Deborah Templer, a commercial litigation partner in Gowlings’ Toronto office, has been named the winner of the Canadian Bar Association’s 2015 Young Lawyers Pro Bono Award. Templer received the award at the CBA’s Mid-Winter Meeting of Council on Saturday, Feb. 21 in Ottawa.
“Deborah is an outstanding lawyer with a steadfast commitment to access to justice,” said Scott Jolliffe, Gowlings chair and CEO. “Pro bono legal service forms an essential part of both her practice and her contributions to our firm and profession. We’re tremendously proud of Deborah, and are delighted to see her efforts recognized through this prestigious award.”
A long-time supporter of Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO), Templer was behind the formation of a unique partnership between Gowlings and PBLO to launch a medical-legal clinic at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital. Under her leadership, Gowlings has delivered free legal advice and information sessions to over 100 low- and moderate-income families on tax, employment, insurance, and estate matters.
In November 2014, Templer was among a group of Gowlings lawyers who were formally recognized by PBLO and Holland Bloorview for the extensive pro bono services the firm has provided at the clinic over the past year.
Templer also plays a key role on Gowlings’ firm-wide Pro Bono Committee. As a founding member of this committee, she has driven the strategic direction of the firm’s pro bono efforts, and has contributed to policies that make it easier for professionals across the firm to perform pro bono work. To promote the benefits of this work, Templer acts as a mentor to other young lawyers and law students at Gowlings, coaching them on their pro bono files and giving practical advice on their work.
In addition, Templer has served as co-counsel to The Advocates’ Society in its interventions in Law Society of Upper Canada v. Groia, an important case which has influenced the way lawyers govern themselves in court and serve their clients.
“Deborah’s ongoing commitment to pro bono is remarkable on two fronts. She not only provides the pro bono services personally, but also advocates for increased programming in her community,” said Mathieu Leblanc-Gagnon, chair of the CBA’s national Young Lawyers Conference. “She is a true champion of pro bono services at the grassroots level.”
The CBA’s annual Young Lawyers Pro Bono Award recognizes outstanding pro bono legal services from a Canadian lawyer who is under the age of 40 or who has practised for 10 years or less. The winner receives a $500 prize; Templer opted to donate her funds to PBLO’s Children’s Hospitals Project.
Through its firm-wide pro bono program, Gowlings has provided free legal services in communities across Canada for over a century. Its diverse clientele includes charities, community organizations, advocacy groups and individuals who lack the resources to retain legal advice. Since 2011, the firm has dedicated over 22,000 hours to pro bono work, amounting to the equivalent of approximately $8 million in legal fees.
Deborah Templer with CBA Past President Fred Headon
(photo courtesy of the CBA & John Major Photography)