The Law Society of British Columbia’s upcoming Annual General Meeting will give its members an opportunity to consider some governance issues, including a members’ resolution concerning the disclosure of benchers’ (governors’) expenses.

I have co-sponsored this resolution because I feel that the Law Society should be a leader in conducting its business in a way that is both transparent and accountable to its membership.  It recently paid B.C. lawyer Elizabeth Watson’s firm the sum of $150,000 to review the Law Society’s governance practices.  Watson’s 2012 report to the Law Society’s Governance Committee caused it to recommend, among other things, that the benchers consider disclosing their expense reimbursements to the membership, but the benchers rejected that recommendation.

On September 9, 2013, a few weeks after Marti Katenberg and I had submitted our resolution to the Law Society, it circulated the following notice to the membership:

“The resolution submitted by Mr. Ward and Ms. Katerberg for consideration by the members at the Annual General Meeting proposes that that the Law Society disclose the complete individual Bencher expense records of all Benchers, from January 1, 2012 forward, by posting them on its website.

The Benchers considered the disclosure of individual Bencher expenses in conjunction with many other recommendations arising from the 2012 governance review. At the time, the Benchers were concerned that disclosure of individual Bencher expenses would be unfair to those Benchers from outside the lower mainland whose expenses are invariably higher due to travel and accommodation costs associated with their attendance to Law Society business. However, the Benchers also created a new Governance Committee and charged it with considering governance issues and making further recommendations to the Benchers.

The Governance Committee has now considered the issue of disclosing individual Bencher expenses. It has recommended that the Benchers publish on the Law Society website an annual summary of individual Bencher expenses by category, which will provide an appropriate level of transparency that will permit members to understand the differences in Bencher expenses. The Benchers will consider this recommendation before the annual general meeting.”


Although the benchers may have changed their minds on this issue, the devil is in the details.  If the Law Society does not agree to disclose individual bencher expense records, effective January 1, 2012, then I urge all members who care about governance issues to attend the AGM and vote “yes’ to Resolution 3.

If adopted, the resolution would require the Law Society to be more transparent and accountable to its membership, and would remind them that the $30 million or so at their disposal each year comes from us, the members, and should be spent with care.