On Friday, the Benchers passed a motion that directs the Law Society to conduct a referendum of all BC lawyers regarding a proposed law school at Trinity Western University. As chair of the meeting, I was pleased and proud to see the Benchers engage with the issues and how passionately but respectfully they debated the matter and considered all points of view. It was in that spirit that the Benchers decided it was necessary to provide all members of our Society with the opportunity to participate in the decision on the proposed law school at TWU.
For many Benchers, the crux of the decision is the fact that the vote at the SGM is not the same as the results of a referendum, and so one cannot stand for the other. The vote at the SGM was in person, as set out in our Rules. The vote in the referendum will be by mail-in ballot, which provides the opportunity for every member of the Law Society to vote. The SGM vote was non-binding, and as such lawyers may have decided it was not necessary for them to vote. But the Benchers have agreed to be bound by the results of the referendum, and that sends a clear message to lawyers about the importance of expressing their view on this matter.
There have been suggestions that the lawyers who didn’t vote at the SGM missed their chance and shouldn’t be given another. I disagree. We’ve heard many stories about lawyers who simply couldn’t make it there, whether it was because they were in court, out of the country or because the distance was simply too far. After all, we live in a large province, much of it rural, where lawyers travel significant distances to go to court.
But this matter seems to have stirred up misconceptions as well. It has been suggested that, if TWU is not accredited by the Law Society of BC, their graduates could still be considered on a case-by-case basis. This is not so. If the proposed law school is not approved, there is no authority to consider students on an individual basis as they will not have graduated from an “approved faculty of law.”
And now some details about the referendum. It will be conducted by mail, and lawyers can expect to receive their ballots sometime after October 8. Lawyers who do not receive a ballot by October 15 should advise the Law Society by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Completed ballots must be received at the Law Society no later than 5:00 pm on October 29. The result of the referendum will be available on the Law Society website later in the day on October 30.
I encourage you to carefully consider the issues and to participate in the referendum. You will find all the materials relating to the TWU law school here.