A focus on priorities planning
Timothy E. McGee
I am pleased to report that the Benchers have recently made some important changes in the way they will establish strategic policy priorities and direction for the Law Society in 2008 and beyond. These changes will ensure the Benchers can focus on the most pressing issues facing the regulation of the profession and will better align the resources to support that work.
Much is said about the importance of strategic planning in any organization. In many respects, the Law Society is in an enviable position regarding strategy because our mandate is spelled out clearly by statute. But while the Law Society’s public interest mandate is clear, what is not always as clear are the top priorities among a host of strategic policy options.
Beginning early in 2008 and throughout the year, selected Bencher meetings will be dedicated to establishing strategic priorities. The Benchers will be using a “knowledge-based” decision-making process to do this.
With knowledge-based strategic governance, the Benchers will be able to focus their time and effort on key policy issues, rather than operational or program details. This process also ensures that all information necessary for informed decision-making is brought forward and that priorities are set at the full Bencher level. Once set, priorities can be communicated clearly to management and to Bencher committees and task forces as required.
These governance changes will also improve the process for utilizing the knowledge and insight that is made available to the Benchers through the structure of policy-based committees and task forces.
While each of the regulatory committees such as the Discipline Committee and the Credentials Committee will remain unchanged, policy-based committees will be revamped. There will be standing advisory bodies dealing with issues such as access to justice, equity and diversity, legal education and independence and self-governance to ensure the Law Society is kept up to date with any developments in these areas. But rather than create additional policy-based committees, the Benchers will make greater use of ad hoc task forces that will be created in response to specific issues arising from the strategic priorities. These will benefit from being focused on a critical issue and from having access to the knowledge of lawyers and non-lawyers as the issue requires.
The cycle of Bencher meetings will also be changed so that discussions about strategy and planning occur early in the year. In the middle of the year, the Benchers will focus on implementing their policy decisions and preparing their practice fee recommendation. The final meetings of the year will be devoted to evaluating the Law Society’s operational performance against its objectives and preparing for the next year.
These process changes at the Bencher, committee and staff level represent current best practices in governance. As CEO, I am confident the Law Society will benefit greatly from these changes in the months and years ahead.