Law Society presents 14 awards to outstanding lawyers and paralegals

Annual Awards Ceremony recognizes and celebrates exceptional achievements and contributions

TORONTO, May 26, 2016 /CNW/ - Members of Ontario's legal professions were recognized for their exceptional career achievements and contributions to their communities at the annual Law Society Awards ceremony held on May 25, 2016, at Osgoode Hall.

"The Law Society Awards are presented each year to lawyers and paralegals whose service reflects the highest ideals of the legal professions," says Law Society Treasurer Janet E. Minor. "All of this year's 14 recipients are outstanding professionals from the private sector, public sector and academia. We are all very proud to have them as colleagues. The various communities they serve are greatly enriched by their vision, commitment and leadership."

The awards presented included: The Law Society Medal, The Lincoln Alexander Award, The Laura Legge Award, The William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award and the inaugural The J. Shirley Denison Award.

The following brief biographies highlight the achievements of the 2016 recipients.

Law Society Medal recipients (10)
Jennifer Babe, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1982, Jennifer Babe is a solicitor at Miller Thomson LLP. She exemplifies leadership in the profession through her work with her clients, her teaching, her writing, pro bono legal services and community service. As chair of Miller Thomson's pro bono committee, Babe leads by example in donating numerous hours to the development of two projects in conjunction with Ryerson University and Pro Bono Law Ontario.  

Ronda Bessner, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1983, Ronda Bessner has led an extraordinary career as a lawyer and has made significant contributions to Ontario and its legal community through her leadership and involvement in the Women's Law Association, as well as her leadership in serving the people of Ontario in five public inquiries. She is also a Visiting Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and recently co-designed and co-chaired a pre-inquiry roundtable on Canada's missing and murdered Indigenous women. She is also an adjudicator on the Consent and Capacity Board.

Ronald F. Caza, Ottawa — Called to the Bar in 1989, Ronald Caza, a renowned minority language rights advocate, has been practising law in both official languages for over 25 years. A partner of CazaSaikaley LLP, he has made significant contributions to the Franco-Ontarian community, not only as a lawyer, but also through his assiduous work with countless community organizations and charities.  

Orlando Da Silva, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1995, Orlando Da Silva, during his presidency of the Ontario Bar Association, successfully brought the issues of mental illness and mental health to the forefront of the profession. He has shown extraordinary courage by sharing his personal experience and struggles with depression. Da Silva is counsel in the Crown Law Office – Civil, Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario.

David Estrin, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1971, David Estrin is recognized as a true pioneer in the development of environmental law in Canada and internationally through his work as a lawyer, author, mentor and educator. A former senior partner, he is now counsel with Gowlings LLP and senior research fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation. David's personal commitment to the protection of the environment led to the creation of CELA (Canadian Environmental Law Association) in 1970, Canada's first law clinic dedicated to such issues.

Linda Gehrke, Toronto Called to the Bar in 1979, Linda Gehrke has been a leader in the profession throughout her 35 years as a lawyer, adjudicator, and in her work as the Lobbyist Registrar for the City of Toronto, where she was responsible for implementing the first municipal lobbyist registry. Gehrke has played key role in expanding accountability and transparency in Toronto's government processes and this has served as a role model for other jurisdictions.

Kathy Laird, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1979, Kathy Laird has dedicated her entire professional life/career to the improvement of the lives of those most marginalized in Ontario. She has been a leader in developing law reform proposals, speciality community clinics, legislative amendments and other legal initiatives to serve the most vulnerable. Since 2008, Laird has been the Executive Director of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, overseeing the establishment and development of a unique and valuable legal service for human rights claimants. 

Professor Errol Mendes, O.Ont., Ottawa — Called to the Bar in 1986, the University of Ottawa professor has made an extraordinary contribution as an academic, legal advisor, adjudicator and teacher. He is recognized as an expert on constitutional law, corporate governance, human rights and diversity. As commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Mendes has helped to develop several of the Commission's new approaches to combating systemic discrimination in Ontario.  

Peter Rosenthal, Toronto Called to the Bar in 1992, Peter Rosenthal has devoted his legal career to striving to increase social justice. He has represented homeless people, members of First Nations, dozens of political activists, small political parties, families of victims of police killings and many others. Rosenthal is also Professor Emeritus of Mathematics and Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Toronto.

Professor Frederick Zemans, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1966, Professor Frederick Zemans is a distinguished member of the Faculty of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and a pioneer in the field of Alternative Dispute Resolution. He was the founding director of the Parkdale Community Legal Service clinic. Established in 1971, the clinic was a ground-breaking initiative in the legal profession. Zemans pioneered the experiential training of law students who provided legal services to low-income residents. The initiative was part of Osgoode's Intensive Program in Poverty Law.

William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award recipient
John Tzanis, Toronto — Licensed in 2008, John Tzanis is recognized for his leadership in the paralegal profession. He led the successful unification of the two provincial paralegal professional associations, leading to the establishment of the Ontario Paralegal Association. Tzanis is recognized for his extensive contributions on paralegal issues with colleges, the provincial government, and the Law Society. He is the owner and operator of Continental Legal Services Professional Corporation.

Lincoln Alexander Award recipient
Mary Lou Dingle, Q.C., Hamilton — Called to the Bar in 1964, Mary Lou Dingle is recognized for her lifetime of service to the Hamilton community through her outstanding community involvement and volunteerism. She is a trailblazer, mentor and role model to countless lawyers in Hamilton and beyond. As a solicitor, she has a high level of expertise and knowledge of estates and trusts.

Laura Legge Award recipient
Lisa Borsook, Toronto — Called to the Bar in 1982, Lisa Borsook has demonstrated extraordinary achievement and leadership throughout her career as managing partner and now as executive partner at WeirFoulds LLP. Borsook is one of the first of few women to be named managing partner of a large law firm in Ontario. She is recognized for her contributions and advocacy of diversity and women in the legal profession, as well as her work on other boards and service in the community.

J. Shirley Denison Award recipient
Jenny Vuay Quan, Toronto — Licensed in 2012, paralegal Jenny Vuay Quan is the inaugural recipient of the J. Shirley Denison Award. Quan has served for more than 28 years as a Community Legal Worker for the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. For almost three decades, she has helped thousands of clients, many of whom are disadvantaged and suffer from mental illness and trauma.

Individual photos are available upon request.

The Law Society regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario in the public interest. The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario and act in a timely, open and efficient manner.

SOURCE The Law Society of Upper Canada

Image with caption: "Law Society Treasurer Janet E. Minor (middle, front) congratulates recipients of the 2016 Law Society Medal (LSM), and four other special Law Society awards, at the annual ceremony held on May 25. Shown here, from left to right, front: Jenny Vuay Quan (J. Shirley Denison Award); Lisa Borsook (Laura Legge Award); Treasurer Minor; John Tzanis (William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award); and Mary Lou Dingle, Q.C. (Lincoln Alexander Award). Back row, left to right: Ronald F. Caza (LSM); Jennifer E. Babe (LSM); Kathy Laird (LSM); Orlando Da Silva (LSM); Prof. Frederick Zemans (LSM); Ronda Bessner (LSM); Peter Rosenthal (LSM); Linda Gehrke (LSM); Prof. Errol Mendes, O.Ont. (LSM) and David Estrin (LSM). (CNW Group/The Law Society of Upper Canada)". Image available at:

For further information: Media Contact: Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor,, 416-947-7605; The Law Society of Upper Canada, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M5H 2N6, Follow us on Twitter @LawsocietyLSUC


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