Call for hearing panel participants results in strong response
by Timothy E. McGee
The Law Society recently invited lawyers and the public to participate as members of our hearing panels for discipline and credentials matters. Notices ran in newspapers across the province for several weeks and were posted on our website. The initiative was part of the Benchers’ strategic decision to make the Law Society’s regulatory processes more transparent and reflective of the public interest.
We were surprised and delighted by the extent of the response from both lawyers and the public alike. As other regulatory bodies can attest, one of the greatest challenges is how to meaningfully involve the public in work that by our mandates is dedicated to serving the “public interest.” What we have learned through this initiative is that the public is indeed interested in the “public interest,” and through this opportunity we plan to take advantage of that.
By the deadline for applications, we had received submissions from over 130 lawyers and almost 600 members of the public wishing to be considered as panellists for our regulatory hearings. This strong response will allow us to choose potential hearing panel pool members who have varied skills and experience, and who represent the geographic and demographic diversity of the province. These new panellists will work side by side with our existing pool of eligible Benchers to assist us in our goal of conducting regulatory hearings that are thorough, fair and in the public interest.
The hearing panel applications are now being reviewed. Even on a preliminary assessment we realize we are in the enviable position of having far more qualified applicants than we can realistically involve as panellists over the next two to three-year period. However, we will carefully review all applications and will be notifying all applicants in the fall regarding next steps.
If you have applied to participate as a member of our hearing panels, let me take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for your interest. You have stepped up to offer your assistance to us so we can do our work more effectively, and for that we are very grateful.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that, as of September 1, 2011, articled students will be permitted to provide a greater range of legal services with the supervision of a lawyer. New rules outline the specifics and the limitations, and are discussed in this issue of Benchers’ Bulletin.
We are in discussions with representatives of the Provincial Court and the Supreme Court to ensure that the expanded role envisioned for articling students aligns with judicial requirements.
Now, it is up to the profession to take us up on this opportunity. While this obviously represents a great chance for students to do and learn more prior to being called to the Bar, the primary reason for these changes is for firms to be able to offer the public further options to obtain lower-cost alternatives to much needed legal services.
As always, if you have any questions about the work of the Law Society, please do not hesitate to contact me by phone at 604.669.2533 or email@example.com.