The Law Society of Ontario’s 2023 Bencher Election is coming up in a few short weeks. All members of the legal profession – lawyers and paralegals alike – will have a chance to cast their votes.
But how do you make sure your ballots count, towards choosing the best candidates for the job? And what exactly does that Bencher job entail, anyway?
Here is a little backgrounder, plus some tips for choosing the best candidates:
About the Law Society of Ontario
As you should already know, the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) is a governing body that regulates the legal profession in Ontario. By ensuring the province’s lawyers and paralegals meet certain professional standards, the LSO upholds the public interest. It also supports individual members of the public in their dealings with lawyers and paralegals.
What is a Bencher?
The LSO’s own governing body is known as Convocation, and its members are known as “Benchers”. One important aspect of the LSO’s work is the election of Benchers, each of whom serve for a 4-year term.
Benchers must be members of the legal profession – namely lawyers or paralegals. Once voted-in, they oversee the work of the LSO itself, through their participation in the Convocation.
For each of the 45 elected Benchers, their key role is to make important decisions around setting ethical and professional standards, approving educational programs for members of the legal profession, and investigating complaints against individual lawyers and paralegals.
The Bencher Election
The Bencher election is a crucial event in the LSO’s calendar. It takes place only once every four years, and all licensed lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are eligible to vote. It gives these members of the legal professional a chance to have their say in how the LSO conducts its governance work.
To be eligible to run as a Bencher candidate, lawyers and paralegals must meet certain requirements. These include having a set level of experience working in the legal profession, and being in good standing with the LSO. Bencher candidates may be affiliated with particular interest groups, or else may run as independent candidates.
Why The Election Matters
The upcoming 2023 Bencher election an important event for the legal profession in Ontario, because:
- It reflects the LSO’s commitment to transparency and accountability
- It ensures the LSO’s governing body will be representative of the legal profession in Ontario
- It will provide an opportunity for the voices of lawyers and paralegals to be heard in the LSO’s decision-making and regulatory processes.
At the end of the day, the Bencher election ensures that the LSO’s governing body is representative of the diverse perspectives and experiences of the legal community.
Your Role as Voter – And What to Look For
Just as the LSO plays a vital role in governing lawyers and protecting the public, Benchers play an important role in overseeing the work of the LSO itself.
This means that elected Benchers must be chosen carefully.
All candidates for the Bencher role must meet the same eligibility requirements to run, but not all of them have the same experience, fortitude, and dedication to offer. As an eligible voter, this is your chance to have a say in how your profession is governed.
Assess the qualifications and platforms of each Bencher candidate carefully, for their ability to help direct the work of the LSO. This involves more than just bringing legal expertise and analytical skills to the table; rather they must be willing to apply it wisely to a diverse set of topics such as LSO governance, lawyer/paralegal education and practice standards, and public access to justice.
Make Your Votes Count
Be sure to participate in upcoming Bencher election. By engaging in the democratic process and making your votes count, you can help shape the future of the legal profession in Ontario.
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