Message from the President
"It was my pleasure and an honour to serve as the President of the Law Society of Alberta this past year. I had the opportunity to work with a very intelligent and engaged Bencher table and a very supportive and professional staff. I am grateful to have been able to serve the public interest alongside all of them."
- Integrity – honest and ethical behaviour.
- Transparency – open and clear processes and communications.
- Fairness – equitable treatment of people.
- Competency – best practices, high standards and the pursuit of excellence.
- Independence – independent and independently regulated legal profession.
- Respect – inclusion, diversity and equity in the profession and in the Law Society.
Board members in 2019
The Law Society is governed by a 24-member Board. Of the 24 Board members, also called Benchers, 20 are lawyers elected by the profession, and four are public representatives (Lay Benchers) appointed by the Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
The Board provides strategic direction, focusing on goals which demonstrate our values and help achieve our vision and mission.
- Rob Armstrong, QC, President
- Kent Teskey, QC, President-Elect
- Ryan D. Anderson
- Arman Chak
- Corie Flett
- Bill Hendsbee
- Cal Johnson, QC
- Linda Long, QC
- Jim Lutz
- Bud Melnyk
- Walter Pavlic, QC
- Corinne Petersen (appointed February 2019)
- Stacy Petriuk
- Robert Philp, QC
- Kathleen Ryan, QC
- Darlene W. Scott, QC
- Deanna Steblyk
- Margaret Unsworth, QC
- Ken Warren, QC
- Nathan Whitling
- Elizabeth Hak; Lay Bencher
- Barbara McKinley; Lay Bencher
- Cora Voyageur; Lay Bencher
- Louise Wasylenko: Lay Bencher
- Don Cranston, QC (until February 2019)
Bencher Election Task Force
With the upcoming Bencher Election in October 2020, a Bencher Election Task Force was created to facilitate this process. The stated mandate of the Bencher Election Task Force is to develop:
- strategies for increasing number and diversity of candidates running for Bencher.
- strategies for increasing voter engagement and turnout for Bencher election.
- recommendations for Bencher candidate campaign materials.
- recommendations for Bencher candidate education and orientation.
- recommendations regarding how election results are shared with candidates and the profession.
The task force is comprised of seven members, including Benchers, lawyer volunteers and staff support.
ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING RULE CHANGES
In 2019, changes were introduced to the Rules of the Law Society around client identification and verification, the receipt of cash and the permitted use of lawyers’ trust accounts.
This change was born out of the ongoing fight that the Federation of Law Societies of Canada has been waging against money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities within the legal profession. The stricter rules around client identification and verification address the conduct of lawyers and reduce the risk of assisting anyone to commit an illegal act. By adhering to these fundamental principles, lawyers help prevent crime and maintain public trust in the justice system.
The rollout of these rule changes involved developing resources for lawyers, several in-person sessions in various locations around Alberta and two live webinars.
Respectful Workplace Model Policy
In response to the results of the articling survey, we launched a Respectful Workplace Model Policy for members of the legal profession to adapt and use within their practices.
In addition to the model policy, we began developing guides for employees and employers to further understand the model policy. The employee guide explains how the policy protects employees when they experience discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace. It also provides additional resources for employees to seek assistance. The employer guide explains how to implement the model policy and why it’s important.
These guides will be released in 2020.
APPROVED LEGAL SERVICES PROVIDERS PROGRAM
To further improve access to legal services in Alberta, we implemented Rule changes that allowed for the regulation of pro bono organizations as Approved Legal Services Providers (ALSPs). The program launched in July 2019 and was designed to create a clear process for established and new pro bono organizations to provide their legal services to the public, in turn increasing access for those facing financial, geographical, cultural or social barriers.
Organizations now apply to become listed as an approved provider on the Law Society website. This way, employees, clients, volunteers or funders of pro bono organizations can have greater confidence in their legal services. Lawyers who are otherwise exempt from insurance coverage are also now covered for volunteer legal services provided through any ALSP.
When a lawyer is directed to hearing, the matter is heard by a Hearing Committee. If a lawyer is found guilty, penalties can be imposed including a reprimand, fine, suspension, and disbarment.
- Fined: When a lawyer is required to pay a financial penalty to the Law Society of Alberta.
- Reprimand: A formal expression of reproach, either written or oral, issued by the Hearing Committee, which becomes part of the lawyer’s conduct record.
- Suspension: A lawyer’s membership in the Law Society of Alberta is suspended and they are prohibited to practise law in Alberta for a specific period.
- Disbarred: The lawyer’s membership in the Law Society of Alberta is terminated and they can no longer practise law in Alberta.
When a lawyer applying to resign is the subject of current complaints and discipline proceedings, the lawyer will have their resignation application heard by a panel of three Benchers.
- Resigned (s.32): A lawyer who faces conduct proceedings but is given permission by a Resignation Committee to resign due to certain mitigating factors or circumstances, or a lawyer who seeks to resign for other reasons (e.g. relocation, retirement).
- Resigned (s. 61): A lawyer who faces serious conduct proceedings which would likely give rise to a penalty of disbarment by a Hearing Committee but is instead given permission by a Resignation Committee to resign. This is equal to a disbarment.