Advocacy Tips from the Bench for Family Lawyers |

Advocacy Tips from the Bench for Family Lawyers

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Professionalism (Ethics, etc.): 0.25
15 minutes
Substantive: 1.0
65 minutes
Cory Gilmore
Melanie Sager
Audrey Shecter
Sharon Shore
Julie Stanchieri
Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA)
80 minutes
$129.00 plus tax
Includes Handouts

As family lawyers, we often wonder what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong when appearing before a judge. There aren’t many opportunities to find out what judges really think about different advocacy styles and what we can do to improve.  It’s also important with an ever growing number of self represented litigants for counsel to better understand our obligations to assist the court where necessary. 

Our panel of 3 judges will provide their top tips for family law conferences, motions and trials.  Each judge will speak for 20 minutes and there will be time for Q&A at the end.

Some of the issues that will be considered include:   

  • What is the right balance between advocacy vs. settlement focus for a conference?
  • What are the most common errors that counsel make at conferences?
  • What drafting errors are most common in affidavits and in factums?
  • When making oral submissions, are there things that counsel do that are inappropriate or annoying to the court?
  • When is it appropriate to make objections at trial and how often should counsel be interrupting?
  • When is it appropriate to re-examine a witness?


Duty to act in good faith and avoid sharp practice; Duties related to advocacy (not to abuse or mislead the court; Practicing with civility in the courtroom; Treating the court, tribunal, opposing counsel, parties and others with courtesy and respect; Encouraging respect for legal institutions or authorities


Justice Cory Gilmore

Graduated from University of Toronto with an Honours B.A. with a speciality in French and a major in English. Graduated from University of Windsor Law School in 1992. Worked as a partner in Gilmore & Gilmore Law Office until her appointment to the bench in 2008. Practice areas included criminal law, family law and estates and trusts.

Justice Gilmore sits in Toronto and has presided over a large variety of civil, criminal and family cases since her appointment. She was the President of the Ontario Superior Court Judges’ Association from December 2014 to June 2017 and sitting Past President until June 2019. Justice Gilmore has passed the Level C civil servant French exam which permits her to hear trials in French and has been a regular educational panel member on evidentiary and advocacy issues.

Melanie Sager Justice

Graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the bar in 1995. Justice Sager worked as a sole practitioner, exclusively in the area of family law, for 20 years, from 1995 until the date of her appointment in 2015. Justice Sager also acted as duty counsel at the Ontario Court of Justice and represented children in custody, access and child protection cases as agent for the Office of the Children's Lawyer. In addition, she served on the board of the Family Lawyers Association.

Justice Sager sits in Toronto and has presided over family law cases since her appointment, including both domestic and child protection matters. Justice Sager is a frequent educational speaker and panelist for family law issues.

Audrey Shecter

Audrey is a partner at Beard Winter LLP and practices exclusively in the area of family law. She is certified as a Specialist in Family Law by the Law Society of Upper Canada. She represents and assists parties with matters such as property division, parenting and access, child support, spousal support, cohabitation agreements and marriage contracts. She regularly appears before all levels of court in Ontario on behalf of her clients, as well as at mediations and arbitrations. She has specific expertise in the area of private adoptions.

Audrey received her LL.B. from Queen’s University in 1998 and was called to the Ontario bar in 2000. In addition, Audrey holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in history, and a Master of Library Science (M.L.S.) degree.

Audrey has moderated family law nutshells for the Toronto Lawyers’ Association for the past 3 years. She is also a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Canadian Bar Association’s Family Law Section, and the Advocates’ Society and acts as an Advisor for the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Coach and Advisor Network (CAN) for lawyers and paralegals.

Audrey is married and is the proud mother of three children.

Justice Sharon Shore

Graduated from York University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1993 and graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1996. Justice Shore practiced as a partner at Epstein Cole with 20 years’ experience exclusively in family law prior to her appointment to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 2018.

Justice Shore sits in Toronto and has presided over family law cases since her appointment. She is a frequent speaker and panelist and has authored various papers and articles on family law issues. Prior to her appointment, Justice Shore was an instructor for the family law section of the Bar Admission Course and is a past-Chair of the Executive of the Ontario Bar Association, Family Law Section as well as the past-Chair of the OBA, Access to Justice Committee. In addition, Justice Shore sat on a number of advisory committees and working groups for changes to the family law rules and procedures.

Julie Stanchieri

Julie Stanchieri is the principal of Stanchieri Family Law which she founded in 2008, a firm that focuses on providing highly effective legal representation for family law disputes as well as a positive client experience. She practices in all areas of family law with a special interest in complex financial disputes. Julie is also a trained family mediator and arbitrator. She appears in all levels of court in Ontario. Julie was called to the bar in 2002 after completing her L.L.B from the University of Toronto and B.A. from McMaster University. She obtained an L.L.M. in Family Law from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2008. Julie is a member of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Lawyers Association as well as member of the Advocates’ Society. Julie often contributes to various print, online and other media appearances relating to family law issues.

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