As I look back on the past year, I’m proud of the accomplishments the Law Society has achieved, and of the good work Benchers and staff have done on initiatives, including many that will continue into the new year.
One moment, however, stands out as particularly memorable. I believe that one day we will all look back on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action as a watershed moment for Canada. A resolution passed unanimously at the October Benchers’ meeting commits the Law Society to encourage all members to read the commission’s report, and to consult with Aboriginal groups as we develop an action plan in response to the report’s recommendations. That resolution casts a new light on our promise to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice and it is only the starting point in a process that will unfold in the months and years ahead. The obvious place to start is with training and professional development, and the Law Society is already working on developing new training and education materials in consultation with Aboriginal communities.
One of my top priorities over the past year has to been re-examine our admissions program. The world has changed since it was designed in the 1980s, and a thorough re-examination was overdue. I understand the Lawyer Education Advisory Committee expects to table its recommendations early in the new year. We should be proud of our program. It has served us well for over 30 years. It has emphasized training and evaluation of skills that lawyers use every day. Whatever decision the Benchers make concerning our program, I am confident that mobility and the big picture (national views) will be considered.
Another important function of the Law Society came under review this year when Benchers considered the recommendations of the Tribunal Program Review Task Force. The task force commended many positive aspects of the reforms, including adjudicative training and public and peer participation on hearing panels and credential review boards. With the adoption of several of the recommendations, Benchers reaffirmed the new direction that was initiated with reforms implemented in 2012.
While merger discussions between the Law Society and the the Society of Notaries Public of BC did not reach a conclusion in the past year, we continued to make progress. Much work was done in little time. I am grateful to the Benchers and staff who committed time and effort this year.
As I prepare to transition the presidency to my colleague David Crossin, QC, I look forward to following the progress of several key initiatives that were launched this year. The formation of the Legal Aid Task Force was a significant milestone, and I know David is committed to engaging with other organizations to coordinate resources, and to identifying ways lawyers can be more actively involved in legal aid programs. I will be following the work of the task force with great interest, and look forward to contributing to its work in any way I can.
This has been a very gratifying year and I am grateful to staff and Benchers who work so diligently regulating lawyers in the public interest. I will remember fondly the personal interactions with lawyers and students as I travelled throughout the province as president of this organization. I look forward to continuing to talk with, and learn from my colleagues in the profession in my new role as Life Bencher.