Janet Fuhrer - Candidate for 2nd Vice-President, CBA – Platform

 Accessibility of the CBA by members for members:

      Change leadership – benefit and support

      Professional development and mentoring – innovative, modernized, creative

      Access to justice –multi-faceted strategy

      Equality/inclusion/retention – encourage

      Volunteer experience - maximize

Change Leadership

The CBA needs to be a change leader to support its members in the face of challenges and changes facing all professions including the practice of law (increasing demand for commoditization or tariff/flat fee services; decreasing quality of practice life; impact of “social media”; ongoing retention/inclusion issues and demands by corporate clients in this area; rise of the self-represented litigant or participant; and declining number of articling positions for new law graduates, among others). How accessible or top of mind are we as an association of choice to lawyers in Canada? How responsive are we to our members’ needs? Our priority for the foreseeable future needs to be what benefit and support we offer lawyers and law students in Canada.

Professional Development and Mentoring

As Chair of the CBA Professional Development Committee, I am pleased to inform you that we will be making innovative and modernized changes to the professional development component of the Canadian Legal Conference in response to feedback from members regarding content, delivery, length of programs and number of offerings. Our focus will be on the how as much as on the what. We will be looking to ensure that professional development aligns not only with the new Strategic Plan but also with the new fee structure. Consistency in accreditation also is a goal.

Mentoring can help address the generation gap. This also is an area where change leadership is necessary, especially in the face of changing attitudes about work and the role of work in one’s life. It can be a valuable tool for attracting new members and encouraging existing members to achieve and fulfill leadership roles. In outlying or more remote reaches of our country, mentoring can be valuable for succession planning. Many lawyers practise in areas of law which reach outside provincial and territorial boundaries. Having a larger pool of mentors to draw on in niche areas is invaluable. Mentoring can be as finely tuned as our creativity or necessity can envision. A national mentoring committee would benefit and support lawyers and law students across Canada.

Access to Justice

This is a complex area requiring a multi-faceted strategy which will preoccupy the CBA for many years, hence the vital role played by the CBA Access to Justice standing committee. A significant access to justice issue is the self-represented litigant or participant. Certainly this situation represents a loss of revenue for lawyers but more importantly, it clogs the system, signifies a lack of knowledge/value added by lawyers and partially is a result of the recession. Also affordability and availability of not only legal services but also legal education, particularly in more remote areas of the country, fall under this wide umbrella. An article caught my attention in the August 4, 2012 edition of The Ottawa Citizen newspaper. Doctors and nurses who practise in rural communities of fewer than 50,000 people will have part of their Canada student loan forgiven - $8,000 per year to a maximum of $40,000 over five years for doctors and $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000 over five years for nurses. A similar program for lawyers would be beneficial.


A recent Touchstones Newsletter contained an article by Rebecca Bromwich about the NAWL (National Association of Women Lawyers) Survey. Though U.S. based, the results of the latest survey are discouraging about the progress of women lawyers, particularly in the large firms (200) which were part of the survey. At the CLC in Vancouver, members were asked and voted resoundingly to recommit to certain equality goals and objectives including with respect to CBA leadership. In 2014, the CBA in more or less its current form, will be about 100 years old. The current 2nd Vice-President, who will be President then, will be only our 6th woman President and we have not had two successive women Presidents (in this century). Women are but one underrepresented group among CBA leadership. Our association needs to encourage more diverse leadership and to guide our members in addressing inequality in the profession.

Volunteer Experience

We need to maximize the volunteer experience to ensure continuity and succession and to reverse the trend of fewer volunteers/volunteer hours. The modified fee structure means that prioritization is critical as is finding creative ways to do the same or more for members with less. On the professional development side, online programming (“Live Access Web” or LAW) provides more speaking opportunities for volunteers, while at the same time reaches more members than many in person programs. Expanded recognition of volunteer contributions should be considered. Time for fun (Great Big Sea, Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor, Jann Arden, Randy Bachman, late night bashes) enhances the volunteer experience.


My extensive involvement with the CBA began with the National Intellectual Property Law Section in the early to mid 1990s. I eventually chaired the Section (and was a member of CBA Council at that time) and went on to chair the National Sections Council for two years. The NSC is one of the larger CBA constituencies and, along with Conferences, one the main sources of PD and advocacy for the CBA. During my two-year tenure as NSC Chair, I served on the CBA Board and Finance Committee as well as CBA Council. Presently, I chair the Professional Development Committee. I also have held a significant position within the Ontario Bar Association – Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee for three years. I am an elected member of OBA Council and am a member of the OBA Strategic Planning and Membership committees. I have participated in the Mentoring program as a mentor for 4 years.

I volunteer for other associations, notably the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada, a national professional association, of which I was President 2010-2011.

I have been in private practice for more than 25 years and an equity partner for more than half that time.

Thank you for your participation and for considering my candidacy!