Shelley Hounsell-Gray

Shelley Hounsell-Gray
Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Dartmouth
Called to Bar: June 14, 1999

Members of the Council for the Nova Scotia Barrister’s Society are the voice of lawyers in Nova Scotia, and it is important that the unique issues faced by family law practitioners and those who work in small practices are heard. I seek to be that voice.

As part of the management team at Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) and the leadership roles I have undertaken for several boards, I appreciate the role of governance, which remains central. However, I am also interested in opportunities to consider how governance is undertaken, and where appropriate to adopt new practices to respond to shifting needs and concerns.

As a practising lawyer with NSLA, I have assisted to develop work plans and policy to improve the delivery of legal services within our fiscal realities. Within and outside of NSLA, I have worked on several committees with justice stakeholders to identify what access to justice means for an individual, to recognize how justice should be made accessible and how accessing justice may be improved on an individual and institutional level. Necessary to any access to justice discussion or initiative is education. On this point, I have facilitated discussion about creating “just” legal processes: how current or proposed procedures or laws may be improved or rethought in the United Kingdom and in Canada (at a local and national level).

Together, as members of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, we have a healthy respect for the Society and its mandate to uphold and protect the public interest in the practice of law. In our work we do our best to represent clients in a competent and professional manner, we access continuing legal education programs and we gladly give hours of our spare time to our community – sitting on boards, coaching sports teams, participating in musical and theatrical performances, and supporting larger community endeavours. For many, the work of the Society is remote: protecting the public from the errors made by ‘other’ lawyers. It is removed from our everyday practice and commitment to the tradition of the practice of law. But the work of the Society is and can be much more.

The traditional practice of law is under scrutiny by the public at large, competitors from non-legal fields and those who practise law from cyber-based platforms. This scrutiny questions the ‘value’ of legal services and asks if it must be delivered by those who have a law degree. The pillars of the traditional practice of law have been shaken. New lawyers struggle to grow their practice and larger firms struggle to maintain cohesion within the partnership model. These pressures are not new and the practice of law, delivered in its many forms, will continue to respond and evolve. Future Society leadership must be attuned and responsive to its membership, while protecting the public interest in the practice of law. This is not an easy task. It is imperative that the individuals who represent our interests on Council understand the business need for a profitable practice, the importance of the wellness of its members, the individuals and corporations who require legal services, and how innovation within the process of regulation may best meet the varied needs of these, at times, competing interests. 

Pressures within the practice do weigh on experienced and new members of the Society, and the Society is responding with a kinder hand. In its values statement, the Society is committed to be proactive, principled and proportionate (the ‘Triple P’ approach). As a member of the Complaints and Investigation Committee I have seen, when appropriate, the ‘Triple P’ approach at play. The ‘Triple P’ values also guide the Society’s new work such as the draft plan for Legal Services Support. The goal of this work is to ensure that appropriate education and support are in place for all members. In adopting the ‘Triple P’ approach, the Society seeks to assist the success of its members and to improve justiciable outcomes for members of the public who access our legal system, which will together uphold the rule of law.

This is an exciting time to be a lawyer and a member of Council for the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. Our future leadership must be forward thinking while able to balance and maintain our tradition of the practice of law. At the same time this leadership must be innovative to meet its primary mandate to protect the public interest in the practice of law. As an elected member of Council, I will provide this leadership on your behalf.

Shortly after her articles, Shelley Hounsell-Gray practised at Sealy Cornish Coulthard in the areas of family law, criminal law (as a Per Diem Crown Attorney) and civil litigation. Fourteen years ago she moved to Nova Scotia Legal Aid to practise family law. She has managed the Dartmouth Family office for NSLA since its creation in 2013. In addition to management, Shelley also maintains a full family law practice. She has presented at all levels of courts in Nova Scotia, and has sought leave to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Shelley enjoys sharing legal scholarship. Most recently, she has presented at the National Judicial Institute All Courts Seminar (2014 and 2016), the Federation of Law Societies National Family Law Program (2014 and 2016), the Canadian Bar Association (2015, 2016), NSLA professional development programs (twice a year), the Law Amendments Committee (2015) and at several local universities including the Schulich School of Law (annually). She routinely presents on family law topics to community groups. Shelley has also organized and presented at two conferences open to the community offered at the Schulich School of Law; in 2016 on the proposed amendments to the Children and Family Services Act, and 2017 on the role of a Guardian ad litem in a child protection proceeding. Each conference included esteemed members of the Judiciary, the Bar and professionals from the community.

Shelley’s experience with governance includes appointment to the Complaints and Investigation Committee (NSBS 2017 - ongoing), membership and position of secretary on St. Paul's Home Board of Management (2014 - ongoing). The work of this volunteer board is closing in on 150 years of providing housing for youth in care in metro Halifax. She has served as a vice-president and as a board member for the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (board member 2014 - June 2017, vice president 2015-2016), where she also sat on the Legal Content Committee and chaired a sub-committee to prepare and present to the board LISNS’ first formal business plan (2017).

Shelley’s current formal committee work includes serving as Co-chair of a national Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act (ISO) sub-committee to prepare a report on the use of technology by the court for ISO matters, and on the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia (Family Division) C.F.S.A. committee (2014 to present). Her current committee work is to establish proposed guidelines for the guardian ad litem in a child protection proceeding.

Published legal work
Settlement conferencing in child protection proceedings as practiced in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Shelley Hounsell-Gray [2016] Fam Law ISSN 0014-7281, Vol. 46, Nº. 12 2016 pp 1419-1427 (UK)

NSBS Council/Committee experience

  • Complaints Investigation Committee – June 17, 2017 to present

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