Anita’s Election Platform

Dear Colleague,

Let me start by apologizing for clogging up your in-box. I know you have been inundated with bencher candidates seeking your support. In my defence, I’ll point out that email is the environmentally friendly choice and has the side-benefit of being something a legal aid practitioner working in a small law office can almost afford to do.

If you can spare a few minutes of your time, I’ll make it worth your while.

WHO I AM

I am heading into my 20th year of practising law, almost exclusively on behalf of people with serious mental health issues, in the criminal and civil law context. I am now a partner in a two-lawyer firm. All my clients are legally aided. I have two young kids, ages eight and five. My spouse Roy is from Pakistan. I am a Hungarian Jew.

I am committed to equity in the profession and access to justice for all! I am fighting for legal aid, the first thing we must solve. My candidacy for Law Society bencher is the best path to that immediate end goal. I promise to give it my all, by giving you all a voice, but first I have to get in. So to that end, I must humbly ask for your vote.

HOW YOU KNOW I’M A SOLID CANDIDATE

I am enormously proud to have the endorsement of the Criminal Lawyer’s Association and the Mental Health Legal Committee as well as countless fabulous members of our bar. Visit my blog at http://content.dynamicmessenger.com/cornerstone/?00oKXhETuGHRMl3WIs2-gEjKLxPwy73N0&https://anitaszigeti.wordpress.com to read the full text of those endorsements and a selected list of my professional activities.

WHO SHOULD VOTE FOR ME AND WHY

Women and Moms

Whether you are a Mom or might one day become one or do not plan on parenting at all, I know your challenges. For one thing, I am a woman. I know what it’s like to be a young female member of our bar and to have my advocacy discounted for that reason alone.

It is inexcusable that such deep-seated discrimination still exists. Add to that when women do become mothers, they are leaving the profession in droves. I took eight days off after the birth of my first child. This is not something I’m proud of. It’s something that I wish I had not had to endure.

The Law Society has to take responsibility for doing whatever is necessary to allow women to parent and practise!

Sole Practitioners and Small Law Office Lawyers

Sixty-five percent of the 43,000 lawyers in Ontario who are in private practice are working in law firms of five or fewer lawyers. I understand your challenges. I started out working for a sole practitioner (the late great Marc T. Huber) and then was a sole practitioner for eight years myself.

I now work in a two-lawyer firm. I know what it’s like to bind your own books for Court late at night, to send them on the bus for filing in another town, to do your own billing, answer your own phones, type your own letters. You want someone who knows how hard it is to make a living, fighting for you in Convocation.

Legal Aid Practitioners and Clinic Lawyers

Every day I struggle to represent poor people competently within the confines of my legal aid retainer, knowing that at the end of the day, I will have donated much of my time.

I work often in concert with clinic lawyers, who I know are stretching minimal resources to address constantly increasing demands. Everyone’s exhausted all the time, and that’s before we get to the point where we begin to do battle, at least on the certificate side, in trying to get paid for even part of the services we’ve rendered.

Clients are getting exceptional advocacy for a shockingly low price-tag in this province. At the same time, inexplicably, legal aid lawyers face administrative burdens and hurdles in getting authority to act as professional standards mandate and in justifying disbursements legitimately incurred in the course of representing the clients. We are dangerously close in this province to forcing good lawyers to provide less than the reasonable standard of practice requires of us, all in the name of “cost-cutting” or “efficiency.”

The situation is intolerable and cannot be permitted to continue. It is the problem of the whole of the profession and the Law Society’s responsibility to remedy.

Lawyers from Diverse Communities and New Lawyers

My practice serves clients from all walks of life and every imaginable ethno-racial background as well as members of the LGBTTTQQI (Google it!) community. My children are part Scottish, Indian, Pakistani, Portuguese, Italian, Hungarian Jews who have a French last name. If my children were to graduate law school, I would want them to continue as members of the practising bar.

Currently, we are unable to retain ethno-racial lawyers in the profession in appropriately reflective numbers in Toronto (where fully one half of the population now self-identifies as “not white”) in particular. Opportunities for young lawyers must be broadened to accommodate the varied interests new lawyers have, without bankrupting them by ensuring they remain crippled with student debt if they work for marginalized vulnerable clients.

Foreign-Trained Lawyers

Wait a minute, you can’t vote, can you? That’s your issue and I’m prepared to fight for you. My mother is a foreign-trained physician. Our family practically starved while she jumped through archaic hoops to requalify. There’s got to be an easier way. Together, we’ll find it.

Everyone Else

Don’t you want knowledgeable competent energetic new people involved in governance? There is no reasonable objection to broadening this field. Your support of my candidacy will pay dividends for years to come. Four to be exact, for starters!

I promise to listen and act based on the voices of lawyers who need our Law Society to matter to us every day in every way it should do, is not now doing, but can.

Thanking you for your time and vote,

Anita Szigeti
anita.szigeti.bencher2011@gmail.com

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About anitaszigeti

• Called to the Bar (1992) • U of T Law grad (1990) • Sole practitioner (8 years) • Partner in small law firm (Hiltz Szigeti) since 2002 • Mom to two astonishing kids, Scarlett (8) and Sebastian (5) • (Founding) Chair of Mental Health Legal Committee for nine years (1997 to 2006) • Counsel to clients with serious mental health issues before administrative tribunals and on appeals • Former Chair, current member of LAO’s mental health law advisory committee • Educator, lecturer, widely published author (including text book on consent and capacity law) • Fifteen years’ experience as counsel to almost exclusively legally aided clients • Frequently appointed amicus curiae • Fearless advocate • Not entirely humourless
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