Benchers adopt policy on outside appointments

The Benchers have adopted a formal policy whereby a Bencher will not accept an appointment or election to another organization that has objectives that may conflict, or reasonably be perceived to conflict, with those of the Law Society — unless the Benchers as a whole, the Executive Committee or the President approves.

The Independence and Self-Governance Committee had recommended the appointments policy as one way for the Benchers to demonstrate and uphold the Law Society’s independence. The Committee flagged concern that, in the United Kingdom and some other countries, the independence of law societies has been eroded in recent years. A criticism has been levied against those law societies that they failed to distinguish their role as a governing body, which must regulate in the public interest, from the role of an advocacy body, which promotes lawyers’ interests.

To reinforce the importance of Law Society independence in this province, the Benchers adopted the following governance policy, to apply to all future appointments. It sets out a general principle on when Benchers should decline appointments, but permits some flexibility for allowing exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The policy reads:

Accepting appointment to boards or committees of other organizations

The object and duty of the Society is to uphold and protect the public interest in the administration of justice and, subject to the foregoing, to regulate the practice of law and uphold and protect the interests of the Society’s members. From time to time, a Bencher is asked to join, or run for election to, the board of directors or a committee of an organization, the objects of which may not be the same as those of the Society, or a purpose of which may be to promote the interests of lawyers. In either case, the organization might, or might be perceived to, take a position that is contrary to or conflicts with the object and duty of the Society or decisions of the Benchers. The Benchers govern and administer the affairs of the Society and it is important for the promotion, protection, interest and welfare of the Society that the Benchers be, and be seen to be, independent of any organization described above.

Accordingly, Benchers must not accept appointment or election to a board of directors or a committee of an organization described above unless the Benchers, the Executive Committee or the President approves the appointment.