|For immediate release||December 14, 2012|
Public on hearing panels: opening the doors for public participation
Vancouver – It has been one year since the Law Society enhanced its hearings process and made it mandatory that a member of the public would help adjudicate all discipline and credentials hearings.
“We regulate the legal profession in the public interest,” said President Bruce LeRose, QC. “This gives the public a greater voice in our processes and I believe it makes us a stronger, more transparent organization.”
Last year, the Law Society invited members of the public to apply to sit on the hearing panels that discipline lawyers, and those that examine the fitness and character of people applying to become lawyers. Twenty-one people were eventually selected, and the first hearings to include members of that pool were in December 2011.
To date, members of the public pool have helped adjudicate 16 discipline hearings and four credentials hearings.
Dan Goodleaf, a member of the public pool, said the learning curve was steep.
“You’re sitting with very seasoned, well-accomplished individuals,” said Goodleaf, a former Canadian Ambassador in Central America and Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. “The expectation is that you will be a co-equal on the panel. You are not window dressing. You are not there to be subservient. You are there to be independent in your thought.”
The Law Society’s hearing process already included some people who were not lawyers, by the inclusion of government-appointed members of its board, called Benchers. The public pool expands the role the public plays in the regulatory process by ensuring a member of the public is on each panel.
The Law Society of British Columbia regulates the more than 10,000 lawyers in the province, setting and enforcing standards of professional conduct that ensure the public is well-served by a competent, honourable legal profession.
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