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The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 2, April 2010


Click here to view the PDF version of The Advisory

From the President

Independence of Legal Profession A Hallmark of Democracy

By Rod Jerke, QC, President, Law Society of Alberta

The design of our democratic institutions balances the rights of citizens and the government. At the Law Society of Alberta, we regulate lawyers in the public interest. It is important for Albertans to have access to competent, ethical and independent legal advice. When Albertans go to court with a trial lawyer, they need to know their lawyer will stand up for their interests alone.

These basic rights are set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The balancing board between citizens and the state is the Courts. It is fundamental for the Courts to remain independent, and free of any interference or reprisal. The Charter sets out the right for citizens to be heard in fair and public hearings by independent and impartial tribunals.

In undemocratic countries, we have seen that the judiciary is first and foremost targeted. We have seen the principles of fundamental justice stripped away from lawyers, the judiciary, and legal and court processes. In some countries, the right of the public to solicitor-client privilege does not exist.

How do we Separate Regulatory and Advocacy Work?

In other democratic countries, the role of regulators has been changing. Law Societies such as those in New Zealand and the United Kingdom have had their mandates revised significantly by government, and are no longer self-regulators in the public interest. These bodies have been serving as both regulator, and as advocates for the legal profession.

In Canada, we separate the role of regulator from that of advocates. Law Societies across Canada are self-regulators only. The advocate for the legal profession in each province and territory is the Canadian Bar Association. We take very seriously our role as regulator of the legal profession in Alberta, and we strive to be a model regulator for others across Canada.

The Law Society of Alberta is the self-governing association of all practising lawyers in the province of Alberta. It is financed and maintained by lawyers at no cost to the public or to the government.

What does it Mean to be a Model Regulator?

In Alberta, lawyers have a long tradition of self-governance. We are and have been governed by an elected group of lawyers called Benchers; a governing structure which continues today. This structure has been strengthened with the addition of four public representatives, appointed to the Benchers by the Attorney General of Alberta. They bring a unique public perspective to the governance of the Law Society. The new Legal Profession Act of 1990 continued the principle of self-governance of the legal profession.

At the Law Society of Alberta, we are always looking for ways to do our work better, and to be more transparent, open and accountable to the public. We have an unwavering commitment to our mission:

To serve the public interest by promoting a high standard of legal services and professional conduct through the governance and regulation of an independent legal profession.

Being a model regulator means taking the work that we do and moving it to a higher standard. It also means exploring and implementing new ways of doing our work to become more sustainable, effective, transparent and accountable. We strive to be a leader, and in that we are actively engaging with other law societies in the areas of national standards such as a model code of professional conduct, and admission to the profession.

The ultimate rationale is to protect the public through a self-governing profession. By working together, the result of this national collaboration by law societies means better regulatory standards everywhere which serve the public interest.

Disciplinary Processes Fair and Transparent

Our disciplinary processes are transparent and fair. In serving the public interest, we facilitate a process to resolve complaints regarding a lawyer’s ethical conduct. As the regulatory body of Alberta lawyers, the Law Society of Alberta is authorized under the Legal Profession Act to conduct hearings once citations are laid, and to communicate information about the outcomes of hearings. We involve public representatives (Appointed Benchers) in our adjudication processes to ensure that we reflect the public perspective.

In the rare cases in which the public is harmed by lawyer negligence, we protect the public by ensuring that every lawyer offering services to the public has at least $1 million of insurance to pay out successful claims.

It is only through an independently-regulated legal profession that lawyers can be in a position to zealously defend the interests of citizens. That is the job we do at the Law Society of Alberta, and we are proud of our track record in regulating lawyers.

Biography of Rod Jerke, QC

Education:

  • B.Sc., University of Lethbridge
  • LL.B, University of Alberta

Professional Experience:

  • Admitted to the Alberta Bar, 1980
  • Appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1998
  • Partner at Davidson & Williams LLP, with a practice concentrated on civil litigation at trial and appellate levels

Professional interests include:

  • Elected LSA Bencher for Southern Alberta February 2004. Serving 3rd term
  • Past President, Pro Bono Law Alberta
  • Chair, Pro Bono Law Alberta Advisory Board
  • President, LSA Executive and Appeal Committees
  • Co-Chair, Access to Justice Steering Committee
  • Past Chair of the LSA Committees, including: Conduct; Equality, Equity and Diversity; Pro Bono Committee; and Professional Responsibility Committee
  • Intensive Trial Advocacy Workshop, University of Calgary guest instructor, team leader
  • Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association Judicial District Representative
  • Professional Papers for: Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch, Legal Education Societies of AB and BC, and Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers’ Association

Rod Jerke, QC, becomes the third president of the Law Society to come from Lethbridge. The second Lethbridge President was the late Charles Gladstone Virtue, QC (later Justice Virtue), who was President from 1984 to 1985 and was elected Bencher in 1978.

The first President of the Law Society to come from Lethbridge was Dr. C.F.P. Conybeare, QC, who was a founding Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta in 1907 and its President in 1926-1927 prior to his death. Dr. Conybeare established, in 1885, Rod Jerke’s law firm, now known as Davidson & Williams LLP.

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