The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 2, August 2011

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Executive Director’s Report

Strategic Plan Update: Work on National Standards on Target

By Don Thompson, QC, Executive Director, Law Society of Alberta

WHAT DOES it mean when we say we strive to be a model regulator? The Strategic Plan articulates the vision, mission, values and strategic goals of the Law Society. It also focuses the Law Society’s energy and resources on strategic initiatives most important to achieving its vision, mission and goals.

The vision is that the Law Society will be recognized as a model for protecting the public interest and preserving the fundamental principles of justice through a self-regulated, independent and trusted legal profession.

The first goal of the Strategic Plan supports this vision and sets a standard of serving the public interest by promoting and ensuring high ethical standards and competence on the part of all those seeking admission to and practising law in Alberta.

Step Forward to Becoming a Model Regulator

Our work to become a model regulator includes the following:

  • National Standards initiative, which include Quebec mobility, Assurance Fund mobility, common law degree standards, national admission standards, and discipline standards;
  • Conduct processes, procedures and policies;
  • Continuing professional development; yy Continuing competence; and
  • Policy projects related to Lawyers at Risk.

Maintaining Public Confidence

The second Strategic Plan goal relates to our efforts to ensure public confidence in the Law Society as an independent regulator of the legal profession. We continue to communicate to the public, government and lawyers about the good work we do to protect the rule of law, to uphold client-lawyer privilege, to promote a high standard of legal services and professional conduct, and to govern and regulate the legal profession. The Law Society engages in continuous improvement of regulatory programs. This year, we began the following initiatives among others:

  • Revising forms and procedures related to the new Trust Safety program;
  • Articulating the funding goals and updating procedures related to Third Party funding and the Pro Bono Task Force;
  • Advocacy work on the Legal Aid issue; and
  • Refining our discipline processes to achieve better outcomes.

Upholding Principles of Justice

Focusing on the Principles of Justice is the third Strategic Plan goal. Under this goal, the Law Society continues to uphold and preserve the principles of justice fundamental to a free democratic society, particularly client-lawyer privilege and the independence of lawyers and the courts.

  • The Law Society is participating in the national initiative to create statutory standards and protocols for law office searches; and
  • It continues to monitor for threats to the rule of law, and successfully intervened in a case that sought access to lawyers’ files through a Norwich order.

Promoting Effective Access to Justice

Access to Justice is the fourth Strategic Plan goal. In this, we promote effective access to justice, and equality and diversity in the legal profession. To fulfill this goal, we are seeking to:

  • Complete the examination of whether access to justice would be improved by having nonlawyers deliver legal services;
  • Identify programs to retain lawyers in practice and re-engage those who might be leaving practice; and
  • Identify Access to Justice policies and programs for Bencher approval.

Adding Organizational Capacity

To support these four goals, we have added a fifth Strategic Plan goal of developing organizational capacity. This will ensure the Law Society has the required organizational infrastructure and business supports in place to achieve the Law Society’s mission and strategic goals. Key projects among many under this goal include:

  • Business planning and fiscal cycle consolidation;
  • A comprehensive governance review; and
  • Implementation of web-based, self-service transactions with a focus on Membership and Trust Safety.

We’ve developed a business plan that, in addition to our core work, pursues those priorities while continuing with our work in the strategic plan, including addressing those initiatives with three-year outcomes. The business plan is built around the structure of the strategic plan.

At the end of our three-year Strategic Plan in 2013, we are confident the Law Society will have the infrastructure, resources and technology to position itself to be a better and trusted leader to independently regulate Alberta’s legal profession.

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