In only a few weeks’ time, you will be asked to cast your votes amongst candidates running for Bencher with the Law Society of Ontario (LSO). Taking time to vote is certainly important; but so is first gaining insight on what the position of Bencher entails.
Here are the key takeaways:
Bencher Status: Whereas the LSO regulates the members of the legal profession in Ontario (meaning lawyers and paralegals), a Bencher is simply part of the LSO’s own governing body, known as the Convocation.
Benchers are chosen by the membership, by way of a formal voting process. A total of 40 lawyer Benchers are elected (20 from Toronto and the rest from outside that city), along with 5 paralegal Benchers.
Once voted-in, each Bencher serves a 4-year term.
Bencher Duties: Within the LSO, Benchers play a significant role: Whereas the LSO’s job is to oversee lawyers and paralegals, it is Benchers’ job to govern the LSO itself.
Benchers work collaboratively within this process, to develop policies, standards, and programs that benefit the public and support the Ontario legal profession as a whole. This is done by overseeing the LSO’s activities in four key categories:
- Standards of practice
- Lawyer and paralegal education
- Financial oversight, and
- Community engagement.
On the practice standards side, Benchers’ specific duties and responsibilities include:
- Setting policy: Benchers develop and set policy related to regulating the legal profession in Ontario. This entails:
- Establishing ethical and professional standards for lawyers and paralegals
- Approving continuing education programs, and
- Developing rules and regulations for the practice of law in Ontario.
- Enforcing standards: Benchers also oversee the enforcement of professional and ethical standards for lawyers and paralegals in Ontario. They have the power to investigate complaints against these individuals, and to take disciplinary action if necessary.
Next, Benchers also have a key role to play in lawyer and paralegal education in Ontario. They ensure that all members of the profession receive the necessary ongoing education and training to maintain their professional skills and knowledge.
With respect to financial oversight, Benchers oversee the LSO’s budget and financial affairs, ensuring that funds are used appropriately. This ensures that the LSO remains financially sustainable.
Last but not least, Benchers are expected to engage with the community – which encompasses both the public and the members of the legal profession. For example, they may participate in various committees and working groups to address issues intersecting both the public and legal realms. This in turn promotes access to justice.
This is just a brief overview, but it demonstrates the critical role that Benchers play. They help the LSO fulfill its mandate to regulate the profession – and by extension they also help protect the public interest at large.
I’m running as your bencher candidate. Vote for me because I will keep an eye on the balance sheet, moderate LSO regulations, and improve access to justice. Learn more at russellalexander.com/bencher2023