Editorial: LSUC strikes reasonable balance

A key focus for governance reforms at the Law Society of Upper Canada was making way for new blood. But, of course, the changes have met with hiccups along the way. Most recently, former treasurer Sydney Robins raised concerns about rules that would have prevented past leaders of the LSUC from speaking at Convocation.

The change would have applied to future former treasurers, meaning Robins would have been able to continue at Convocation with his current speaking and voting rights.

Robins makes a good point. The wisdom former LSUC leaders bring to the profession’s governing body is valuable, so rule changes that would allow them to continue to speak but not vote at Convocation are reasonable.

In some ways, it’s a better option than the current broader political climate that essentially prevents former premiers and prime ministers from speaking out on the issues of the day.

Certainly, there’s no rule against doing so, but tradition dictates that they stay away from public comment on their successors. Some of them occasionally go against that convention - notably Pierre Trudeau’s vocal public opposition to constitutional reforms during Brian Mulroney’s leadership - but such examples are relatively rare.

The law society, of course, is different from the broader political sphere, so it’s reasonable for it to take an alternative approach. At the same time, attendance requirements for former treasurers to keep their privileges are legitimate as well.

If the law society is to be successful in countering a feeling among some that it’s a closed institution, it needs to be aggressive in reforming its image. The governance reforms, which eliminated life terms for benchers, are a good step forward, as are the attendance requirements.

In the meantime, lawyers can look forward to the new blood that the governance changes will introduce over time. Already, six positions have opened up, meaning the LSUC will have a number of new benchers at Convocation after the upcoming elections.

In enacting the reforms, the LSUC is taking a moderate and balanced approach to institutional renewal. On the one hand, it’s making way for new members while on the other allowing past leaders to bring their institutional memory to the table subject to the attendance rules.

The changes may not be dramatic enough for some people or may go too far for others, but at least the law society is moving forward. Let’s hope, then, that they’ll entice a few more lawyers to vote or run in the upcoming bencher elections.

At the very least, we’ll have some idea by then as to whether the governance reforms are helping to reduce apathy towards the law society.
- Glenn Kauth

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