The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 5, December 2010

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From the President

Major Regulatory Work Accomplished by Benchers

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

AT THE NOVEMBER meeting, several important Law Society initiatives appeared before the Benchers for consideration. These included the proposed strategic plan and the national model code. As well, new Rules for the Law Society’s Safety of Trust Program were on the table for approval. 

In approving several key regulatory projects, the Benchers moved the Law Society of Alberta closer to its vision of being a model regulator. 

Principles of Strategic Plan Approved

At the September Bencher meeting, there was a discussion about the proposed strategic plan which we began working on in earnest early this year. The discussion occurred at a high level and I wondered then whether we should step back and ponder this question: What is the purpose of a strategic plan? 

To my mind, a strategic plan is a road map that helps an organization to determine its future course. In order to determine where it is going, an organization needs to know where it stands, then determine where it wants to go and how to get there. Accordingly, a strategic plan must be a fluid document capable of amendment in response to or reasonable anticipation of changing conditions. 

The work by the Benchers on the strategic plan has been ongoing for over a half decade. The adoption, in principle, by the Benchers of this plan ensures that the energy and resources of the Law Society are focused on those strategic initiatives most important to achieving our vision, mission, and goals. 

Model Code of Conduct Approved

The Benchers have identified that a national model code is an important initiative in our strategic goal of being a model regulator, and flows from the necessity of developing national standards for the regulation of the legal profession. 

This is not a situation where all law societies adopt one code, but rather, a situation where 15 codes will exist – the National Code, and a code for each province and territory (consisting of the National Model Code with amendments specific to each province or territory and two for Quebec). Thus each regulator will have an opportunity to amend the National Model Code to suit its particular needs. That’s why we asked the Professional Responsibility Committee to review the provisions of the Model Code and make recommendations as to adoption and any amendments that are required for the local environment. 

The Benchers, while approving the Model Code as the Code of Conduct, have requested the Professional Responsibility Committee develop an implementation plan, including a future effective date and communications and educational plans, to introduce the Code of Conduct to practitioners and assist them to understand it. 

Trust Safety Rules Approved

The Benchers and staff have been working to create new Rules and processes to support its Trust Safety Program. At the November meeting, the Benchers approved the new Rules to Part 5, Division 2 of the Law Society of Alberta Rules. These will be in effect January 1, 2011. 

The Special General Meeting and Legal Aid Funding

Legal Aid is a serious concern for the Law Society and our work flows from two of our strategic goals: Public Confidence and Access to Justice. 

At the September Bencher meeting, we heard from representatives of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association, Legal Aid Board and the Edmonton Criminal Law Bar. While each speaker presented the legal aid funding issue from a different perspective, they share a common concern about the negative consequences of the funding reductions on already disadvantaged Albertans, and that an increase in funding is desperately needed.

The Benchers adopted four important Strategy Statements at its September meeting. We are working on those and will provide updates as possible. It’s worth keeping in mind that the strategies are aimed at an even broader objective, namely an increase in access to legal services for disadvantaged Albertans. No one doubts that to accomplish that there needs to be an increase in resources provided to Legal Aid Alberta. 

As the Law Society works toward a resolution with other parties, the reality is that the timeline for seeing any impact of these efforts is months. The Law Society has worked hard to foster and maintain a good working relationship with government, and understands that a collaborative approach is necessary for success when working with government. 

We will continue to keep you posted on our progress on these important initiatives. 

New Executive Elected for 2011-2012

The Benchers at their November 25-26th meeting elected a new Executive Committee for 2011-2012. Douglas Mah, QC, the current President- Elect becomes President. The President-Elect for 2011-2012 will be Stephen Raby, QC.

The other executive members are: Benchers Jim Eamon, QC; Kevin Feth, QC; Carsten Jensen, QC; and Dale Spackman, QC. Wayne Jacques is the Public Representative to the Executive.

The new President and President-Elect and Executive will begin fulfilling their roles on February 2, 2011.





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