we hope to prepare all those who venture into the Library for the many mysteries they may encounter—and to open some doors of our own.

As grand and as impressive as it is, the Great Library did not always encompass over 20 rooms on three floors. In fact, the library was first built to be contained in a single room. Over the years it became clear that this would not be enough space and so the Library expanded, slowly but surely taking over unused and unsuspecting spaces. Needless to say, most of the rooms which now make up the Library were not originally intended to be used for such a purpose. This is especially evident in the stacks room located on the first floor.

At first, it may appear unassuming—sure, the book stacks may zig-zag through some tight spaces, but nothing truly out of the ordinary. Until, that is, we reach a seemingly ordinary door located at the far end of the room which opens to…

…another door. Which opens to…

…you guessed it—another door.

Now, this last set of doors does not lead to another set of doors, but to a very cold room with a high vaulted ceiling featuring a wall lined with many rectangular compartments.

We can hazard a guess or two on the purpose this room may have served. If we revisit the fact that the room which harbours this mysterious nook was not always a part of the Library, and combine that knowledge with the other clues that the Law Society of Ontario’s curator has discovered and reviewed in her post “It was a Dark and Stormy Night”, we can guess this room may at one point have acted as the vault for a stamp office.

Currently, this room is vacant, and only used by staff when the pages from our loose-leaf materials go missing and the need for a holding cell arises.

Oh, did I say that we had reached the end of the long line of doors?

Not quite. But this is one door that this Librarian does not have the courage (or strength) to open.

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First Time Tips: Going to Court

Leaving behind the familiar challenges of the academic arena for the professional world of legal practice can be a scary move.  While it is what your legal education has been working to prepare you for, there are other resources available that can help make the transition as smooth as possible.

The Student Issue of LAWPRO Magazine is devoted to preparing law students and new lawyers for the momentous and intimidating leap from the academic to the practice setting. From tips on how to avoid cyber dangers to advice on how to prepare for your first day in court—the latter being the feature of this post—LAWPRO Magazine: Student Issue has got you covered.

The First Timer’s Going to Court Cheat Sheet is an excellent resource that explains the ins and outs of court procedure—what to expect, when to expect it and what is expected from you—as well as the do’s and don’ts of counsel’s behaviour. This article offers advice on what to wear, where to stand, how to act and what to say in court. Need to reference courtroom etiquette and procedure in a pinch? Rely on this helpful Cheat Sheet.

And, of course, the Great Library is here to supplement whatever informational resources are available to you. Whether it’s to bolster the legal research skills you’ve developed in law school or to act as a guide through the simpler to more complex research, the library staff is here to help.

Photo of Brockville courtroom by P199

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Great Library Tours start May 1st

Find out how the Great Library can be your legal research lifeline!  If you’re a summer, articling or LPP student, taking a library orientation tour will introduce you to the many services and information resources available through the Great Library.

This is your chance to learn how you can:

  • access free electronic sources such as Westlaw, Lexis Advance Quicklaw, ProView and more
  • find current secondary sources on all areas of practice, from advocacy to zoning law
  • contact experienced and friendly library staff for research help or document delivery 

And it’s not all work, during our tours we also explore some of the history and architectural highlights of Osgoode Hall.

Tours run from May through September. For more information about the Great Library, visit our website. Schedule an orientation tour today by emailing us at

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Bencher Elections, Then and Now

This week marks the start of the Law Society of Ontario’s 2019 Bencher Election, in which the province’s lawyers and paralegals will elect the directors of their governing body, as known as benchers.

Bencher elections are held every four years in accordance with the procedures set out in the Law Society Act and By-Law 3. Here’s how it works in a nutshell… All lawyer and paralegal licensees whose licences are not suspended on April 5, 2019 are eligible to vote. Lawyers vote for 40 lawyer benchers, 20 from inside Toronto and 20 from the regions outside the city. Paralegals will elect five paralegal benchers from across the province. (This year’s election is the first in which lawyer and paralegal licensees will vote simultaneously.)

All eligible licensees will have received their voting instructions by email and can vote online or by telephone. Voting opened on Monday, April 15 and closes at 5:00 pm on Friday April 30.

The winners will be announced by press release and on the Law Society’s web site once the counting and tabulation of votes has been completed. And the newly elected benchers will take office on May 23, 2019, the first sitting of Convocation after the election.

While waiting for the 2019 results, here are some historical highlights of elections past.

From oligarchy to “ambitious incompetents”

For the first 74 years of its existence, the Law Society’s governing body was appointed rather than elected. The first benchers, senior members of the bar including the Attorney General and Solicitor General of the province who were appointed under the first Law Society Act of 1797, simply selected their successors as needed from within the same close-knit legal community. Since no term of office was specified in the act, appointments were for life.  

Growing pressure to democratize the profession’s governance and eventual government intervention led to changes in the late 1800s. In 1871, the government passed An Act to Make the Members of the Law Society of Ontario Elective by the Bar Thereof. The new legislation provided that all lawyers in good standing could elect 30 benchers to serve for a fixed term of 5 years.

The prospect of expanding the governance of the profession beyond the senior bar was not universally supported. An editorial of the day predicted that this change would lead to the election of “ambitious incompetents” rather than the best qualified men[i].

The road to democracy

Full democratization of bencher elections took time. When the first election was held in 1871, certain democratic elements were still missing. There was no formal nomination process, no slate of candidates to choose from and no secret ballot. The ballot form required a signature and in the first bencher elections the voting record of every member was recorded by the Secretary of the Law Society.[ii]

A nomination process was introduced in 1912. But it was not until a major overhaul of the Law Society Act in 1970 that election procedures were significantly changed. The 1970 revision provided for the adoption of a secret ballot, increased the number of elected benchers from 30 to 40 and decreased their term of office from 5 to 4 years. Regional representation was also introduced, so the 1971 bencher election was the first in which representation was spread between 20 benchers from Toronto and 20 from other regions of the province.  

Women Benchers

In 1975, Laura Louise Legge became the first woman elected bencher. She went on to become the first woman to serve as treasurer in 1983. From 1975 she sat as the sole elected woman bencher in Convocation until 2 two more women were elected in 1983. From here, the number of elected women benchers grew slowly, very slowly. In 2015, 19 of 45 lawyer and paralegal benchers were women. 

Getting out the vote

Voter turnout is a significant metric in any election, and a perennial issue in bencher elections. Despite an increasing Law Society membership, voter participation has declined steadily over the past decades, dropping from a high of 75% in 1961 to just over 33% in the last bencher election of 2015. Past voting statistics show that light voter turnout tends to favour incumbents.

This year in an effort to encourage greater voter turnout among recent calls, several candidates have launched an initiative pledging to make a charitable donation for every vote cast by a lawyer who was called to the bar in the past 10 years.

Need more information about the current bencher election?  

Bencher Election 2019 Voters’ Guides

(includes the names, bios and platforms of the 146 bencher hopefuls are running this year)

Bencher Election 2019 FAQs

Bencher Election 2019 (Law Times)

[i] “The Benchers of the Law Society”, (Jan 1870) Canada Law Journal, 1-4.

[ii] Roy Schaeffer & Lydia Potocnik, ““To Create A More Satisfactory Mode”: A Legislative Summary of the Rules Respecting Election of Benchers of The Law Society of Upper Canada, 1797-1990” (1990) 24 Law Society Gazette 196 at 200.

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Print or Electronic? It’s Your Choice

The Great Library now offers over 300 current Canadian legal titles in electronic form as well as in print. Searchable electronic versions of texts and loose leaf services on a broad range of legal topics can be accessed in the library through Thomson Reuters ProView, Lexis Advance Quicklaw and WestlawNext Canada.

How does this work?

If you’re a Law Society of Ontario licensee, articling student or LPP student, you can use your Great Library eResources barcode and password to log-in to these texts and loose leafs. But you need to be in the library to use these resources. Remote access is not available.

To find a specific text or loose leaf service, use the search bar on the Great Library home page. The catalogue entry for the book will tell you if an electronic version is available.

Here’s an example for a perennial favourite, the loose-leaf service The Law of Costs by Orkin.The library offers this title in both hard copy and electronic formats. If you’re using the catalogue within the library, clicking on the  View Online  link will take you to a log-in page and then directly into the electronic version of the book.

Alternatively, you can log-in to one of the library’s online services, such as Thomson Reuters eLooseleafs on ProView. Then search within the collection for a specific title or browse by subject.

If you need log-in instructions, or help in finding or using any of the Great Library’s eResources, email us at