The upcoming 2023 Law Society of Ontario Bencher election will herald many changes. The most obvious one is that – for the first time in four years – there will be a new roster of individual Benchers who will take their seats at Convocation, and help govern the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) itself.
But there will be a less-obvious change as well. With the infusion of “new blood”, there will also be a new set of collective insights, perspectives, and priorities that the duly-elected new Benchers bring to the table.
The Election’s Impact on Law Associations and Law Libraries
This can have a significant impact on the precise way the LSO moves forward in myriad respects. Two of those affected areas are: 1) the Law Associations, and 2) the Law Libraries. The election outcome can influence their future in several ways:
- Funding: Since Benchers have the authority to approve and allocate LSO funding, they also decide which legal organizations receive it, and in what amounts. This includes the Law Associations and Law Libraries. Depending on the Benchers who are elected, the priorities will differ: Some might prioritize funding in ways that increase financial support; others might prioritize in a way that decreases it.
- Regulation: Benchers play a broad role in regulating the legal profession, including Law Associations and their individual members. The election of Benchers who prioritize stricter regulations or enforcement of existing regulations could influence this area as well.
- Access to information: Law Libraries are not just about dusty books. Even with the widespread use of online information, they are still relevant; In fact, they play a pivotal role in providing access to legal information to the legal profession and the public. Because Benchers have the authority to approve their funding, they indirectly shape the policies that govern information access.
- Advocacy: As mentioned, the LSO supports Law Associations – which in turn support their members through advocacy. Benchers who prioritize the interests of Law associations and their members could result in increased support for their advocacy efforts.
What Can Go Wrong?
So we’ve established that the LSO Bencher election can have a significant impact on Law Associations and Law Libraries. But what’s the worst-case scenario?
Well, that depends on the policies and priorities of the elected Benchers of course. But some of the doomsday scenarios include:
- Reduced funding: Everyone is scrambling for a piece of the limited funding “pie”. If the elected Benchers prioritize funding for other areas of the legal industry (such as regulation or enforcement), there could be a decrease in funding for Law Associations and Law Libraries. This could result in a reduction in services, resources, and programming available to lawyers/paralegals and the public.
- Stricter regulations: If the elected Benchers prioritize stricter regulations or enforcement of existing regulations, this could have a negative impact on the activities of Law Associations and their members. For example, certain advocacy or lobbying efforts could be restricted or prohibited.
- Reduced access to information: If the elected Benchers do not prioritize access to legal information, there could be a reduction in support for Law Libraries and other organizations that provide legal information and resources. Access to justice could be limited. This impairs the legal profession as a whole.
- Decreased advocacy: If the elected Benchers do not prioritize the interests of Law Associations and their members, there could be a decrease in advocacy efforts on the profession’s behalf of the legal profession. This could limit the ability of lawyers to influence policies and decisions that affect their work and clients.
These kinds of avoidable outcomes impact not only the members of the Ontario legal profession, but access to justice as well.
Stay informed and engaged in the election process, so that the Bencher you choose will advocate for the best possible outcome.
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