Candidate for Bencher, Law Society of Ontario



Robert obtained his law degree at the University of Windsor after attaining a Master of Arts from Wilfrid Laurier University. He was called to the Bar in 2006.


He is the principal of Shawyer Family Law and Mediation PC. Robert regularly speaks at Continuing Professional Development seminars focusing on family law hosted by the various Toronto area Courthouse Bench and Bar Committees, the law Society of Ontario and the Ontario Bar Association.

In 2016 through 2018 Robert was lead counsel for the Applicant Mother in the seminal family law case, Coates v. Watson, which focused on the issue of whether Ontario Child Support Law as it was written prior to December 14, 2017 was discriminatory. Due to Robert’s advocacy Ontario’s child support law was declared discriminatory and Ontario child support legislation was amended on December 14, 2017 to allow for ongoing and indefinite child support for disabled children born to unmarried parents who have separated.

The Coates case has been extensively written about in the Toronto Star and other publications such as the Law Times beginning on November 19, 2017 in an Article by the Toronto Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten entitled “The Son, the Father and the Law”. Since acting as lead counsel Robert has acted as counsel in numerous other case involving disabled child and the issue of ongoing child support, which has led to the development of the body of caselaw in Ontario that is used to determine when a disable child is entitled to child support and the amount of child support that disabled children are entitled to on an ongoing basis.

In addition to his work in the Coates case Robert has a wealth of family law experience representing clients at all levels of Court in Ontario including the Ontario Court of Justice and Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and the Court of Appeal.

In 2014 and 2016 respectively Robert was trained and accredited as Collaborative Family Law lawyer and a Certified Family Law Mediator. As a result Robert’s practice focuses on building partnerships with his clients by using their knowledge of themselves and their family and combining it with his expertise in the area of family law, negotiation and settlement advocacy to support and empower clients to reach solutions that meet their short-term and long-term goals.

Aside from managing his practice Robert is also a graduate of the Rotman Independent Corporate Director's Not For Profit Governance Program. Robert currently sits as a public member of on the Council of the College of Dental Technologists of Ontario ("CDTO").

When Robert is not pursuing his interest in the area of family law and managing a boutique law firm focused on Family Law and Mediation, he is a proud parent of two rambunctious children, a mentor to younger lawyer, an avid golfer and veracious reader when not spending time at the gym.



If elected Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario my priorities over the next four years will be as follows:

  1. Ensuring that a robust and properly funded Pro Bono program thrives across Ontario; and

  2. Working with Legal Aid Ontario and the Government of Ontario to ensure a robust and well-funded legal aid system is in place that provides access to legal services not only for the most disadvantaged but also for those Ontarian's who work but can not afford legal services without assistance.

Pro Bono

Pro Bono Levy

In order to ensure Pro Bono Ontario’s sustained and ongoing funding I will propose and support a motion that will see $25 of each member’s dues contributed towards PBO’s annual Budget.


Governance Reform

Good Governance is a journey without end. In order to ensure that Convocation fulfills it primary function, protecting the public and strengthening public trust of the legal profession, Convocation needs to be reformed. If elected Bencher I will propose and support the following reforms to Convocation. 

Proactive Regulation

  • The Law Society of Ontario must be proactive in order to strengthen public trust. The participation of the profession in regulation is the core of self-regulation.

Smaller - more Responsive

  • A smaller convocation intentionally structured to bring different perspectives, composed of members possessing the required governance competencies, and provided with additional perspectives through feedback from Advisory Groups and stakeholder engagement, will be able to raise and discuss these diverse perspectives more effectively.

Appoint of Members of Convocation

  • Members of Convocation selected based on having the competencies required to be a member of a Regulatory body. Doing this will ensure that all members are appointed to Convocation in the same way. Doing so builds mutual respect as each member has met the same expectations and gone through the same process to join the board.


  • Create a mandatory “boot camp” for people interested in participating on the board or committees that would support potential board and committee members understanding the voluntary roles they are considering and the requirements needed to serve. It would mean that once appointed, they would begin the orientation process with a basic understanding of the roles and expectations.

Appointments Process

  • Create a Nominating Committee that will recommend appointments for directors and committee members who are not directors, and address succession planning for those roles. To bring broad perspectives, the committee will include directors and individuals who are not directors.


  • Create a Governance Committee made up of directors whose role is to support the board in remaining attentive to changes in governance, steer evaluation processes, support the board in identifying the competencies, and recommend the appointments of board and committee leadership.

Member Engagement

  • Engage members of the bar through governance mechanism such as advisory groups, consultations and a more engaging quality assurance program instead of elections in which few members vote. An election process sets up an expectation of, and perception of, a representational role, which is not the role of members of Convocation. The role of the members of Convocation is to serve and protect the public not represent the bar.



  • An emerging practice in governance is advisory groups that are established by the board to bring different perspectives. They report directly to the board. Appointment rather than election of board members supports diversity.

Questions & Answers

Something Law Society of Ontario (LSO) does not do that it should start doing:

  • The promotion of Pro Bono by the Bar; and 

  • Governance Reform through the implementation of light touch regulation 


Something the LSO does that it should stop doing:

  • Public Advertising 

Improving Access to Justice

  • In order to improve access to justice the LSO needs to ensure Pro Bono Ontario’s sustained and ongoing funding. As a bencher, I will propose and support a motion that will see $25 of each member’s dues contributed towards PBO’s annual Budget. 


Entity-Based Regulation

  • I do not support and as a bencher would not support entity based regulation. The legal profession is already overly regulated. Adding another layer of regulation would add yet another barrier to entry to lawyers who intend on and want to practice either in a sole or small firm.


Alternative Business Structures

  • I would support alternative business structures that would allow licensees to enter into partnerships or other types of arrangements with other professionals such as accountants, etc...


Cost of Legal Education​

  • The Law Society has no authority or jurisdiction to regulate the tuition charged by Law Schools in Ontario. However, I agree with Orlando Da Silva that something the LSO could do is partner with willing law schools to create incentives for law schools to provide transition training to its students.


Pathways to Licensing​

  • The time has come for the LSO to implement a one size fits all set of exams that each candidate seeking to obtain a licensee to practice from the LSO would have to pass. 


Thoughts on LSO Funding Priorities

  • The LSO has expanded into many areas that fall outside it core mandate, which is to regulate the profession in a manner that protects the public. I therefore again agree with my fellow candidate Orlando Da Silva that there should be a line-by-line review of its expenditures with a view to eliminating unnecessary and duplicative costs if it is not already being done.


Statement of Principles Obligation

  • The Statement of Principles have been debated and duly approved and passed by Convocation. 


Duty of Technology Competence

  • Licensees have a responsibility to provide the public with legal services at a cost that they can afford no matter their income level. Therefore, each licensee has an obligation to be proficient in the use of technology.  


Reconciliation and Indigenous Communities

  • The LSO has an obligation to support reconciliation. The LSO also has an obligation continue its outreach to the various indigenous communities across Ontario. Finally, the LSO has an obligation to work with the various indigenous communities across Ontario on access to justice initiatives and encourage indigenous enrollment in law school.


Advertising and Fee Arrangements

  • The current advertising rules are effective and should be kept in place. However, referral fees should be banned, especially in the area of real estate law.


Diversity and Inclusivity Priorities

  • The LSO is on the right track in regards increasing diversity and inclusion.


Unbundled Legal Service Delivery​

  • I fully support licensees providing unbundled legal services. So long as mandatory training for licensees is in place that the licensee is required to take prior to being able to offer unbundled legal services to the public.


Should the LSO be in the CPD business?

  • No. Associations such as the OBA and FOLA should deliver continuing Professional Development to licensees.


Improving Mental Health

  • I support the current program that has been put in place by the LSO. However, I believe that the LSO can and should do more to promote the utilization of the Lawyer's Assistance Program.


How can the LSO support licensees?

  • Reduce the amount of regulation by transitioning to a light touch regulatory governance scheme similar to the College of Nurses Vision 2020 proposal. 


Thoughts on specific enhancements to licensing system

  • The implementation of a one size fits all set of exams that each candidate seeking to obtain a licensee to practice from the LSO would have to pass. 


Should local law libraries be staffed?

  • I support the funding of staffed local law libraries



OBA Board/Council

  • 2014 – 2016   Member, OBA Board of Directors

  • 2011 – 2016   Member, OBA Council – Toronto Representative


OBA Committees

  • 2014 – 2016   Chair, OBA Professional Development Committee

  • 2013 – 2014   Chair, OBA Pro Bono Sub-Committee

  • 2013 – 2016   Committee Member, OBA Finance Committee

  • 2014 – 2016   Committee Member, OBA Institute Committee

  • 2014 – 2015   Committee Member, OBA Alternative Business Structures Working Group (ABS)

  • 2014 – 2015   Committee Member, OBA Pro Bono Sub-Committee

  • 2013 – 2015   Committee Member, OBA Predatory Marriages Working Group

  • 2012 – 2013   Committee Member, OBA Strategic Planning Committee

  • 2012 – 2013   Committee Member, OBA Justice Effectiveness Taskforce

  • 2012 – 2013   Committee Member, OBA LSUC Rules of Professional Conduct Committee

  • 2012 – 2013   Committee Member, OBA Pro Bono Taskforce

OBA Sections

  • 2012 – 2014   Chair, OBA Sole, Small Firm and General Practice Section

  • 2014 – 2016   Past Chair, OBA Sole, Small Firm and General Practice Section

  • 2011 – 2012   Vice Chair, OBA Sole, Small Firm and General Practice Section

  • 2013 – 2015   Public Affairs Liaison, OBA Family Law Section

  • 2012 – 2013   Section Secretary, OBA Family Law Section

  • 2011 – 2016   Section Executive, OBA Family Law Section

  • 2010 – 2015   Section Executive, OBA Sole, Small Firm and General Practice Section

CBA Activity

  • 2015 – 2016   Chair, CBA Solo, Small, General Practice Forum

  • 2015 – 2016   Member, CBA Council

  • 2013 – 2014   Committee Member, CBA Pro Bono Committee

  • 2013 – 2014   Committee Member, CBA Pro Bono Committee

  • 2013 – 2014   Newsletter Editor, CBA Solo, Small, General Practice Forum

  • 2013 – 2014   Committee Member, CBA Pro Bono Committee

  • 2010 – 2012   Section Executive, CBA Solo, Small, General Practice Forum Member At Large

Other Activities

  • 2013-Present   Volunteer through Pro Bono Law Ontario

  • 2010 – 2012   Board Member, Family Lawyers Association

  • 2006 – Present   Owner/Principal – Shawyer Family Law

  • 2012   Chair, OBA Sole, Small Firm and General Practice Institute Program




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