Reflecting with pride
Anna K. Fung, QC
In the year that has passed since our last annual general meeting, the Law Society has endeavoured to do its best, to get better and to do what is right for the public and the profession. While we don’t always succeed, we never stop trying. We, the Benchers and staff — collectively and individually — have focused on excellence and achievement in every facet of our work. We have brought enthusiasm to our ideas and efficiency to our tasks. In the end, we have much of which to be proud.
On the fiscal front, we have delivered on our commitment to prepare balanced budgets for our Law Society operations and have brought a degree of stability and forward planning to the setting of practice fees. At the same time, we have fulfilled our commitment to relieve the majority of law firms of the cost of the traditional annual accountant’s report.
For those in small firms, we have delivered on our commitment to provide lawyers with free, practical, online practice support.
We have increased our financial support of pro bono programs; we have obtained legislative changes to make our practice standards more robust, flexible and transparent; we have brought custodianships in-house in an effort to reduce growing costs and the length of custodianships; and we have established a solid and healthy relationship with the provincial government, along with a collaborative relationship with the Canadian Bar Association.
Acting on the recommendation of the Equity and Diversity Committee, and in an effort to bring the society closer to the public that it serves, the Law Society has organized two successful free public forums on legal topics in the past year. The third will be held on November 22, 2007 in conjunction with the Lawyers Without Rights exhibit in Vancouver. At the same time, the Law Society is continuing to seek ways to improve access to justice and has introduced new protocols to ensure its professional conduct program responds to public needs. Following on an initiative begun last year by our immediate past-president Rob McDiarmid, QC, the Law Society continues to work with the provincial government to find cost-effective ways to provide the public with free online access to up-to-date BC legislation.
I have no doubt that the energy and creativity the Benchers and staff, along with our many volunteers and supporters, have brought to these initiatives will pay off in the end.
Our healthy lawyers’ insurance program remains the envy of other law societies. Our professional conduct department is a model of fairness and efficiency. Our practice fees are lower than both Ontario and Alberta. Perhaps best of all, our home-grown, small firm online practice course won an international legal education award.
Indeed, the Law Society has a lot to be proud of. But it is you, our members, that we, the Benchers and Law Society staff, are proudest of.
The legal profession is the foundation on which the Canadian economy and Canadian society are built. Some lawyers advise business leaders on multi-million dollar mergers. Others help the average citizen write a will or buy a house. The common thread, though, is that all are involved in making our society better and our economy grow and prosper.
While other professions blur their boundaries in desperate attempts to retain business and attract new business or steadfastly refuse to embrace changing societal needs in misguided notions of professional protection, the legal profession remains committed to its core values of the maintenance of independence and the rule of law. It is these core values that impose on lawyers a greater professional burden than members of other professions.
For many people — the disadvantaged, new Canadians, the disabled, for example — lawyers are the only safety net they have in a world that often seems to be a struggle. Consistently, it is the legal profession that stands up for them.
Whether it is through advice at a storefront clinic or by finding time for them during a busy day, there are many people who rely on and trust lawyers to help them. As we know all too well, often the people who most need legal advice are the ones who cannot afford it. It is the lawyers who provide that assistance, without any expectation of reward, the Dugald Christies of this world, who are the ones we should be most proud of.
I would be remiss if I did not mention one of the most important components of the Law Society — our Lay Benchers. Without their perceptive and cogent assistance, I don’t think the Law Society would be as solid an organization as it is. They are a constant reminder of the importance of ensuring that the public interest, above and beyond lawyer interests, is foremost in our consideration of everything that we do.
As I said at the outset, the Law Society and the legal profession have much to be proud of. Yes, as lawyers, we face more than our fair share of criticism and we are often the butt of jokes and unwarranted attacks, but that unfortunately comes with the privileged position we hold in our society and the envy with which others tend to regard us. We should not, however, let that deter us from holding our heads high and proclaiming to the world that we are indeed proud, dare I say it, even honoured, to be lawyers.