Law Society President launches speaking tour

Gordon Turriff, QC, Law Society President, has embarked on a province-wide speaking tour to help educate the public about the rule of law, independence of lawyers and the Law Society’s public interest mandate.

The President’s tour is part of the Law Society’s 125th anniversary activities, taking place throughout 2009.

  Gordon Turriff, QC in New Westminster
  Gordon Turriff, QC, speaks to members of the public at the New Westminster Public Library on February 24 as part of the President’s speaking tour.

“I hope by this speaking tour to engage the public — people who have little knowledge of law and the legal profession — about the role the Law Society plays in protecting the public interest,” he said. “I also want to promote public understanding of the rule of law, independence of lawyers and self-regulation.”

Turriff’s first stop was on February 24 at New Westminster, where he held a public lecture at the local library. He also spoke to a legal studies class at Douglas College.

He has since travelled to Kelowna, Penticton, Nanaimo, Qualicum Beach, Prince George, Surrey, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek, delivering his message to students, seniors, chambers of commerce, community groups and the general public.

The public interest plays a pivotal role in the Law Society’s work, he states in his keynote address.

“The public interest permeates every question the Law Society seeks to answer, every policy we promote, every step we take. I am not making this up. I am not dressing it up for public consumption. It is so.”

Turriff describes the role, responsibilities and structure of the Law Society, but he also delves into a deeper discussion of the principles that underpin the society’s work, including the rule of law and its role in community affairs.

“The rule of law means there is one law for all, legitimated by all. It can be broken down into three principles — laws reflect community standards, law regulates the relationship between governments and people, and governments are not above the law.

“If we want to maintain the rule of law, we must be vigilant. We must insist that laws reflect the standards of the community, not the standards of the noisy few.”

Turriff also focuses on independence of lawyers in his keynote address, which he adapts to his varied audiences.

“Some people believe that independence of lawyers is a privilege, others think that it is a public right, subject to restriction. Still other people — and I am one of them — think that independence of lawyers is a constitutional value or imperative, as secure as independence of judges. Lawyers must be independent.

“Be certain that there are independent lawyers who will use their best judgment in your interests, free from government or anyone else who might seek to stop them from discharging their duty of loyalty to you as their clients.”

On the topic of self-governance, Turriff does not mince words.

“Lawyers must govern themselves. That has been the way in British Columbia, and it must be the way of the future. You can trust the Benchers of the Law Society, acting in the public interest, to make appropriate rules for all lawyers. Those rules will ensure that lawyers are people of integrity and that they are properly equipped to serve their clients’ needs.”

The President’s speaking tour continues through September 2009.

Mr. Turriff’s upcoming speaking dates and venues:
  • Surrey Board of Trade*
    April 23, 11:30 am
  • Kamloops Public Library*
    April 29, 7 pm
  • 100 Mile House Rotary Club
    April 30, 12 pm
  • Vancouver Brock House Society
    May 5, 10:30 am
  • Rotary Club of Richmond
    May 13, 12 pm
  • Prince Rupert Public Library*
    May 14, 7 pm

* Open to the public.