Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Had a car accident? Don't call the police.

Toronto Police Service announced on March 22nd that it would no longer dispatch officers to the scenes of minor accidents. While the definition of “minor” is not entirely clear, it appears to mean where there is minimal damage to the vehicle and/or there are no individuals with significant injuries. It is foreseeable that other GTA-area police forces will implement similar policies. This will mean more use by individuals of the collision reporting centers, and more need for diligence by motorists at the scene of an accident. While the collision at the time may appear to be minor, injuries sustained by individuals may not become immediately apparent. Often the body and mind are in a state of shock at the accident scene Unless there are broken bones, you may not realize that you have suffered injuries that will linger for months or even years. For example, you may have suffered soft tissue injuries to your neck and spine. These injuries appear to be minor and you will be told if you visit a doctor that the pain will go away in several days. In fact, what I see regularly in my personal injury practice is that soft tissue injuries are often the most insidious. While you will know immediately if you have broken a bone or suffered severe injures, soft tissue injuries may not crystalize for days or even weeks. Further, while broken bones will generally heal, soft tissue injuries often result in chronic physical pain, and the effect of this quite frequently leads to depression and anxiety. Thus, you may not decide until weeks or even months post-accident that you have injuries sufficient to warrant a lawsuit. As there may no longer be a police report containing the other driver’s information and the details of the accident, you need to be proactive at the scene of the accident. Here is a handy checklist of things to do if you are involved in an accident and the police do not attend (or even of they do):

i) Obtain from the at-fault driver his or her driver’s licence and insurance information. In this day and age of cell phones, if you do not have a pen and paper, simply take a photo of the driver’s licence and pink slip. Obviously, you will allow the other driver the same opportunity to gather your information.

ii) Make a note or photograph the make, model and licence plate of the vehicle.

iii) Take photographs of any damage on both vehicles. Don’t forget if any part of the car, such as a bumper, has detached and is lying on the road, take a picture of that as well.

iv) If there are independent witnesses to the accident, obtain their names and telephone numbers.

v) If you feel any pain at all on the day of the accident or within several days or weeks thereafter, immediately attend at your family doctor, emergency room, or walk-in clinic, to document the injuries. Make sure to tell the doctor the details of the accident and how these injuries arose.

vi) Contact your insurance company and provide them all the details, including details of any injuries, so there is a written record of the accident. 

vii) When you go home, while your memory is fresh, write a detailed paragraph about how the accident occurred and what injuries you have. Make notes about whether you were wearing a seatbelt, had anything to drink, if you were using a cell phone at the time, the weather, when you first saw the other vehicle, and any other details of the accident and your injuries.

viii) Make a note of any conversation you had with the other driver.

ix)  If your injuries re ongoing, keep a regular daily or weekly journal of the nature and progress of your injuries, including your daily pain on a scale of 1 to 10; a list of tasks you need help with; whether or not you missed work or other events; and whether or not (and how) your pain affects your relationship with those closest to you.

Too often I see prospective clients who have no proof that the accident even occurred, have no medical record of any injuries, and may not even know the party they need to sue. Even if you have the basic information, and have been to the doctor, at some point two or more years after the accident, you will be asked as part of the litigation process, under oath, for your recollection of the details of how the accident happened and the specific nature of your injuries over the years. By taking the appropriate steps at the time the event occurs, you will enhance your credibility in the context of the lawsuit, and increase the likelihood that I can settle or win your case.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Choosing a personal injury lawyer

When choosing a personal injury lawyer, you may well be tempted to select the lawyer who promises to get you the most amount of money in the least amount of time. Resist your temptation to make your choice in that manner, as you will surely be disappointed at the end of the day.

The two most common questions I am asked by potential new personal injury clients (and my answers) are:

1.     How much money is my case worth? (I don’t know).
2.     How long will it take until we settle? (I don’t know).

You may advise me that another lawyer (or worse, your friend who had his own personal injury case) told you your case was worth a particular amount, and want to know if I will get you that or more. I will tell you, without knowing any of the facts, that the other lawyer (or your friend) is wrong. This is simply because at the initial client interview it is impossible to know. And you should be wary of any lawyer prepared to answer those questions with any certainty.

I will only know at the beginning of your case what you tell me. I will not have heard the position of the other party you wish to sue. I will not have reviewed your medical history. I will not have had the benefit of reviewing your income tax returns or other supporting basis. What you tell me is less important than what the actual documents prove.

There are many factors that go into determining the value of a personal injury case. Assessing damages in a personal injury case is more art than science; oftentimes it appears to be abstract art at that.

Here are just some of the factors at play in determining the value of your lawsuit:

(a) The nature and extent of your injuries. Under the Insurance Act in Ontario, not all injuries are compensable. The law expects that some injuries, or some level of pain, is something you will simply have to live with and for which nobody has to compensate you. Recent case law from the Superior Court of Justice indicates that the extent your injuries must rise to in order for you to be compensated is on an upward trend. This is good news for insurers, but bad news for you when you show up at my office and think your sore neck and back pain is worth six figures.
(b) What your own medical practitioners write in their notes about your injuries. For example, you may feel constant pain, but your family doctor may use words such as “minor” in her clinical notes. This will definitely hurt your case. Sadly, soft tissue injuries that cause real pain do not show up on diagnostic imaging or other objective tests.
(c)  How often you attend for treatment. Many of my clients stop going to doctors and rehab clinics after a few months either because (i) the treatments are no longer effective; (ii) they simply do not have time: or (iii) they can no longer afford to cover the out of pocket cost of non-OHIP covered treatments, such as physio and massage therapy. Your failure to continue treatments for whatever reason may impact what an insurer has to pay at a later stage in the proceeding.
(d) If you are claiming lost income, the amounts on which you filed and paid tax in previous years. This is especially acute if you are in the service industry, as a large portion of your real income is derived from tips, yet your income tax returns rarely reflect this; similarly with self-employed small business owners whose true income loss is significantly more than would appear from the pre-accident income tax returns.
(e) The statutory deductible. The Insurance Act mandates that if your personal injury case arises from a car accident (as opposed to a slip and fall), the first $30,000 in damages for pain and suffering is deductible. This deductible is actually increased for accidents after August 1, 2015 to approximately $36,500. This means simply that the insurance company does not have to pay any amounts up to the deductible. Since the majority of soft tissue injury cases are worth less than $75,000 for the pain and suffering component, you can see how this deductible has a very real impact, often to the point of deserving parties obtaining nothing more than a negligible amount.
(f)  Your own evidence at examination for discovery or trial or in statements given to doctors or insurers.  What you tell me is less important that you eventually state “on the record”.

Also keep in mind that what you think of as the value of the case is your net in pocket, versus the actual value. Lawyers who will try to tell you what your case is worth often neglect to advise that this is a top line amount, without mentioning the deductible.  Most importantly, from whatever amount the insurer pays, legal fees of about 30-35% (plus HST) will be deducted by your lawyer. In addition, disbursements incurred by your lawyer are over and above the fees. Disbursements are those amounts I pay out of pocket to third parties in order to advance your lawsuit (court filing fees, medical records/reports, transcripts, mediation fees, to note just some examples). It is not unusual for me to incur several thousand dollars for a case worth only $20,000.

Then there is what I call the wildcards. These have nothing to do with your injuries or the law.

1.     The insurance company we are suing. Some insurance companies have taken a very hard line on all cases where the injuries are only soft tissue and/or which do not have significant provable lost income attributable to the injuries. One such insurer regularly states to plaintiff counsel that they will pay their defence lawyers $100,000 before they will pay the injured plaintiff $10,000. They have been successfully following through with this threat for several years now. The days of insurers paying a little to save a lot are gone.
2.     The particular adjuster who is responsible for deciding how to handle the file. Even those insurance companies which are settlement minded employ certain adjusters who have a mindset that they would rather force us to the door of the courthouse.

As for the length of time, no matter how fast my office works to move your case forward, I may be stymied by the bureaucracy of a large insurance company, their lawyer’s schedule, and the inherent systemic delays of our court system. Thus, while cases can settle in as little as 6-12 months, or drag on for 8-10 years, most fall anywhere in between. The reality is that there are many factors at play, including those noted above.

For all those reasons, you can understand why it is almost impossible to give you an accurate picture of how your case will shake out when we first meet.  As such, resist the urge to hire the lawyer who promises the largest payout. Instead, make sure your lawyer seems like he or she will empathize with your situation while also having the experience to give you the right advice at the right time.

Another factor to consider in hiring a personal injury lawyer is to make sure the lawyer is actually experienced in the area. I know of numerous family and real estate lawyers who will dabble by taking the occasional personal injury case. These individuals lack the requisite knowledge to properly assess your case, the experience to manage your case in an appropriate matter, and most importantly, the business relationships with insurance adjusters and lawyers to get cases settled.

One final piece of advice if you are planning on hiring me or another personal injury lawyer: be prepared to listen to our advice. It may not accord with what you want to hear or think is fair and just. But by making the wise choice in the lawyer you hire, the advice you will receive will be the best your money can buy.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Father's Day

It’s Father’s Day, and I haven’t added to this blog in months. This seemed like a good day to post since I am filled with thoughts- joy, love, melancholia.

My three kids are growing up. Jacob is graduating high school this coming week, and is off to university far away from home in a few short months. My pride in his achievements and the young man he has grown into is unbridled.

My twins recently turned 11. Next year they are starting a new chapter in their young academic careers, having been 2 of 53 students admitted to a special science and technology advanced program in their school board. My daughter Leora dances competitively, and despite my occasional frustration with the sheer amount of time this takes from the rest of our family time, between school and dance she often works harder than most adults in a given week. Her drive and ambition at such a young age are palpable to all who know her. The boy twin, Bennie, plays rep/select baseball, and at 11 already thinks and speaks like a lawyer. He reminds me of myself when I was his age: his ability to process what he takes in and spit it out against you; his ability to reason abstractly as opposed to simply in a linear fashion; his ability to think critically and not simply accept what he is told; his reading comprehension. And he makes me laugh all the time.

Most significantly, all of my children are happy, healthy, well adjusted, polite, thoughtful and considerate of others. Don’t get me wrong. They are not perfect. And there are times where they need to be disciplined harshly. Although I have never raised a hand to them as parents routinely did when I was young, I would be lying if I said the thought had not crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

I am making a documentary on manhood and what it means to be man. So far, there are a couple of themes that shine through regardless of the interview subject’s age, ethnicity or socioeconomic standing. One of those commonalities is the concept of fatherhood as manhood; being a man equals being a good dad. Being a good dad means taking care of your children. Financially, emotionally, and being there for the important events in their lives. And while there are exceptions, sociological studies repeatedly show that children with a father who is present in their lives grow up to become more well adjusted adults in almost every way.

So what advice would I give to new dads?

1.     You must earn a living. Like it or not, money matters. It costs money to raise children. That diapers and baby formula are amongst the most shoplifted items at drug stores and supermarkets only underscores this reality. You cannot raise your kids on love alone. Sometimes you have to stay at a job you hate, or take a job you think is beneath you because you need to support a family. Too bad. You have a kid. You do what you have to do to support the kid. It ain’t all about you anymore.

2.     Earning a living isn’t living. Regardless of your career, don’t let that job consume you. Make sure to spend time with your kids. They want more than anything to have your time and attention. Yes, I know you’re busy. The good news is that quality trumps quantity every time. Being home every night and just watching tv with your kids is not the same “being there” as working all week and spending Sunday afternoon riding a bike or throwing the ball with them, or being at their sporting event and cheering them on from the sidelines.

3.     Lead by example. You can lecture your kids all you want but they need to see you doing what you say.

4.     From the time your kids can start asking questions, respect them enough to give them real answers. Don’t talk down to them.  And please don’t baby talk to your children.

5.     It’s not always fun. Raising kids right takes time and effort, and sometimes it sucks. Too bad. Again. It’s no longer all about you.

6.     Find some time for you. You’ll be tired all the time, but squeezing in those workouts, that ice time, that dinner out with friends, maintaining or finding a hobby, will make you more well rounded and happier. In turn, you’ll be a better dad.

Father’s Day is a day when the kids celebrate the dad. My kids always make me something wonderful. I have on a shelf in my office a craft Jacob made for me when he was 3, some 15 years ago. I treasure the homemade cards all my kids give me every year. Yet, I really feel this is a day when I should be celebrating them. Celebrating the privilege I have every day to be their dad. They give me a reason to get up in the morning and go to work. They give my life meaning. They have made me a better man. So on this Father’s Day, I dedicate this blog to them (not to mention all the money I earned last week!).

Back to my advice for new fathers. Here’s the single best piece of advice for you: Don’t listen to anyone’s advice about fatherhood! If you are in tune with yourself and your kids, then raising them well will be instinctual. You won’t get it right every day, but the good news is you don’t need to. Get it right most days, and don’t do anything to screw them up, and they will pay you back every day of your life simply by virtue if the fact that your bond with them is a life force unto itself.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


On April 30th, over 40,000 lawyers in Ontario will elect from their ranks the 40 Benchers who will govern the legal profession for the next 4 years. As a profession made up of well over 40,000 lawyers and 10,000 paralegals and having the privilege of self-governance, the role of Bencher is one of significance and responsibility not to be taken lightly. Within the profession, we are struggling with new economic and technological paradigms at the same time more law school graduates than ever before are seeking admission to the Ontario Bar. We continue to deal daily with a court system that has yet to harness the power of technology and operates at a pace inconsistent with the needs of the profession and the public. The changing face of the profession is bringing a diversity that all but ensures the end of the old boys' networks that were still all too common at the time I graduated law school in 1991. All of which means that in the coming years, issues such as law school education, bar admission standards, and court reform will be near the top of the Law Society's agenda.

Publicly, lawyers remain the face of a justice system that is increasingly out of touch with, and out of reach for, most Ontarians. Access to justice issues, such as legal aid funding, duty counsel programs, pro bono initiatives, non-traditional fee arrangements, alternative business structures, and the public image of the profession in the wake of recent trust fund scandals, are certain to top the agenda in the next Bencher term.

The legal profession is finally talking about substance abuse, mental health issues, family troubles, financial struggles. Lawyers, particularly those involved in family and criminal law, see the impact of these issues through their clients every day. As a profession, we are finally realizing that we are not immune ourselves to these problems. This needs to factor into the governance of the profession.

For those reasons and many more to be discussed in the coming weeks, I am pleased to announce that I am a candidate for one of the 40 Bencher seats in the April 30th elections. All Ontario lawyers in good standing are eligible to vote for up to 20 inside Toronto candidates and up to 20 outside Toronto candidates.

In the coming weeks, the Law Society website will be publishing profiles of all the candidates. Below I have reproduced the Election Statement I submitted to the Law Society for publication on the candidate information page:

Darryl Singer’s Election Statement 

For too long now, the LSUC has been governed by a group not representative of the changing face of our profession. Past and current Benchers are well-meaning, but a Convocation lacking youth, diversity, and representation from those who toil in the trenches of the profession cannot properly understand and address the issues facing the overwhelming majority of lawyers in Ontario. Most members do not practice in the biggest firms or with any measure of career security. 

After 21 years in small and mid size firms, as a solo practitioner, and now as the owner of a 6 person firm, I know what it’s like to have to pay my bills even when clients haven’t paid theirs. I know the pressure of being a one-person show going toe to toe with firms that can out-staff and out-paper me on a file, not because they are better lawyers, but because their firms are larger and their clients wealthier. Having been through divorce and slow economic cycles, I know what it’s like to deal with financial pressures while trying to keep my firm running and maintain the highest standards of our profession. 

Having suffered from and triumphed over substance addiction and depression, I understand the silent pressures suffered by so many of our peers. Having been on the receiving end of a discipline hearing as a result of the aforesaid issues, I have truly been in the shoes of those who lack a voice at the Law Society.

The success I have found at this stage of my career is as a result of my ability to build bridges; to find common ground with even the most entrenched opponents; to turn competitors into referral sources. I will bring these experiences and values with me to Convocation so that I will be able to build coalitions to ensure a Law Society responsive to the changing needs of our profession.

Many lawyers have commented that the Law Society doesn’t have its members’ backs. Elect me on April 30th and let me have yours.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Hashtag Bravery

Try as I might, I just cannot shake the anger and frustration that stirs in me each time I see hypocrisy writ large. And this week I have seen it. It hit a crescendo yesterday (Janaury 11, 2015) when I saw the scenes of the estimated 3 million people, including world leaders, uniting in a rally of love and peace in Paris. Across the world, in other major cities including here in Toronto, similar rallies were led in solidarity. All this in support of the massacred at the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Add to this the fact that every day for the last week my Facebook newsfeed has been cluttered with pictures of individuals holding “I am Charlie Hebdo” signs. And let’s not forget the ubiquitous hashtag bravery (if I may borrow a phrase from Rex Murphy’s January 10, 2015 National Post column) of “#we are Charlie Hebdo" currently infecting the Twittersphere.

Time and again in recent years, from Benghazi to Joseph Kony to Boko Harum, to Syria, Israel, Gaza, and now on to Paris, those of us in free and democratic Western societies wake up to the terror and the atrocities in the world after a catastrophic event just long enough to copy, paste, post, repost, tweet and Instagram our “support” for the cause in question and/or the victims of the injustice. Then a celebrity dies, or is accused of some historic crime, and our focus immediately shifts- either to an outpouring of faux emotion for a stranger whose death moves us to crocodile tears more than one in our own extended family, or to mock outrage as we look down our collective noses at the alleged moral failings of the celebrity in question. A few days later, we all go back to sleep while the real problems in the world continue unabated.

There are evil people in the world. People whose religious zealotry incites them to kill all those who do not believe as they do. We all know that in every religion there are extremists. We also know instinctively that wherever an extremist act is carried out in the name of a particular god that the majority of believers in that god have no part of it. Pundits and their supporters on both the Left and the Right get it wrong. When talking of the recent spate of attacks clearly perpetrated by extremist Muslims, the Left bends over backwards to ensure we don’t offend the innocent Muslims, forgetting that if they are rational moderates then they won’t be offended. The Right, on the other hand, expects every act of Islamic violence to be condemned by the moderate Muslims. Why? Again, the innocents and moderates have nothing to apologize for. All of humanity should be condemning acts of violence that do not accord with our principles of freedom and democracy, regardless of our religious beliefs or those of the perpetrators. 

There is hunger in the world. There is deadly disease in the world. There is crime in our own neighbourhoods. There is poverty. There is racism, sexism, and homophobia, despite all the advances we have made in terms of human rights. Sadly, hashtags and tweets and Facebook posts won’t solve a damn thing. 

Let’s talk about the the fact that France created a culture where radicalism was allowed to thrive. Let’s talk about the fact that in Canada we too are allowing, as a result of our mainstream media, our universities, and our government policies, a culture where everyone hides behind political correctness on the left, or “conservatism” and “traditional values” on the right (again, Rex Murphy puts this much more eloquently than I in his aforementioned column).

Our democratically elected governments respond either by refusing to act for fear of being seen to be jumping to conclusions, or by passing laws which restrict the liberty of everyone in the name of security (but which provide only the illusion thereof). In this the governments of the Western world and the punditry of the North American media have much in common. A narrow world-view of either left or right, black or white. 

Governments should not be cowed to inaction out of political fear, nor should they over-react out of physical fear. We must elect leaders who will not bend to either fear of terror or fear of censure. We must also demand of our media an equally nuanced approach that by now seems anachronistic and downright quaint- a news media that deals in facts, not in speculation; in delivering news, not spectacle.

But we must ask the most of ourselves as individuals. We must stop pretending to care and show our moral fibre and “bravery” (is there a more overused word in the English language?) by our social media presence. We must stop pretending that we really care when our average focus on these issues, many centuries old, is measured in mere news cycles, after several of which a new celebrity sex tape will exorcise all the caring and tragedy from the headlines.

Let’s stop using our social media selves to show our solidarity with the cause du jour. If we really want to be brave, if we really want to care, let’s start using this incredible new technology at our fingertips and in our pockets to have an intelligent dialogue, without invective, rhetoric, and personal affront, to better understand what is really going on the world. Let us use it to educate ourselves  and to try and find a way that those of us who really care might, individually or collectively, might make a difference. 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

On Addiction

I have been meaning to write a blog for some time now on the troubles facing the Mayor of Toronto, for reasons that have nothing to do with politics. For starters, I was appalled by all the TMZ-like coverage of Rob Ford’s every move and all the second guessing as to whether he is really in rehab and if so, where? I am equally disgusted by the Mayor’s tweet from rehab about how “amazing” it was and his interview with a US radio show where he suggested that rehab “reminded (him) of football camp”. And don’t even get me started on his inner circle, who seem more desirous of enabling him for their own political gain than genuinely trying to help him kill the demon before it kills him. Yet I wasn’t motivated to write this article just for the sake of calling out the Mayor, his family, and the press. There was more to my thinking, and today I am motivated to write because I have been touched by the deaths of two individuals in the last week whose addictions were the certain cause of their deaths. First, the husband of an old friend. He, I did not know at all. But very sad to me nonetheless since I have known the wife very well for many years, and am heartbroken by her anguish yet helpless to make her pain subside. Then two days ago I awake to a text that C, one of my dearest friends for the last 15 years essentially drank himself to death. The saddest thing about this latter death is that I saw it coming even as I, along with C’s other loved ones, made enormous attempts in the last few months to help my friend get his life in order. 

The hallmark of addiction is that one continues to feed the beast even in the face of one’s life falling apart. Despite the consequences, the addict continues to lie to his family, his friends, his workplace colleagues, and most significantly, to himself. In this regard all addicts, male and female, young and old, are alike. It doesn’t matter if the addiction is to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, food or anything else. Often, but not always, one of these addictions has a symbiotic relationship with one or more of the others. While depression may not be the root cause of addiction (there is much research which suggests that that there is a genetic predisposition to addiction, particularly as regards drugs and/or alcohol), almost all addicts by the time they are in the throes of their addiction suffer from severe depression. At some point the substance of choice becomes a way to manage the depression, the emptiness, the loneliness. The worst thing for an addict is being idle. The lack of structure and time on an addict’s hands mean only one thing- the addict will use. If there is anything worse than idleness for an addict it is when those around him enable him in the face of uncontroverted proof of his addiction.  I use the pronoun “he” because the addicts referred to in this article are male, but make no mistake that women are just as likely to be addicts.

I know of what I speak about these matters, having been an addict myself. What began as a way to treat the pain of my severe migraines in 2003 ultimately became, by 2007, a full-fledged addiction to prescription narcotics. I lied when my ex-wife called me on it. I lied to my doctors (yes, doctors- I had many of them- all the better to get more pills). I was confronted with a mini-intervention of sorts by two friends and colleagues who sensed something was amiss. I lied my way out of it and immediately went to yet another doctor to obtain yet another prescription for more Oxycontin which could be crushed, chewed or snorted for the next high. Mostly I lied to myself, thought I was managing, thought nobody knew. Even convinced myself I wasn’t an addict. Even throughout a 2 year period when I was probably never not buzzed. Even as my life fell apart- even as my marriage ended; even as I couldn’t care for my children; even as I became inattentive to my clients and started getting complaints to the Law Society; even as my bank account became increasingly empty with less and less new client retainers to replenish it; even as my health was failing and my naturally thin self lost a terrifying 35 pounds; even as I slept 12 to 18 hours a day but suffered a constant malaise; even as I lost joy in absolutely everything I formerly loved so much. And yet I was lucky, although at the time I didn’t realize it, because I was surrounded by people who loved me, who knew I was struggling, and who only wanted to help. And they tried. My friends, my family, my professional colleagues. Not their fault at the time that they had no effect, It wasn’t until one day when I had an epiphany. At that moment, in early 2009, I accepted my disease and committed to getting help. At that moment, I realized I had fallen into a pit of despair and hit rock bottom  and thus began the slow ascent back, a task that at times felt Sisyphean. This required me to give away what clients I had left and take a leave of absence from the practice of law. To dramatically adjust the standard of living to which I had become accustomed over the previous 15 years, To give up the 50/50 shared parenting time I had with my kids. To put myself in the hands of my family physician, my Ontario Lawyer Assistance Plan (OLAP) social worker and peer counselors, my therapist. To do what they said, when they said it, and how they said to do it. Not such an easy task for someone used to being his own boss for more than 15 years. I pushed myself physically, mentally, emotionally. I did the 12 Steps. And the pain of getting clean was like nothing I have ever experienced before or since. In the early days I thought I would never be free. 

I know of what I speak because I also volunteer as a peer counselor and board member with OLAP. I have counseled numerous lawyers and paralegals suffering the same fate and been able to reassure them they weren’t alone, help them find the right place to turn for professional assistance, and advise them on how to deal with the inevitable practice-related issues that are often present in such cases.
I know of what I speak because I devote a certain percentage of my annual billable time to pro bono cases. As such, I regularly represent lawyers at Law Society discipline hearings, as well as indigent clients in the criminal courts. In my experience, the vast majority of lawyers in front of the Law Society Tribunal are not, as the Toronto Star would like you to believe, vile, immoral crooks. Most are decent men and women who suffer from addiction or depression and often both. And contrary to public perception, most accused in criminal court are not bad people. There too the system is burdened with a disproportional number of defendants who would not be there but for their substance abuse issues. 

My friend C and the Mayor were the same. Ford’s current stint in rehab smacks more of political opportunism than a genuine attempt to heal himself. While the Mayor may come back from rehab somewhat better, I predict it will not last. His behavior, and that of his family since he went in, does not indicate a serious attempt at rehab. I hope I am wrong but as I noted thrice above, I know of what I speak on this subject. The Mayor’s family and political aides do him no favour by either explicitly or at a minimum implicitly condoning his actions and his refusal to get serious help. By contrast, my friend C’s family and friends rallied around to try and push him to get the help he needed. However, like the Mayor, my friend didn't want help (or believe he needed it). C put on a charade of wanting and needing our help, of seeking treatment, only to run back to the bottle when we went home. Or he out and out lied to us and told us he wasn’t drinking and we needn’t worry any longer. Of course, the one really being lied to by C was C himself. Some he knew may believed him. Yet, even on the phone listening to him earnestly trying to convince me he had been sober for 5 days, that he was going through serious withdrawal,  that he was intent on getting through it and on staying sober, I knew he was lying on all counts. Yet until the addict stops lying to himself, no amount of outside help will benefit him. But to ignore the addict's lies or to turn away rather than to keep trying to help is akin to buying them the drinks or holding the needle.When my son asked me a few weeks ago how C was doing, I said I feared he was going to drink himself to death (not deliberately, but the end result is sadly the same). I was expressing a fear, not actually intending that my words would be prophetic. Unfortunately, I know of what I speak in these matters.

Which brings me full circle to what originally upset me about the tabloid style coverage of Rob Ford’s obviously alcohol and drug fueled antics these last number of months, and the “Where’s Waldo” game that the media began to play as soon as word spread that Ford was in rehab in an undisclosed facility. It may be entertaining to the masses, and sporting for the journalists, to treat Ford as just another celebrity punch line. Sadly, the major media outlets once again put entertainment and spectacle above real journalism and the chance to educate readers, possibly recapturing even a modicum of the public trust that they lost as they trailed behind another movie star's limousine. For addiction is not like some reality show you can watch for fun with your mates to satisfy your basest lowbrow desires at the feast of others’ misfortunes. Addiction is a disease, one which kills just as surely as cancer. Everyone knows at least one addict in their life. You may not know you know an addict but you do. Too often we look the other way. And to be fair, you can’t police everyone you know. And the addict must ultimately take responsibility for his own situation. Oh sure, many addicts blame their cycle of devolution on some sort of triggering event like divorce, job loss, financial stress, and the like. But the addict is the only one who can change his behavior. As a society we need to talk about these issues when they are staring us in the face as opposed to using them for political gain (as the Mayor’s foes have done) or treating the events like the circus has come to town (as did every major media outlet in Toronto and many around the world). The Rob Ford saga was a perfect opportunity for those who had a political or editorial bully pulpit to engage the citizenry in a serious dialogue about a serious issue which affects us all. The addict has family, friends and work relationships. All of those individuals are emotionally affected by the addict, and since they don’t live in a vacuum so are those around them. One addict can negatively impact dozens of lives. All of this leads to decreased productivity, higher divorce rates, more kids without involved parents…are you starting to see a pattern developing? It takes an addict, and only one, to destroy the village.

My story of addiction has a very happy ending. I have been clean of narcotics since January of 2010. The depression I suffered for years also magically disappeared mere months after the drugs were permanently out of my system. Four and half years later, I am now in touch with deeper feelings than I have ever known. I am happier and more content with life than I ever imagined. I am more engaged with my children, have a keener appreciation for the little daily things that make life great. I am a more focused and better lawyer than I have ever been. I try new activities and push the boundaries of my comfort zone. The anger and insecurities I carried for years into my addiction are no more. I am confident and secure. When people ask me how I am doing I almost always answer “never better!” and I mean it. I may look like a short, thin, bald, middle aged Jew, but I FEEL like Adam Levine!

The book on C’s addiction had a much sadder ending, the saddest ending of all. He leaves behind many people who loved him including his six year old son.

So, Mayor Rob Ford, you are the narrator of your own biography of addiction. As things stand, it appears you may only have a couple of chapters left to write. When I read the last page of your book, will it be you, standing proudly with your family, having overcome your addiction and discovered a genuine joie de vivre unmediated by drugs and alcohol? Or will the last chapter of your book be a eulogy read by your children? The choice is yours Mr. Mayor. I think you are likely a very good man who loves his family and entered politics for the noblest of reasons. The Rob Ford we have seen is distorted by his addictions. Will we see, and you rediscover, the REAL Rob Ford? Only you can decide. I mean really decide once and for all to make a clean break and get well, not like this present attempt, which is layered with a startlingly disingenuous veneer. Should you choose the right path, and there is only one right path lest you end up like my friend C, I only hope your “supporters” have the good sense to keep quiet and the media the decency to leave you alone to recover in peace and quiet. Remember, I know of what I speak in these matters.