What it is like to be a Bencher
Guest Blogger, Cheryl D’Sa of Narwal Litigation LLP and Law Society of BC Bencher shares insights on what it is like to be a Bencher.
I have been an elected Bencher for Vancouver County since May 2020. I am often asked what it is like doing the work of a Bencher. The average monthly time commitment is upwards of 30 hours, but I am very aware of the privilege it is to be able to fill this role and have an opportunity to contribute to improvements in the legal community for the benefit of the public who we serve.
Committee & Board Appointments
Currently, I am Chair of the EDI Committee, a member of the Credentials Committee, and a member of the Mental Health Task Force. I am also one of two Bencher representatives to the Board of CLEBC and am the Bencher representative on Justicia.
This year, the EDI Committee was very excited to assist in the planning of the On the Path to Equity for Women in Law event on April 29, 2022. The event was co-chaired by the International Association of Women Judges, the Law Society of BC and the CBABC. As some of you may know, I often speak about what it’s like to be a mother and a practicing lawyer. I was very happy to be a panelist for this event and to continue the discussion as we move things forward.
I am frequently asked why I wanted to be a Bencher at this time in my life, with a young child. In my view, a diversity of perspectives at the Bencher table is vital, particularly within the context of a committee such as EDI. Being able to discuss perspectives on running a business while being a parent to a young child is important. I am also often asked about what it’s like being a first generation Canadian and visible minority in the legal industry. I strongly believe that representation matters not only for the legal profession but also for the public to see themselves reflected in the Bencher table. I have been fortunate to have spoken to lawyers, law students and high school students about these EDI issues. The Bencher table has made huge strides in terms of diversity of the Benchers, and it is critical to highlight this achievement particularly for high school students who may be making decisions about college and university program.
Conduct Reviews & Hearings
Benchers also participate in Conduct Reviews and Hearings. Conduct Reviews are meetings with a subcommittee that a lawyer or law firm must attend pursuant to Rule 4-4(1)(d) of the Law Society Rules. Following a Conduct Review, the subcommittee must write a report. Hearings can be about credentials or about disciplinary issues and the panel must write a decision following the conclusion of the hearing.
Articling Student Interviews
In articling student interviews, Benchers provide information to students about resources available to them through the Law Society, like the Practice Advisors and the Equity Ombudsperson. We also talk about mental health and wellness and external resources such as the Lawyers Assistance Program. We also discuss the importance of doing pro bono work. It’s essential for new lawyers especially, to know that they are well supported – they just need to make a phone call.
I think it’s also necessary to speak about alcohol and I have started doing this in interviews. It’s not a secret that many professional events involve the presence of alcohol and I like to remind students that consumption is entirely a personal choice and that everyone is on their own journey.
Calls From the Profession
Benchers also receive calls from articling students and lawyers about a variety of issues including ethical and practice advice, but also seeking advice in situations where they may be experiencing anxiety, hoping for a career change, or just looking for general guidance.
A Final Note
I’m very grateful to Life in Law for giving me an opportunity to share this little Bencher snapshot with its readers. I hope that members of equity-seeking groups will continue to put their names forward for all leadership positions within the legal profession. There is a whole generation of students watching what steps we are taking now and representation truly matters.
*All views expressed in this blog post are the view of the author and not necessarily of the LSBC.
About the Author
Cheryl D’Sa, a mediator and civil litigator, is the managing partner of Narwal Litigation LLP in downtown Vancouver. She is an elected Bencher of the Law Society of British Columbia, Past President of the Vancouver Bar Association, and recipient of Business in Vancouver’s Top Forty under 40 award. She received both her B.A. and LL.B. from the University of British Columbia and was called to the Bar in 2008. Narwal Litigation LLP has extensive criminal, securities, and professional discipline practices among others.