I was fortunate enough to attend a Benchers’ retreat in Jasper recently, as a guest of the Alberta Law Society. I came away re-energized, with lots of thoughts about the role of regulators in a changing world.

There was a lot of blue-sky discussion, some of which might not apply directly to issues we’re dealing with here in BC. But our current strategic plan includes seeking out and encouraging innovation, and this was a great opportunity to do just that.

One of the speakers was Michael Bruni, QC, who, in addition to being a lawyer, has devoted a big chunk of his life to hockey. Not only has he served as counsel for Hockey Canada, but his past roles include chair of Hockey Canada and president of Hockey Alberta.

Mike’s talk was an eye-opener for a lot of us at the retreat. We were surprised to hear that lawyers aren’t the only ones grappling with regulation in a time of change. He gave us a few predictable sports aphorisms, like giving 110 per cent. But he also made some really good points that got me thinking about our role as regulators.

He said that we should all be prepared to do one thing every day that scares us. To me, that gets at the heart of leadership. As a regulator, you’ve always got to think about the impact your decisions will have on others, but you can’t let that box you in. Leadership means being prepared to take a leap forward.

Mike also said that if you want to stay relevant, you’ve got to understand your market. He talked about how hockey players operate in a very different world than you and I. What they do and how they’re compensated for it can’t be measured against how most of us earn a living. It’s the same with lawyers: how one lawyer runs his or her practice may be very different from another lawyer. For example, one might handle nothing but criminal cases, and have no trust account. Another might handle estates, or real estate conveyance, and oversee millions of dollars in trust. That got me thinking that when it comes to regulation, one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

Mike’s parting thought was that change is intimately connected with communication. No change will be effective if you aren’t in constant communication with the people affected.

I appreciated the generosity of my Alberta hosts, and the opportunity to sit back and think about about what we do, and why we do it. The topics under discussion weren’t urgent and won’t have immediate consequences. But sometimes it’s healthy to give your imagination free reign to consider new perspectives.