Respecting the dignity of others: Lenny Abramowicz receives 2018 Law Society Medal Toronto
Lenny Abramowicz: Called to the Bar in 1987, Lenny Abramowicz has committed his career to Ontario’s community legal clinic system, starting with his articles in 1986 at the Parkdale Legal Clinic. For the past 30 years, he has worked tirelessly to promote access to justice and equality for low-income Ontarians. To all of his roles, Mr. Abramowicz brings respect for the dignity of others, be they tenants facing eviction, injured workers or government ministers.
In addition to serving as the Chair of the Alliance for Sustainable Legal Aid (ASLA) since 2011, he is the Executive Director of the Association of Community Legal Clinics of Ontario (ACLCO), an organization which he has been involved in from its inception nearly 20 years ago. He continues to bring enthusiasm, modesty and humility to all of his work.
What does this award mean to you?
“Although the Law Society sees this as a recognition of the individuals who were granted the Award, and I am appreciative of that recognition, I see it more as a validation by the Law Society of the type of work that I do, social justice advocacy, and a statement that the community clinic system that I do it through, is valuable and worthy of recognition. This is further illustrated by the fact that colleagues of mine, working in community clinics and other social justice organizations, have recently also been recognized by the Law Society.”
Fascinated by American radical lawyer Clarence Darrow, Mr. Abramowicz’s interest in becoming a lawyer to work towards social and economic justice, was sparked after attending a tenant meeting in Montreal. Although the meeting attendees were generally noisy and did not pay close attention to all the speakers, when the lawyer addressed the group, everyone stopped talking and listened to what she had to say. He realized then that being a lawyer could be a useful tool in working with others towards achieving equality.
Mr. Abramowicz is passionate about people coming together. “Humans are social beings and we always achieve greater things when we put our individual motivations aside and recognize the strength and the reward that comes from the collective effort.”
In his early career, he was involved in a number of test cases and law reform campaigns that helped the law in the areas of tenants’ rights and social benefits. The Association of Community Legal Clinics has become a strong force advocating community legal clinics for low-income communities.
As for what the future holds in his chosen profession, he sees that change is inevitable, particularly in a profession that maintains a monopoly on essential legal services for the public. Without change, he says the profession will be fractured or rendered irrelevant.
Mr. Abramowicz adds that his receipt of the Law Society Medal award is a message to others, “that a career in social justice is recognized and valued, and that it may open some doors to pursue the cause of legal aid, community clinics and communities we serve.” He also hopes to ensure lifetime access to the Law Society’s famous butter tarts.
The Law Society Medal was first struck in 1985 as an honour to be awarded to lawyers who have made significant contributions to the profession. Recipients are chosen for outstanding service within the profession — whether in the area of practice or in the academic sphere or in some other professional capacity where the service is in accordance with the highest ideals of the legal profession. It may awarded for devotion to professional duties over a long term, or for a single outstanding act of service.
This year, 10 exceptional members of the legal professions will be honoured with Law Society awards on May 23rd.