Benchers authorize referendum on proposed rule changes

The Benchers are seeking approval from the profession on several proposed rule changes through a mail-back referendum, to be conducted in conjunction with Bencher elections this Fall. Section 12 of the Legal Profession Act requires the approval of two-thirds of lawyers voting in a referendum before the Benchers can make certain rule changes, such as rule changes relating to Bencher elections, the office of Bencher and general meetings of the Law Society.

BC lawyers will be asked to vote on whether they favour the Benchers making rule changes on the following:

Webcasting of general meetings

The profession will be asked if they are in favour of the Benchers amending the Law Society Rules respecting general meetings to:

  • allow members to attend and vote by way of the internet, and
  • ensure that a meeting will not be invalidated by reason alone of a technical failure that prevents some members from attending and voting by way of the internet.

The Law Society is currently exploring options for webcasting the Annual General Meeting and special general meetings. The Law Society Rules would need to be amended to permit such an initiative.

Special general meetings

The profession will also be asked if they are in favour of the Benchers amending the Rules on special general meetings, to change the number of members required to request a meeting from 150 members to 5% of members in good standing at the time that the request is received by the Executive Director.

The current rule requirement of 150 members to requisition a special general meeting of the Law Society was set in the mid-1980s when the profession was much smaller. The Benchers favour making that number proportionate to the size of the profession today and adopting a percentage formula to effectively tie the minimum number of requisitioners to the size the profession in the future.

Bencher term limits

Another referendum question will ask the profession if they are in favour of the Benchers amending the Rules respecting term limits for Benchers - to increase the number of terms a Bencher is eligible to serve from the current four full or partial terms to five terms.*

* Note: A "term" would be defined to include a partial term that is more than half of a full term.

The Benchers are concerned that the current limit on terms has forced some Benchers to leave office at a time when, as a result of their experience and expertise, they are making their most valuable contribution. Increasing the maximum number of terms would allow a Bencher to run for re-election for an additional term.

Life Benchers

"Life Bencher" is a title to honour retiring Presidents and long-serving Benchers on completing their terms of service.

The profession will be asked if they are in favour of the Benchers amending the Rules respecting Life Benchers so that a Bencher who is elected or appointed a minimum of four times becomes a Life Bencher on leaving office (as in the current Rule), but is not disqualified from election or appointment as a Bencher until the term limit is reached.

The proposed rule change would ensure that Benchers remain eligible to become Life Benchers after four full or partial terms of service if they leave office at that time, or if the term limit is increased and they are re-elected for a fifth term, when they leave office after that term.