VANCOUVER, B.C. — Trail lawyer Bruce LeRose was sworn in Friday as president of the society that regulates B.C.’s 10,000 lawyers by B.C. Court of Appeal Chief Justice Lance Finch.
The taking-of-office makes the 54-year-old Crowe grad the first president of the Law Society of B.C. from Kootenay county in the regulator’s 127-year history.
“Without doubt, becoming president of the law society for me is the greatest honour and privilege in my lifetime,” LeRose said before being sworn in.
The society regulates lawyers under B.C.’s Legal Profession Act.
It does not act as a lawyers’ advocacy group, LeRose stresses. The Canadian Bar Association B.C. Branch fulfills that role, he says.
He says the society’s core functions include: ensuring that those wanting to become lawyers are properly educated and trained; developing and enforcing standards for the profession; and dealing with complaints about lawyers from the public and from within the profession.
“It regulates the profession in the public interest,” LeRose says.
LeRose was born and raised in Trail. He and his three brothers learned the value of hard work at the Terra Nova and The Colander.
Rather than follow his parents into the hospitality business, however, LeRose decided to become a lawyer, a way he saw as one to help people solve their problems.
LeRose, who practices commercial and corporate law, went to UBC, getting a bachelor of arts in history and political science in 1979 and, in 1982, a law degree.
“I immediately returned to Trail,” he says. “I had no desire to work anywhere else.
“I have not regretted it for a second. It’s been a very successful practice from my view.”
He was called to the bar and joined Thompson, LeRose and Brown (formerly Geronazzo and Thompson).
LeRose says he wants to use his term to assist smaller firms in the province. He says of B.C.’s 3,300 law firms, 2,800 are considered small ones with four lawyers or less.
He wants to see the society assist small firms to ensure they are technologically up to date and to ensure lawyers in those firms receive the support they need to maintain their practices and receive continuing professional education to assist their clients to their fullest capacity.
“Coming from a small town . . . it’s an issue that’s near and dear to my heart.”
“It’s incumbent on us to assist small firms,” he adds.
And, he says, those firms are more than just businesses.
“Lawyers provide much more than just legal services for small communities,” he says. “ They are leaders in these communities engaged in supporting civic, cultural and sporting activities.”
“In my view, they are pillars of the community in so many ways,” he says.
LeRose has been a law society bencher, or member of the board of governors, since 2004.
In 2006, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, a designation awarded to lawyers who have shown professional integrity, good character and excellence in the practice of law.
LeRose lives with his partner, Melanie, in Tadanac.
He has two grown sons, Nicholas and Alex, who live in Vancouver.
LeRose said his term as president means he will be away from the practice for much of the year.
But, he says, it won’t affect the practice overall.
He says communications technology means he’ll be available to clients and the growth of the firm means “very capable people can step in when I can’t make myself available.”
LeRose says he also wants to work with stakeholders in the legal system by making himself available for speaking engagements to explain the society’s work.
“The Law Society of B.C. does so much more than just discipline its members,” he says.
LeRose’s term as president began Jan. 1.
As his term began, LeRose launched the organization’s new strategic plan.
“We have three goals in the 2012-2014 plan and one of them is to make sure the public has better access to legal services,” LeRose said.
“People from my area of the province are acutely aware of the need to improve the situation,” he said. “The Kootenays is a big area geographically and many people have to travel great distances to meet with a lawyer and attend court.”
While it is tough for many in the province to afford a lawyer, it may be harder in smaller communities for people even to find one. The numbers of lawyers is dwindling in rural areas as members of the profession age.
“In the Kootenays, there is roughly one lawyer for every 1,000 people who live there,” LeRose said. “And as lawyers retire, the bar isn’t replenished with enough young lawyers – many of whom prefer to practise in bigger centres.”