When I presided over call ceremonies in Vancouver and Victoria recently, I issued a challenge to all the new lawyers. We all talk about access to justice, I told them, but I asked them what they were prepared to do about it.

I issued the challenge because I want these new lawyers to remember that public service is at the heart of our profession. As a Bencher, and as the president of the Law Society, I spend a lot of time in committees and on the regulation side of the society’s mandate. It’s sometimes easy to forget that everything we do starts with serving members of the public.

Dr. Melina Buckley chairs the Canadian Bar Association’s National Access to Justice Committee, and something she said in a presentation to Benchers last year has stuck with me. She said that if we want to ensure access to justice, we should “work collaboratively, think systemically and act locally.”

The message was simple but direct. It means that at a local level we must interact with the people in our communities. We can and should learn from every interaction. That’s why I’m asking this year’s new lawyers to volunteer in their communities, and to report back to me with a short email about the experience. I hope that direct connection with me will remind them that the Law Society is about more than just enforcing rules.

As I continue attending my committee meetings and deliberating on regulatory matters, I’m hoping to hear some stories about the kinds of legal services these new lawyers provided, and who received them. Most of all, I’m looking forward to hearing what they learned from the experience.