One of Canada's most prominent class-action lawyers is planning to give up the practice of law to pursue a more "pressing" issue.
Dimitri Lascaris, a partner and securities lawyer at Siskinds LLP in London, Ont., has been appointed justice critic in the Green Party of Canada's so-called shadow cabinet, the political party announced Monday in a news release. He will try to influence the repeal of Canada's Anti-terrorism Act, known as Bill C-51, and help to make justice more affordable and accessible to Canadians. He beings his new role immediately.
For Mr. Lascaris, 52, who is known for successfully defending the interests of shareholders against some of the country's largest companies, this marks the next phase in his evolution away from the law profession. In last year's federal election, he ran as the Green Party candidate in the riding of London West. He finished fourth, garnering 2.8 per cent of the vote. Then in December, he said he would be reducing his workload at Siskinds to a handful of sizable cases – including lawsuits against Manulife Financial Corp. and SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. – so he could earmark more of his time to environmental causes.
Mr. Lascaris has decided to enter the political fray on his quest to find meaning after doing "pretty much all I can do" as a legal advocate for investor protection. He now has a much broader scope in mind.
"Investor rights, as critically important as they are to the capital markets, aren't the most pressing issue of our time. The most pressing issue of our time is climate change," he said during a telephone interview. "A relatively small proportion of the public is actually invested to a significant degree in the capital markets, but we are all impacted by climate change."
He recalled how he became interested in the environment back in November, 2007, after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its landmark fourth report about the risks of human-induced global warming.
At Siskinds, Mr. Lascaris has gone after deep-pocketed corporations, filing class actions on behalf of investors who believe they have been wronged by companies, officers or directors who manipulated stock prices. He was once a corporate securities lawyer with Sullivan & Cromwell LLP in New York.
"I will be devoting some time – a limited amount of time – to the practice of law, for the time being," he said. "I don't ever intend to return to full-time practice."