Governance of our Profession: It’s Changing


Governance of our Profession: It’s Changing

In early December, the Law Society of BC released the Report of a Governance Review of the Law Society of British Columbia, as prepared by regulator and governance specialist, Harry Cayton of the United Kingdom. Mr. Cayton has reviewed a number of regulatory bodies in British Columbia and throughout the world.

Mr. Cayton noted in the Report: “The review finds that the legal framework within which the Law Society operates is not fit for a modern regulatory body and that it hampers the Law Society’s Benchers in fulfilling their responsibilities.” The Report goes on to list 30 recommendations to improve the governance structure. These range from discontinuing the practice of electing benchers on a geographic basis to ceasing interviews with articling students to ensuring every action of the Law Society is explicitly connected to protecting the public interest in the administration of justice.

CBABC made recommendations to Mr. Cayton, many of which were incorporated into the Report. CBABC’s Professional Issues Committee is now undertaking a review of the Report and will engage with members over the coming months to receive their thoughts on the role of the Law Society, CBABC, and the specific recommendations. As President Jennings highlights in her column, this report is required reading for all lawyers.

Why does this report matter to the profession? There are several fundamental changes proposed, all of which reflect modern thinking about governance, but also a new, possibly different, perspective on the relationship between what it means for a profession to be self-governing in the protection of the public interest. This is best captured in Section 5.6 where the Report asserts that the Law Society is there to serve the public. How many lawyers would agree with that succinct statement? Would more lawyers expect a dual, complementary role in a self-governing regulator?

The statutory responsibility of “protection of the public interest in the administration of justice by regulating the practice of law” must involve the input of lawyers who are actually practising law. Without it, regulations are ineffective. Regulations must achieve the outcome intended. Front-line information about implementation and impact needs to be collected, not only from the public but also lawyers. Achieving understanding about how proposed and existing regulations affect particular areas of practice is a key part of effective regulation. The Law Society’s operations and processes need to be able to draw in that data.

The Report also distinguishes between the role of a regulator and the role of a professional association in order to avoid conflicts of interest and promote clarity of roles and responsibilities. Should the Benchers adopt the Report’s recommendations, a new era of engagement between CBABC and the Law Society can begin.

CBABC members frequently express concern about the complexity of regulation and the impact on their practices, and thus, client service. CBABC’s Professional Issues Committee exists to receive that information and develop CBABC’s position on specific issues related to the regulation. In addition to responding to the Governance Review, the Committee is currently considering the articling model in British Columbia. CBABC’s Board of Directors anticipates an increased role for this Committee of volunteer lawyers, and welcomes the engagement of the membership through email, responses to ThoughtExchanges, and member roundtables. You can give your immediate thoughts through

The Benchers of the Law Society will determine which of the 30 recommendations of the Report will be adopted, how, and when. As the voice of the profession, CBABC will provide opportunities for the Law Society to connect with our members and will provide your input into those decisions. Stay connected to your county and Section representatives and read News+Jobs for the latest.