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The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2011


Click here to view the PDF version of The Advisory

From the President

The Job of Regulating Lawyers in a Changing Societal Context

By Doug Mah, President, Law Society of Alberta

It is an honour for me to serve as the 65th president of the Law Society of Alberta.

The Law Society’s tradition of regulating lawyers began in 1907 and has continued until today. The stated mission is to serve the public interest by promoting high professional standards through the independent regulation and governance of Alberta’s legal profession.

The daily work of regulation concerns admissions, competence, trust safety and discipline but also involves creating a professional environment that allows lawyers to serve the needs of a diverse population in a changing society.

Now that trade mobility and cross-border transactions are the norm in Canada, the legal profession has responded with lawyer mobility and the movement toward national standards. This year will see Alberta’s implementation of its version of the National Code of Conduct which will promote consistent ethical standards for lawyers across the country while recognizing local practices.

In today’s rights-conscious and consumeroriented society, the Law Society’s paced and somewhat clunky conduct process is undergoing review. What is expected to emerge is a fair, transparent and speedier handling of complaints, which is of benefit to the public and lawyers alike.

As Susskind, Furlong and others have told us, the legal marketplace is in a state of flux. Lawyers are no longer the exclusive providers of legal services and the legal profession must be open to new and innovative ways to deliver service and value to their clients.

And what of access? We know that lower income Albertans face different legal issues and experience the justice system in different ways than those of means. As a profession we must determine our proper role in assisting disadvantaged Albertans with legal problems. We also know that certain communities, such as in rural Alberta, are underserved and we must decide how lawyers can remain relevant and vibrant in those locations.

The Law Society’s job is to facilitate the delivery of value by lawyers to their clients in an environment of social change, while maintaining high professional standards that protect the public. This is the job that the Benchers of the Law Society of Alberta will undertake in the coming year.

I remain open to any comments or input from you about how the Law Society might better serve the public interest. You may contact me at douglas.mah@wcb.ab.ca or 780-498-8665.

Strategic Plan Priorities Established

Advancing the strategic plan in some important areas will be the focus of the Benchers this year. The Executive Committee has set this year’s course by establishing the following priorities and expected outcomes for 2011:

  1. Conduct Process: Continuation of the work begun last year to improve the complaint and discipline process to make it more responsive, efficient, fair and transparent.
  2. Alternate Delivery of Legal Services: Completing the study begun in 2009 that examines the role of independent non-lawyer legal service providers and supervised paralegals within law offices in enhancing legal service delivery to ordinary Albertans.
  3. Alberta Code Implementation: Developing and implementing communication and education plans for the profession in anticipation of the new Alberta Code of Conduct coming into effect.
  4. Governance: Developing policies and practices that will balance the Law Society’s evolving role as a modern business organization with
  5. Legal Aid Advocacy: Continuing the Law Society’s role as an advocate for the proper funding of Alberta’s legal aid system.
  6. Enhanced Regulatory Programs: Completing the implementation of the Trust Safety program and developing a Continuing Competence Framework to improve the safety and quality of legal services offered by the legal profession to the public.

Executive Committee consists of: Doug Mah, QC (President); Steve Raby, QC (President- Elect); Dale Spackman, QC; Carsten Jensen, QC; Kevin Feth, QC, Jim Eamon, QC; and Wayne Jacques, Public Representative.

Biography of Doug Mah, QC

Education

  • B.A. (English) U. of Calgary, 1978
  • LL.B, U. of Western Ontario, 1981

Bencher Experience

  • Elected Bencher in 2003, 2005 & 2008
  • Committee Memberships: Governance, Finance, Audit, Executive, Appeal, Equality Equity & Diversity
  • Committee Chair: Conduct, Credentials & Education, Practice Review, Insurance, Pro Bono, Communications, Joint Library, ADLS Project
  • Elected President-Elect for 2010 (President in 2011)

Professional Experience

  • Currently Secretary & General Counsel, Workers’ Compensation Board-Alberta (1998-present)
  • Prior to that, a staff lawyer at WCB - AB (1988-1998)
  • Formerly a litigation associate (for six years) in the Edmonton office of a major law firm (1982-1988)
  • Called to the Alberta bar in 1982 Community Contributions
  • Volunteer Lawyer, Edmonton Community Legal Clinic (2004-present)
  • Sessional Instructor, Grant MacEwan U., Professional Writing Program (2004-present)
  • Co-Chair, Glenora School Council (2003-2004) Professional Contributions
  • Author, Workers’ Compensation Practice (Carswell, 1996)
  • Author, Workers’ Compensation Title, Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (Carswell, 2002)
  • Author, Workers’ Compensation Practice in Alberta, 2nd Edition (Carswell, 2005)
  • Author, The Law of the Written Word: A Legal Guide for Writers in Canada, (Carswell, forthcoming)
  • Peer reviewer, Alberta Law Review (2003)
  • Numerous papers presented for LESA and other continuing legal education conferences on topics including administrative law, civil litigation, information and privacy, media law
  • Instructor, former Bar Admission Course yy Sessional Instructor, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta (2007-2010)
  • Frequent speaker at CBA Section Meetings
  • Regular back-page columnist, The National (the official magazine of the Canadian Bar Association, having a circulation of approximately 40,000 in Canada).

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