It is important that our members participate in the regulation of the legal profession. Letting your name stand for Bencher is an important contribution and we thank each and every candidate for their interest and dedication.
The 2021 Bencher election concluded on November 15. The successful candidates are as follows:
Prince Albert: John Morrall – by acclamation
Central: Suzanne Jeanson (Moose Jaw) – by acclamation
East Central: Nolan Kondratoff (Yorkton) – by acclamation
North East: Foluke Laosebikan, K.C. (Melfort) – by acclamation
North West: Jonathan Bodvarson
South East: No candidate
South West: Andrea Argue (Swift Current) – by acclamation
New Lawyer: William Lane (Regina)
All lawyers in good standing in Saskatchewan are eligible to run for Bencher.
The Law Society has a mandate to protect the public interest and this is best served by leadership from diverse backgrounds and experience. Lawyers from all practice areas, types and years of call that want to contribute to the governance of the profession should consider standing for election. We encourage lawyers from equity-seeking groups to seek nomination. This may include lawyers who are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour), 2SLGBTQ+, women, and persons with a disability. Greater representation from these communities will provide valuable perspectives enriching our ability to regulate the practice of law in the public interest.
An ideal Bencher candidate should be diligent, collaborative, open-minded, respectful and possess a sincere and genuine commitment to serving the public. A wide range of professional and volunteer experiences are required to properly examine the many complex issues associated with regulating the practice of law in the public interest. No single individual will possess all desired attributes, which is why diverse perspectives and skillsets are necessary and encouraged to support decision making processes. Certain attributes like experience with governance practice, administrative law and professional regulation are desirable. However, becoming a Bencher can also provide the environment to learn and develop knowledge in these areas while leading with the unique skills and perspectives already possessed. Above all, an open-minded commitment to continuous learning and improvement, teamwork and the ability to think strategically provides the foundation to make a positive impact.
It is an exciting and challenging time to be involved in regulating the practice of law. We encourage all members to consider putting their names forward.
The best source of general information is the Law Society website. Once there, reviewing The Legal Profession Act, 1990 (the “Act”), the Law Society Rules and our current Strategic Plan will all serve as good starting points.
More fundamentally, it helps to understand what Benchers are and what they are not.
Benchers are the governing board of the Law Society. Collectively, Benchers are a hybrid policy governance board, meaning that there is a clear separation between governance and management. The Benchers are focused on strategic leadership for the Law Society, while the Administration is focused on developing policy options and managing operations. Benchers also play an important role in evaluating and adjudicating the admission and conduct of lawyers in Saskatchewan.
Benchers are not representatives of members within their constituency. While elected by members, a Bencher’s focus is on the interests of the public. To use corporations as an analogy, Corporate Directors owe a fiduciary duty to the corporation, not the shareholders. At common law, the fiduciary duty requires a Director to act honestly and in good faith, and with the best interests of the corporation in mind. As a non-profit corporation, the Law Society’s sole corporate focus is defined by s. 3.1 of the Act which is “to protect the public by assuring the integrity, knowledge, skill, proficiency and competence of members”. Where there is conflict between the interests of members and the interest of the public, the public interest must prevail. This focus on the public is fundamental to our ability as lawyers to protect and enjoy the privilege of self–regulation, something which has been rescinded in other jurisdictions.
Being a Bencher requires a significant commitment of time. A Bencher term is 3 years, with the option to run for a second term. The Benchers meet 5-6 times throughout the year at Convocation to conduct Bencher business and participate in professional development opportunities and in-depth policy discussions. These meetings equate to approximately 10 days per year. As well, each Bencher will be appointed to several committees with responsibilities for specific areas related to the regulation of the practice of law. Some committee meetings are held in conjunction with Convocation, but most are held by videoconference in between Convocations to reduce time spent away from the office. Overall, Benchers should expect an investment of 15-20 days a year to prepare for, attend and participate in meetings.
In addition, some Benchers will choose to serve as adjudicators on hearings related to admissions or conduct. Hearings will differ in length depending on the nature and complexity of a matter. Although it varies, Benchers on the adjudicator roster might expect to sit on 1-3 hearing panels during each of their terms.
Law Society staff will provide professional assistance to the Benchers in every aspect of their work. Our staff includes lawyers and other professionals in the areas of audit and accounting, education, legal resources, communications, information technology and human resources.
Being a Bencher opens new horizons and provides the opportunity to improve professionally, meet people and forge new relationships in Saskatchewan and beyond. Benchers gain valuable experience in a number of areas like corporate governance, professional regulation and adjudication, among others, and use those skills to shape the future of the legal profession in the public interest.
Most Benchers come away from their duties renewed in the practice of law, through new ideas, experiences and colleagues. Overwhelmingly, Benchers past and present share that their time as a Bencher was one of the most rewarding aspects of their careers. This sentiment is reinforced by the fact that, almost without exception, Benchers run for a second term of office and even after the conclusion of their second term, many remain involved in other capacities long after their work as a Bencher is done.
Other than minimal requirements, any member can run for election. Section 17 of the Act disqualifies any member that is suspended from practice. Additionally, candidates must have their principal place of practice or employment or, if retired, their residence, in the electoral division in which they seek election. The divisions are described in Schedule 2 of the Law Society Rules. Lawyers who have been called to the bar for 10 or fewer years are also eligible to run in the New Lawyer Bencher category, which is elected by other lawyers who have been called to the bar within the last 10 years.
On September 15, 2021, voter’s lists will be posted online. Members will receive an email requesting they check to ensure they are in the correct constituency.
Rule 304 requires that candidates be nominated by two members in good standing who reside within the constituency. Anyone wishing to be nominated can find a nomination form on this site. Nominations are due October 4, 2021. We ask that candidates submit a brief biography along with their nomination form as candidate information will be posted the Law Society website following the close of nominations.
By November 1, all members will receive an email providing them with a link to the eBallot website where they will find candidate information, as well as a ballot. Members will have until midnight on November 15 to complete their ballots at which time voting will close. Votes will be tallied on November 16 and the winners will be announced once all candidates have been informed of the results.
It is essential to maintain an up-to-date email address in the Law Society database. All members should ensure a current email address by checking their member profile on the Law Society website.
All members are encouraged to put their name forward. While it is a lot of work, the Bencher experience is overwhelmingly positive, both personally and professionally. It is rewarding and interesting work. Members who are thinking of running but have questions are encouraged to speak with our office or a current or past Bencher.