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Law Society of Upper Canada plays name game

Ahandful of supporters for a name change is coming out of the woodwork in advance of LSUC’s May 9 annual general meeting, where a proposal to rename the governing body the Ontario Law Society is to be debated.

Barrie Davis/The Globe and Mail/Barrie Davis/The Globe and Mail

Word that a group of federal government lawyers plans to suggest a name change for the Law Society of Upper Canada, updating its 171-year-out-of-date label, has the profession's establishment guffawing.

But it also has a handful of other supporters coming out of the woodwork in advance of LSUC's May 9 annual general meeting, where a proposal to rename the governing body the Ontario Law Society is to be debated.

Peterborough environmental lawyer David McRobert raised the name-change idea when he ran unsuccessfully to sit as an elected law society bencher on its governing board last year.

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He now says the law society, which recently took over the regulation of paralegals, should become "The Ontario Lawyer and Paralegal Regulatory Authority," or OLPRA. He acknowledges his proposed name lacks a certain poetry.

Mr. McRobert, who says he was booed in the 1980s when, as a student, he raised changing the name, has recently been getting in touch with other like-minded lawyers. He doesn't expect the name change to be approved this time, but predicts the society will one day drop its archaic label.

"It evokes this vitriol, that we are attacking tradition. But this is the tradition that you move on beyond," Mr. McRobert told Bar Talk, adding that Upper Canada historically did not include Northern Ontario and is too close for some to the name of the exclusive Toronto private school Upper Canada College.

"For aboriginal peoples and for ethnic minorities … they look at it and say, 'What is this, some kind of old boys' club?' " he said. " … It is a historical reference and we've moved beyond it."

Waiting for merger mania

So far, despite rumours and predictions, no major Canadian firm since Ogilvy Renault and Macleod Dixon merged with London-based Norton Rose Group has decided to join up with a global legal giant.

That has the first-movers somewhat surprised.

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Norman Steinberg, chairman of Norton Rose Canada, was named the first non-British group chairman of his firm's London-based parent this week. He said he thought others in Canada would have followed his firm's lead by now and merged with international giants.

"I think it's inevitable … I'm actually surprised we haven't seen it yet," Mr. Steinberg said in an interview after his appointment was announced this week.

"It's not one-size-fits-all. I don't think every single law firm two three years from now in Canada's going to be merged," he said. "Some law firms will stay in their present form … Other firms feel that because of who their clients are or whatever their business models are, they will need to merge."

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