The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 1, March 2011

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Independent Regulation Takes Vision

An Excerpt from a Final Speech by Outgoing President

By the Honourable Mr. Justice Rod Jerke to the Benchers on Feb 3, 2011

IN 2003, I put my name forward [for election as Bencher], planning to do my duty for what was then a two year term. Well, the two years have turned to seven and I have learned a lot.

I have learned that independence goes by different names and has different faces, each with its own perspective. I have learned that it is possible to conceive of independence as a privilege, a right, a duty, or all three. I learned there is a difference between independent lawyers and an independent regulator.

When I first started this job as Bencher, I thought our role as the Law Society was to regulate and govern an independent legal profession in the public interest because that was the right thing to do. Of course, I still believe that – that it is the right thing to do. But for me now, regulation of lawyers starts and ends with the public interest.

I say that the public interest actually requires that lawyers be independently regulating. Independent regulation enables and guards an independent legal profession. An independent legal profession produces independent lawyers who then have the freedom to serve the rule of law which in turn serves and in fact fulfills the public interest.

I have also learned that we can never take it for granted that fundamental principles of justice will be respected. During my time as a Bencher we have seen threats to an independent judiciary in Pakistan and China, threats to an independent Bar in Russia and Tanzania, and threats to the rule of law in and coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have learned that independent regulation takes vision, and I am proud to have been part of a group of Benchers who over the last seven years have worked hard to envision how we can take this organization and the legal profession where they need to go.

I have learned that independent regulation takes unswerving determination and dedication to ensure we accomplish our core regulatory goal of promoting and ensuring high ethical standards and competence on the part of the entire legal profession.

I have learned that independent regulation takes the collective efforts of all of us learning from each other and working together. In this regard I have been very privileged to work with and learn from not just all of the Benchers, but seven Presidents, Ms. Gottselig, QC; Mr. Anderson, QC; Mr. Mc- Gillivray, QC; Ms. Duckett, QC; Mr. Peacock, QC; Mr. Mack, QC; Mr. Michalyshyn, QC; and Mr. Mah, QC.

I have learned that independent regulation takes action and for us that has shown up in regulatory advances like the Trust Safety and our CPD program. It has shown up in policy initiatives, like support for Assist and Pro Bono Law Alberta. And our action has shown up nationally in the leadership we have taken on the promotion of National Standards for the regulation of the legal profession.

And I have learned that independent regulation takes a lot of hard work. In this regard, we are very fortunate that the Law Society is the benefactor of the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, particularly including each one of the Benchers. We are also the benefactors of a superb, well-intentioned, well-focused, and dedicated staff, and we have a committed Executive Director, Don Thompson, QC, who is recognized everywhere for his unique and outstanding skills and leadership.

Of course, there is much more that I have yet to learn, as I leave this table, and there are many questions left unanswered for me, and much work left to do Fortunately, the Benchers and Staff of the Law Society, led by President Mah, QC and President-Elect Raby, QC are well equipped to tackle the challenge self-regulation of the legal profession poses.

Finally, I will say that in my seven years as a Bencher I have learned to be a better lawyer and to know more clearly what my part is in self-regulation of the profession. My role as a member is to elect Benchers; to be - in effect – taxed; to contribute my time to regulation of the legal profession; to be an ambassador advocating the rule of law and the independence of Courts and lawyers to the public; and perhaps most importantly, to be governable.

All of these things I say that I will do gladly having great confidence that the Law Society of Alberta will continue to do its work of regulation. In that way, we all ensure our profession is independent and I can continue to independently serve my clients.

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