Coach and Advisor Network modern responsive way to foster competence | John L. Hill

By John L. Hill

Law360 Canada (March 24, 2023, 10:54 AM EDT) --
John L. Hill
John L. Hill
When I decided to retire from the private practice of criminal and prison law to take up writing, there was a large part of me that regretted not keeping abreast of developments in the field that had kept me occupied for 40 years. That’s when I learned that I could have the best of both worlds. I could engage in retirement pursuits but stay involved in my fields of experience. Enter the Coach and Advisor Network (CAN).

The Law Society of Ontario’s (LSO) Coach and Advisor Network was launched in late 2016 as a modern and responsive way to foster collective competence and best practices in Ontario lawyers and paralegals. With CAN, lawyers and paralegals are matched with volunteer coaches and advisers drawn from the professions to support improved practice outcomes.Through this program I could assist lawyers requiring assistance and feel that I was continuing to develop my areas of expertise by coaching other lawyers. I submitted my request to become a CAN adviser. An adviser is an Ontario licensee, with at least five years’ experience, who provides up to 30 minutes of guidance to a participant on a substantive or procedural issue on a client file free of charge.

Since its inception, CAN has added 326 advisers and 355 coaches to its roster. A coach is an Ontario licensee who provides guidance in a series of six sessions over three months to a participant on the development of best practices and practice management skills. Currently, there are 457 active volunteers on the roster (coaches and advisers combined). These volunteers assist a CAN participant who has completed a request form and agreement seeking time with either a coach or an adviser or both.

When I am contacted by CAN, I am advised that a participant is seeking assistance with a particular substantive or procedural issue and asked to confirm that I believe my assistance would be of use. Once I am connected with the participant, my personal preference is to ask them to set out in an email the facts giving rise to the matter for which assistance is sought. I am quick to add that CAN volunteers are required to maintain solicitor-client confidentiality just as if the participant is seeking advice from within his or her own firm. I usually suggest a follow-up phone call to deal with the matter.

Since its inception, CAN has received 4,060 requests from participants (1,254 coaching requests and 2,806 advising requests).  CAN is an amazing program, however, with a bar as large as Ontario’s there are still many lawyers and paralegals who don’t know of this free service. That is why I am writing this piece. It is my hope that readers will volunteer to be a coach or an adviser or seek the assistance of those who volunteer. The experience is rewarding to both those that give the guidance and those who receive it.

CAN engagements are about improving practice outcomes in the public interest. Coaches support the implementation of best practices and practice management skills. Advisers provide guidance on substantive and procedural law, including inquiries arising on client files.

There is an added benefit for those that volunteer. CAN volunteers may claim up to 12 hours towards their Continuing Professional Development requirement for acting as “mentors” with CAN. Even if the volunteer is retired and no longer compelled to enrol in continuing education programs, there is a benefit. I have been able to connect with participants online or via telephone and the experience of giving back and remaining connected with the legal professions has been quite meaningful to me.

If you have not thought of participating in CAN either as a volunteer or as a participant seeking guidance, I urge you to consider it. Simply contact or visit the CAN website at

John L. Hill practised and taught prison law until his retirement. He holds a J.D. from Queen’s and LL.M. in constitutional law from Osgoode Hall. He is also the author of Pine Box Parole: Terry Fitzsimmons and the Quest to End Solitary Confinement (Durvile & UpRoute Books), which was published Sept. 1. Contact him at

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors firm, its clients, Law 360Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. 

Interested in writing for us? To learn more about how you can add your voice to Law360 Canada, contact Analysis Editor Peter Carter at or call 647-776-6740.