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By Tom Schonhoffer, Q.C.
Executive Director, Law Society of Saskatchewan
Another 3 years has passed and the next Bencher Election is scheduled for November 2015. This article has two purposes. The first is to encourage lawyers to consider running as Benchers in this election. The second is to reacquaint you with the process for online elections.
Lawyers are privileged to have self-government and must understand that it depends on the work and commitment of many volunteers. I encourage you to give it some thought.
Now that I have you thinking about it, what do you need to know?
The first thing you need to know is whether you qualify. Section 17 of the Act wisely disqualifies any member that is suspended from practice. The other qualification is that you must either work or reside in the constituency in which you seek election. The constituencies are described in Schedule 2 of the Law Society Rules. Other than those minimal qualifications, any member can apply.
Rule 19 requires that candidates be nominated by two members in good standing who reside within the constituency. Nomination forms can be obtained from the Law Society website.
Finally, it is a 3 year commitment, with the option to run for a second term.
This is no soft sell. Being a Bencher requires a lot of time and hard work. To start with, there are usually a minimum of 10 meeting days per year for Convocation. Extra days can be added, as the volume of work requires. There is also committee work, hearings, investigations and other assorted work. I’m guessing that the average Bencher spends at minimum 15 – 20 working days per year. This is a big commitment.
On the flipside, I have been working with Benchers for more than 20 years and can attest that the Bencher experience is overwhelmingly positive. It’s very interesting work. At the stage in their careers when most lawyers are becoming bored and cynical, being a Bencher provides a renewal of professional interest and the re-invigoration of a legal career. I can prove it, too. The fact is that after the first 3 years, almost all Benchers run for re-election. If you are thinking of running but have questions, I encourage you to speak with our office or a current or past Bencher.
As mentioned, the second purpose of this article is to explain the online election format.
On approximately September 15th, voter’s lists will be posted online. Members will receive an email asking them to check to ensure they are in the correct constituency.
Anyone wishing to be nominated can find a nomination form on the Law Society’s website in the election section. Nominations are due October 4, 2015. Nominees are also encouraged to provide a biography, along with a current business-size photo for the website.
By October 15th, all members will receive an email providing them with a link to the Votenet website where they will find biographies for eligible candidates in their electoral district, as well as a ballot. Members will have until midnight November 15th to complete their ballots.
On November 16th, the ballots will be tallied automatically and the winners will be announced.
It is essential to maintain an up-to-date email address on the Law Society database. Please ensure your email address is current by checking your member profile on the Law Society website.