The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 2, April 2012

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From the President

Creating Awareness about Retention and Re-Engagement of Lawyers in Alberta

By Steve Raby, QC, President, Law Society of Alberta

I am honoured to serve as President of the Law Society of Alberta in 2012. I am entering my ninth year as a Bencher and it has become very apparent to me that the pace of change in the legal profession is accelerating rapidly and there are numerous external pressures on regulators of the legal profession to not only make significant changes, but to reorganize themselves so they are nimble enough to respond quickly to the changing environment.

I am well aware that change can be painful, especially when busy lawyers are trying to cope with change while at the same time doing a good job of serving their clients. I know that the Law Society has made some significant changes in the last couple of years (such as the Trust Safety program, CPD declarations and the new Code of Conduct) and that some of our members are questioning the need for such significant changes. I can only assure you that the Benchers have considered the effect that rapid and voluminous change can have on a law practice, but have concluded that the negative consequences of not making these changes outweighs the disruption caused by change. Being in the process of going through the changes associated with assimilating Macleod Dixon into the new Norton Rose Canada LLP and its global relations with the Norton Rose Group has been a personal reminder to me about both the short-term and the long-term consequences of significant change.

I would ask Members to please bear with us as we continue with changes that we believe are necessary to efficiently run the Law Society in the public interest and to ensure that we are responsive as a self regulator to those who would criticise us for not reacting quickly or significantly enough to external pressures. To the extent that further changes to these programs might be made to ameliorate some of the aspects of the new programs that members have advised are problematic, where such further changes will not negatively impact the benefits of the new programs, we are certainly prepared to consider them.

A few words about the theme of this month’s Advisory. The theme is retention and reengagement of lawyers. You will see some rather startling statistics as to the numbers of lawyers leaving private practice in the early years of their careers. This is especially the case with respect to women. Further, we know that there is a shortage of lawyers in rural Alberta and those lawyers in private practice in those areas who are now retiring or wish to retire, are finding it difficult to delegate their practices to other lawyers. In addition, to the extent that there are insufficient lawyers in private practice to properly serve various components of the Alberta population and their various legal problems, then this becomes a major issue in the access to justice discussion which has been in the forefront of the legal media in the past couple of years.

So what can we do to counteract these trends, or is there in fact anything we can do? Are the opportunities available to young lawyers outside of private practice so great that we simply have to recognize the phenomenon and continue to expect such attrition rate? Is private practice so difficult that lawyers, and especially women who are attempting to raise a family, simply can’t cope, or have concluded on a cost/ benefit analysis that it is simply not worth it to practise law in a private setting?

As the regulator of the legal profession, what can the Law Society do to change this? Should we throw money at the issues and hope that solves the problem? Should we be establishing programs and policies that will actively encourage young lawyers and especially women to continue in private practice? To properly serve Albertans outside of the major centres?

These are the questions that the Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force of the Law Society is attempting to answer. As with most difficult issues, one of the first things that can be done is to create awareness about the issues and we hope that this edition of the Advisory will serve that purpose.

Biography of Steve Raby, QC

Education and Credentials:

  • U of A, LL.B., 1977
  • Called to the Alberta Bar, 1978
  • Appointed Queen’s Counsel, 2004

Bencher Experience:

  • Executive Committee Member, 1994 – 1997, Elected Bencher in 2004
  • Served as Committee Chair of: Trust Safety, Real Estate Practice Advisory, Credentials and Education and Finance.

Publications / Recent Lectures:

  • Instructor, Real Estate Courses for LSA Bar Admission Course and U of C Faculty of Law
  • Contributor and instructor to numerous CBA Panels and Law Conferences
  • Member, Organizing Committee and instructor at the 27th Annual Banff Refresher Course–Real Estate Law, LESA
  • Recipient of LESA award for volunteer excellence

Community Involvement:

  • Lotteries Committee, Calgary Exhibition and Stampede

Professional Experience:

  • Articled at Macleod Dixon, 1977 – Partner since 1984 (Now Norton Rose Canada as of Jan 2012)

Outside Interests:

  • Goalie, Macleod Dixon Derelicts Hockey Team. Scouting report says that he is very good on shots directly at him, and not so good on the rest.
  • Erratic Golfer exacerbated by recent attendance at golf school.

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