Know How

The blog of the Great Library

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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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New Books for Spring

Here’s a selection of recent additions to our print collection:  

Cannabis in the Workplace by Gilmore. KF 3540 G55 2018 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

This text provides guidance for employers facing challenges brought about by cannabis legalization. It covers areas of concern such as human rights, privacy, health and safety and impairment testing. References to relevant legislation and case law, as well as sample privacy and workplace policies are also included.

Employment Law for Paralegals by Romano & Filsinger. KF 3320 .ZB3 R66 2018 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

Written specifically for paralegals, Employment Law for Paralegals offers substantive overviews of labour law, employment law, human rights and the new changes made to the Employment Standards Act in 2018. This text was created with the specific scope of paralegal practice in mind when speaking to the administration of legal services involving: the employment contract, privacy in the workplace, tort law, dismissal without cause, and more.

Fitness to Stand Trial: Fairness First & Foremost by Schneider & Bloom. KF 9242 S35 2018 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

This book explores a legal issue that affects mental health practitioners and criminal courts daily: fitness to stand trial. Whether it involves fitness assessments, psychiatric reports or fitness hearings, Fitness to Stand Trial: Fairness First and Foremost helps navigate the complex and sometimes unsettled dynamics of the Fitness Rules. With chapters on the “Unfit to Stand Trial” test, psychiatric aspects of fitness, assessing fitness to stand trial, trial of the issues of fitness and more, this text helps to interpret this common but at times convoluted legal issue.

The Fundamentals of Statutory Interpretation by Hutchison. KF 425 H88 2018 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

This book provides an accessible analysis of Canadian statutory interpretation, structured around Driedger’s modern principle. It covers the foundations of statutory interpretation, textual and contextual meaning and also includes separate in-depth chapters on legislative history and intent, temporal application of statutes, judicial review and constitutional interpretation.

Law for Healthcare Providers by Nelson & Ogbogu. KF 3821 N44 2018 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

Acting as a primer of sorts for Canadian health care providers and their students, Law for Health Care Providers provides overviews of areas of health law which concern: indigenous peoples, medical negligence, consent, medical records, organ and tissue donation, end of life care and health research. This book mainly deals with Canadian common law jurisdictions. 

Prosecuting and Defending Offences Against Children: A Practitioner’s Handbook by Joyal et al. KF 9323 J69 2019 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

The latest title in the Criminal Law Series is a valuable resource for both Crown and defence counsel dealing with cases of sexual abuse and other offences against children. Differences in the way children and adults interact with the criminal justice system are examined, and procedural considerations, such as children as witnesses, testimonial aids, disclosure and expert evidence and sentencing, are covered. The text is clearly laid out and includes ample case references.

Surrogacy in Canada: Critical Perspectives in Law and Policy edited by Gruben et al. KF 3830 S94 2018 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

In wake of the proposal of major reforms to the regulatory framework of surrogacy, Surrogacy in Canada: Critical Perspectives in Law and Policy explores the challenges associated with the regulation of surrogacy today. Addressing such issues as surrogate autonomy, lack of empirical research, the internationalization of surrogacy and the need for effective and responsive law and policy, this book offers a critical perspective on the governance and experience of surrogacy in Canada while making recommendations for change.

Taxation of Cannabis in Canada by Tomlinson. KF 6624 .M37 C36 2018 / Practice Collection, 2nd Floor.

This handbook covers taxation and regulation of recreational cannabis across all Canadian jurisdictions.  Appendices contain the text of relevant federal legislation, CRA forms and notices, as well as a sample calculation of federal and provincial cannabis duty.  

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Je ne parle pas français: Tips for finding English versions of French language case law

Few things are more frustrating than finding your “golden case”—the case that will answer all your questions, solve all your problems and surely render opposing counsel speechless—only to realize you cannot understand a word of it because it’s been reported in French (and, well, you don’t speak French). While the search for English translations of case law reported in French is not entirely hopeless, it can be a challenge.

Unless the decision has been reported in an official court reporter or published in a bilingual jurisdiction, it is most likely the decision has only been reported in the language in which it was argued. Nevertheless, there are several pathways to take before admitting defeat.

To double-check if there is a translated version of a Canadian decision, search by style of clause (name of the case) on:

  • Lexis Advance Quicklaw
  • WestlawNext Canada
  • CanLII

If these resources do possess a translated version of the case in question, you’ll see an “English” link on the French case, or you’ll notice the case is shown as being reported twice in the same database (one in English, the other in French).

Another source worth consulting is SOQUIJ, the body that publishes Quebec judicial and administrative tribunal decisions.  Although limited in scope, its free database of Translated Decisions offers unofficial English translations of selected decisions from the Quebec Court of Appeal, Quebec Superior Court, Court of Quebec, Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, Quebec Professions Tribunal, the Ministère de la Justice of Quebec and the Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal.

Lastly, some of us at the Great Library have had luck searching for translated versions of cases by using CanLII on Google Chrome. When using CanLII and Google Chrome in tandem, a pop-up window which reads, “Translate this page?” appears. After clicking the “Translate” button, an unofficial English translation of the French case is presented.