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From laying down the law to practising it

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Allan Fineblit, the longtime CEO of the Law Society of Manitoba, is leaving his post to go back into private practice at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Allan Fineblit, the longtime CEO of the Law Society of Manitoba, is leaving his post to go back into private practice at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman. Photo Store

THE Law Society of Manitoba is looking for a new leader.

Allan Fineblit, CEO of the legal profession's regulator in the province for the past 16 years, is returning to private practice at the end of next month.

Fineblit, 64, has agreed to join Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP, one of the city's biggest law firms.

A national search for a replacement is underway.

"When is the right time?" he asked.

"We had a major strategic planning session recently where we laid out our plans for the future. For the new person coming in, this is the perfect transition point," he said, before adding with a laugh, "Everything is going really well, so get out before they hate you."

The legal profession is in better shape than it was when he took over, Fineblit believes. For example, lawyers in Manitoba today have national mobility and can practise anywhere across the country.

The sheer volume of law has changed dramatically, too.

"At one time, it was easy to keep up with the changes in the law. Now, there are 10,000 new cases each month so it's impossible to keep up without tools. We've built up a national virtual library (CanLII) which contains every decided case and statute and anybody can go there and search the law," he said.

Providing legal services to people who are too well off to qualify for legal aid but too poor to pay the full freight remains a challenge but the law society has taken a couple of initiatives on that front, too, including starting a Family Law Access Centre.

There have also been some dramatic changes for the profession, such as cameras in the courtroom.

Bob Sokalski, a partner at Hill Sokalski Walsh Trippier LLP, said Fineblit has been well-regarded in the legal community during his tenure and will leave some big shoes to fill.

One thing he appreciated about Fineblit, though, was how he kept track of the non-legal activities of lawyers, including running marathons and fundraising, and mentioned them in a monthly column.

"That's healthy, and it's good for the community. It's very important for lawyers to do things outside of law and this offered some recognition. That was some value-added from him as CEO," he says.

At his new law firm, Fineblit plans to do some work for regulators and other law societies as well as international law and possibly arbitrations.

"I'm pretty confident I'm going to get a ton of work," he said.

Fineblit hasn't been in private practice since the beginning of his law career after being called to the bar in 1974.

He spent a few years at Buchwald Asper Henteleff, followed by 20 years with Legal Aid Manitoba. He spent a couple of years as the assistant deputy attorney general for the province in the mid-1990s before being appointed CEO at the law society in 1998.

geoff.kirbyson @freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2014 A4

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