It is LSUC bencher election time and, to be perfectly honest, my first reaction was "Good grief...again? Already?" I am haunted by memories of emails and flyers and campaign materials cluttering up my in-box and my office from the last election. When I filed my Annual Report this year I chose not to check the box that allowed benchers to email me. Why? I get too many emails as it is. During the last election I got annoyed at the number of emails coming from potential benchers. I never read them. I knew I wouldn't read them this election either. My stomach churned when I read Lee Akazaki's informative article on the dollar footprint of a bencher campaign and the cost of those emails and brochures that contributed to my digital trashcan and real-world recycling bin.
I want to be clear though, this does not mean that I am not interested in the election or that I don't vote. Also, I don't want people thinking that I don't appreciate the effort involved in running in a bencher election. I respect the candidates' dedication and hard work. However, I prefer to do my own research on my own time. I will find you, bencher candidates. I don't want you finding me. For example, on Twitter, I am now following the candidates who are tweeting and "#LSbencher". I am also reviewing candidate profiles on the Law Times' Bencher Election website. And, closer to the voting deadline, I will review the Voting Guide that the LSUC publishes setting out information on each candidate.
While I may express some frustration at the process involved, I do believe it is important for lawyers to get out (or rather sit at our computers) and vote. Unfortunately many of us don't. Perhaps because we are too busy or we think it won't make a difference. However, benchers play an important role in our self-governing profession. For non-lawyers, or those who are new to the profession, benchers are basically our board of directors. They meet most months at Convocation (a fancy word for a meeting). Benchers set policy and determine matters related to the governance of Ontario's lawyers. You know that new Lawyer Practice Program pilot project? The benchers were the ones who voted to have it implemented. Remember how the LSUC chose not to accredit Trinity Western University? It was the benchers who (narrowly) voted no. Benchers also sit on panels as adjudicators to hear discipline cases. So, they actually do wield some power.
What am I looking for in a bencher? I am looking for benchers who are open to change. Let's not be afraid of exploring new ways to practice law (and I am not specifically talking about alternative business structures. I am still on the fence on that one, or more accurately, falling off the fence each week on different sides and then climbing back on). I am also looking for diversity, and not just age, gender and race diversity. I would like to see some diversity of legal experience. Having worked at a large law firm, a boutique, and now as a freelance lawyer, it is clear that each has its own challenges and issues.
According to the LSUC Bencher Election website, the voting list will be finalized on April 7, 2015 and all eligible licensees (I hate that word, can we please go back to being members?) will get a personalized link to be able to vote online. All voters can cast up to 40 votes in total, with 20 votes for candidates in Toronto and 20 votes for candidates outside of Toronto. 40 benchers will be elected.
Voting closes on April 30, 2015 at 5:00pm on the dot, so mark your calendars and vote!
For more information on the bencher election check out:
- LSUC Bencher Election website
- The Law Times Bencher Election website
- #LSBencher on Twitter.
Erin C. Cowling is a freelance litigator, researcher & writer at Cowling Legal Freelance and President and Founder of FLEX LEGAL, a network of freelance lawyers.