Then let’s make the effort to find them and vote for them.
It’s election season at law societies across Canada
In the coming months, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Ontario lawyers will elect the governors of their respective law societies and some change is inevitable. In Ontario, 17 of 40 incumbents are not running so the prospect of substantial change is very real. But whether it is a change of make-up or merely a change of bodies could depend entirely on the efforts voting lawyers put into learning about the candidates.
Quebec has a very long election season – opening in December and leaving candidates until April 7th to put their names forward. The Barreau du Quebec also has an impressive site that provides linked profiles for candidates as they register. Great info about the candidates with just a few clicks and plenty of time to review it. Nova Scotia runs a staged process, with 10 regional candidates elected first, then 3 province-wide candidates after that. In Nova Scotia, there are 15 candidates total for the regional positions (two of which have already been acclaimed), leaving 13 for 8 positions. A small number to review, but with 5 of the 13 candidates holding QCs, I suspect the number of unknown candidates is quite small.
Then we have Ontario. Oh….Ontario.
Lawyer members of the Law Society of Upper Canada will elect forty Benchers in April – twenty from within Toronto and twenty from outside Toronto. The only place (for now) you will find the names of all of these people in one place is on the Law Society site, and in the embedded picture below.
This list is only slightly smaller than the 2011 candidate list, but that doesn’t make it any easier to research candidates and identify new voices.
Would it surprise you to know that in 2011, although lawyers were each permitted to cast up to forty ballots (for up to twenty in and up to twenty outside Toronto candidates), the averages were far lower? Even the most enthusiastic voters (Toronto lawyers) cast only an average 9 votes for Toronto candidates and a measly average of 5 votes for outside Toronto candidates.
Consider those numbers alongside a sub-40% voter turn-out and you arguably have an election profile where most people are only motivated to vote for those they know. More charitably, the numbers could suggest a strategy among voters to improve the election odds of their top candidates by not adding too many votes to their second tier choices. Either way you look at it, most voters did not set out to support a large number of qualified candidates.
We can do better in 2015
If ever there was a time where lawyers were of a common type and shared a common experience, those days are long gone. Increasing diversity of lived experience among new lawyers, and expanding diversity of professional opportunities available to lawyers represents the new normal. We are all far more likely to carve out a unique path of learning and practice than to share a fully common experience with other members of the bar.
A diverse legal profession will also approach current challenges from very different perspectives, and that diversity needs to be reflected in those we elect to oversee our law societies. We have a better chance of getting that result if we look at and vote for more than a handful of candidates.
The leadership we need can be found in that list of 97 candidates. I’ve spent the time trying to figure out who these candidates are and what they might bring to the table. I’m incredibly excited by the mix of seasoned Bencher veterans and new voices that we might see after the ballots are counted on April 30th.
I suspect that over the coming weeks, it will become a little bit easier to learn about the candidates. It shouldn’t be necessary to run 97 Google searches. In the meantime, if you are serious about finding new voices and getting them to the decision-making table, I encourage you to follow the #LSBencher tag on Twitter, return often to the ever-growing Law Times candidate profile page, and let others, including Slaw readers, know where to find information about candidates.