E-Brief: April 2009

This is the first edition of E-Brief, a news feature designed to inform Law Society of BC members about matters discussed at the Benchers' monthly meetings and other Law Society developments. Feedback should be sent to E-Brief editor Lesley Pritchard at lpritchard@lsbc.org.

Ipsos Reid survey: The Benchers approved a plan to survey British Columbians about their use of legal services and identify barriers to accessing justice. Among other things, the survey will shed light on why some people choose to hire lawyers and others do not. The Delivery of Legal Services Task Force, chaired by Vancouver Bencher Art Vertlieb, QC, will use the survey data to guide the Benchers as they consider how the Law Society might improve access to legal services in the province.

Task force report: Kathryn Berge, QC, Chair of the Retention of Women in Law Task Force, briefed the Benchers on the task force's pending report, due at the end of June. The report is expected to present some of the reasons why women leave the ranks of lawyers in disproportionate numbers. It is also expected to encourage firms to develop programs and policies to assist in the retention and advancement of women in private practice.

Pro bono funding: The Law Foundation of BC shared some reassuring news about pro bono funding in these troubled times. Executive Director Wayne Robertson, QC told Benchers the foundation will not be cutting grants this year, despite an overall decline in donations and a dramatic drop in interest revenue. Some banks, he said, are not paying the foundation any interest on deposits because their negotiated rates are based on a prime-minus percentage formula, putting the rate below zero. Robertson said the foundation's Budget Stabilization Reserve will offset these revenue declines through the next two to three years.

Thompson Rivers University law school: Benchers got a glimpse into the future of BC's proposed third law school to be located in Kamloops. Thompson Rivers University (TRU) President Kathleen Scherf presented details on the new faculty, announced in the provincial throne speech in February. A collaboration between the University of Calgary and TRU, the law faculty's administrators will be looking for students who are more likely to remain in smaller BC communities after they graduate, helping to address the growing shortage of lawyers outside Metro Vancouver and Victoria. The first year class is expected to have 50 students, compared to 208 at University of BC and 108 at University of Victoria. TRU will draw on the Bar in the region for adjunct faculty to supplement full-time professors and the law school will be housed in a new $32-million House of Learning.

President's speaking tour: Gordon Turriff, QC was congratulated for his work representing the Law Society during his speaking tour around the province, raising the profile of the organization and its commitment to the public. CEO Tim McGee told Benchers that Turriff is demonstrating "Ironman-like qualities" as he hops aboard planes, ferries and cars to his more than 18 presentations from Nanaimo to Dawson Creek, to address audiences at Rotary Clubs, high schools, universities, public libraries and museums. His speech is entitled "The rule of law, the independence of lawyers and the public interest."

Law 12 curriculum unit: The Law Society has partnered with the Law Courts Education Society to produce an entertaining video and supporting teacher's guide for BC secondary school students in Law 12 classes. The materials are designed to help students understand the connection between an independent legal profession and judiciary, and the Rule of Law. The dramatization presents the case of three students arrested under a fictitious law called the Youth Gathering Act. It follows the trio through their arrests, the consultation with their lawyers, and the eventual striking down of the Act. The program is expected to be launched by mid-May.

2009 Law Society Scholarship: The Benchers awarded the 2009 Law Society Scholarship for $12,000 to Jennifer Katherine Bond. After graduating from University of Victoria law school in 2006, Bond was a clerk with the Alberta Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of Canada. Since then, she has been volunteering full time with Iraqi refugees in Damascus, Syria through the UN's Refugee Agency. She plans to continue working on human rights issues for her graduate studies.

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information in E-Brief is accurate. However, the information presented is necessarily a summary. When considering how any amendments or additions to the Legal Profession Act, Law Society Rules and Professional Conduct Handbook might affect their obligations and requirements, readers should refer to the complete text.