Gordon Turriff, QC

Gordon TurriffGordon Turriff, QC is the 70th head of the Law Society. First elected a Bencher for 2002, Turriff is senior counsel in the Vancouver office of Stikeman Elliott LLP.

He currently serves as Chair of the Executive Committee and of the Litigation and Appointments Subcommittees. He is also a member of the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee and is the Benchers’ representative on the Federation of Law Societies of Canada National Committee on Accreditation.

Turriff has authored or co-authored many publications, including the Annotated British Columbia Legal Profession Act, the British Columbia Annual Practice and a chapter on “Remuneration” in Barristers & Solicitors in Practice.

Benchers’ Bulletin: What prompted you to become a lawyer?

Gordon Turriff, QC: Looking back now, I think it was the day the US National Guard shot and killed four students on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. I was a student myself then. My direction was a result of everything that was going on then, where there were challenges every day to government action. And I was sympathetic to that because I’ve always been skeptical of government.

BB: Why turn to law? Why not politics or activism?

GT: I was mildly interested in politics, but I think I was turned off it because it seemed to be something that depended very much on who you happened to know rather than how good you might be. I thought the longer term solution was to get into the system rather than to attack it from the outside.

BB: What made you decide to run for President of the Law Society?

GT: One thing led to another. I asked for and was given lots of responsibility by some of the Presidents under whom I served [as a Bencher]. And I just became more and more involved and thought that I could continue to contribute in bigger ways, and eventually the [Benchers] agreed. And here I am.

BB: What in your opinion is the President’s most important responsibility?

GT: To help to show people the way. Perhaps this year particularly, to help educate the public about the role the Law Society plays in the community, the rule of law, independence of lawyers and ­self-governance as a necessary condition of independence.

BB: How did you come up with the idea of a province-wide speaking tour?

GT: It seemed to be the right thing to do. I could tell in speaking to people in the community, even speaking to articled students and young lawyers, that people just didn’t have any clear idea of what the Law Society is all about, what its mandate is, what it does from day to day. And I thought we needed to communicate that information.

BB: And how is the tour going so far?

GT: The thing that surprises me is that people really are interested in the subjects that I’m taking to them; I wasn’t sure whether they would be. But they seem to be very interested in what I’m telling them. And that’s good because that’s exactly what I’d hoped for.

BB: What would you say to Bulletin readers about the benefit of serving as a Bencher and President for the Law Society?

GT: It’s a great opportunity to make a contribution to the public welfare. It’s also interesting, and it’s fun. You get a chance to work with good people. Not only fellow Benchers, but Law Society staff. Absolutely, I would do it again.

BB: How many hours do you typically spend doing Bencher work each month?

GT: Well over 100.

BB: And that’s in addition to the work you do at Stikeman Elliott.

GT: And in addition to my work on two books.

BB: So when do you sleep?

GT: Not often, actually. Not often. I’m looking forward to that on January 1, 2010.