Bencher Profile Series: Barbara McKinley
In her three years as a public representative at the Bencher table, Barbara McKinley cites the collegiality of the Benchers as a key differentiator when compared to other boards she has served on.
“The atmosphere and relationship between the Benchers – both elected and publicly appointed – is always respectful and courteous. There is a consistent emphasis on consensus-driven decision making and the Bencher table feels like a safe space to share your views, even during contentious issues.”
Barbara is no stranger to challenging board work. She is the owner of The Worker’s Advocate, where she has worked as an advocate and appeals representative for over 20 years. She has extensive experience interpreting and applying legislation and policy in order to participate in appeal hearings, prepare written arguments and facilitate communication between individuals, unions and the Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB).
Barbara served two years as a member on the Alberta Federation of Labour Committee on WCB and Health and Safety, the Technical Working Group on Occupational Health and Safety Code, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Disability Appeals Panel, and as Chair for the Alberta Labour Coalition on Worker’s Compensation.
The transition from advocate to adjudicator in her role as a Bencher was a motivating factor in her original application to serve as a public representative.
“Adjudication is in part dealing with people’s stories – taking their context and background and applying the necessary legal and regulatory concepts to come to a decision,” says Barbara. “When you see the experience and challenges for some professionally trained lawyers when they are interacting with the legal system, it only makes you more aware of the plight of an ordinary person who needs the justice system to work.”
That need for Albertans to have fair and equitable access to justice is also top of mind for Barbara, and a focus for her work out of the Law Society’s Strategic Plan. Serving on both the Lawyer Competence and Executive Committees in 2021, she notes the opportunities to help shape the legal profession in a more positive way through the Law Society’s role as the regulator.
“The Law Society has made great strides in moving their work to a more proactive regulatory model. The Early Intervention and Practice Management teams have changed how lawyers interact with the Law Society, helping identify and solve issues that lawyers might be experiencing in their practise of law.
“If there’s one thing I wish I could tell every lawyer in this province, it’s that the Law Society is here to help you. The staff are talented and compassionate, and have much to offer lawyers in any area of law and every size of practice.”