Referendum ballot: Proposal to extend term of office of Lay Benchers until replaced by Provincial Cabinet

October 22, 1999

The referendum question

At their September meeting, under section 12(3) of the Legal Profession Act, the Benchers authorized a referendum of the profession on the following question:

Are you in favour of authorizing the Benchers to amend Rule 1-1 of the Law Society Rules to allow a Lay Bencher to continue in office until a successor is appointed?

Members are asked to vote "YES" or "NO" to this question. Enclosed in this package is a referendum ballot and voting instructions. In Vancouver and Westminster districts, this referendum is being held in conjunction with Bencher elections.

Why extend the term of a Lay Bencher?

Lay Benchers have been an important part of the Law Society since 1988. Like elected lawyer Benchers, Lay Benchers generously volunteer their time, carry out important responsibilities as members of committees and panels and bring a valuable public perspective to the work of the Benchers as a whole.

Under the Law Society Rules, the term of office for Lay Benchers is the same as that for elected Benchers, (i.e., two calendar years). After December 31 of an odd-numbered year, Lay Bencher appointments expire, whether or not the provincial government has made new appointments.

Unfortunately, the government has in some years failed to make new appointments prior to the end of these terms. This has caused a gap in the continuity of Lay Benchers and disruption in the work of the Law Society.

Members are asked to consider a Law Society Rule change that would allow a Lay Bencher to continue in office until the government appoints a replacement.

Provisions to extend an appointment pending the appointment of a successor are common. Section 59(2) of the Legal Profession Act, for example, provides for an extension in the terms of Governors of the Law Foundation.

Why is a referendum needed?

Prior to December 31, 1998, the terms of office of Lay Benchers were set out in the Legal Profession Act. These terms are now set out under Law Society Rule 1-1.

Under section 12(3) of the new Legal Profession Act, the Benchers can amend certain Rules — including Rule 1-1 — only if they do so on the authority of a two-thirds majority vote of members in good standing in a referendum ballot.

This referendum is being held in conjunction with general Bencher elections so as to minimize the cost.

What is the deadline for referendum ballots?

You will find in this mailing package a referendum ballot, election envelopes and voting instructions. For your ballot to be counted, it must be received by the Executive Director at the Law Society office on or before Friday, November 12, 1999.