New Alberta law society president, president-elect take office

By Ian Burns

Law360 Canada (February 27, 2023, 1:25 PM EST) -- It was a symbolic passing of the torch at the Law Society of Alberta (LSA)’s most recent meeting as a new president took office for the upcoming year.

Bill Hendsbee began his term as the 2023-24 law society president at the Feb. 23 meeting. Hendsbee is a partner at Edmonton’s Cummings Andrews Mackay LLP, where he has practised exclusively in plaintiff personal injury law for nearly 30 years.

Hendsbee has served as a law society bencher since 2018. He said “everyone at the bencher table is here because we care and want to make a difference” and he’s looking forward to leading those efforts.

LSA president Bill Hendsbee, Cummings Andrews Mackay LLP

LSA president Bill Hendsbee, Cummings Andrews Mackay LLP

“The diversity of backgrounds and perspectives on the board will continue to help us navigate some important and challenging work over the next year, including the development of a new strategic plan, our ongoing strategic work and upcoming fall bencher election,” he said.

Hendsbee took over the regulator’s top job from Ken Warren, who had served since the beginning of 2022. Warren said when he officially took office, he relayed three stories to the benchers — one about achieving great things under, or perhaps because of, imperfect conditions, a second about the importance of discipline in respect of the law society’s strategic plan, and a third about the importance of problem-solving as a team. 

“I hope you keep those themes in the back of your minds as you embark on building the new strategic plan this spring,” he said.

And the position of president-elect will now be filled by Deanna Steblyk, who also joined as a bencher in 2018. Steblyk is currently senior special counsel to the vice-chairs at the Alberta Securities Commission, where she assists commission adjudicators with legal research, preparation of oral and written decisions and policy matters.

“We’ve been faced with some pretty significant problems to solve recently, including the concerning results of the articling student survey, navigating the pandemic, refining our CPD [continuing professional development] program, addressing the applicable Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action, transitioning internationally trained lawyers to Alberta practice, and working toward a profession that is equitable, diverse and inclusive,” she said. “It’s clear that there is more work to do in all of these areas — and maybe even a lot of work — but we’re making progress that I’m extremely proud of.”

During the meeting, the benchers approved amendments to the code of conduct, as well as its associated commentary, which strengthen the code to ensure lawyers inform clients of their language rights. Key highlights of the amendments include a provision that a lawyer should advise the client of the client’s language rights as soon as possible; that the choice of official language is that of the client, not the lawyer; and a lawyer should ensure that they have the competency to effectively communicate in such a way as to understand and be understood by the client.

The next LSA board meeting is scheduled for April 27 and 28 in Calgary.

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