Bencher Profile Series: Bill Hendsbee, QC

March 16, 2021

Nearing 27 years of active practise in Alberta, Bill Hendsbee, QC begins his second term at the Bencher table.

“When I started as a Bencher three years ago, I thought that I would like it, but I ended up loving it more than I expected. When it came time for the opportunity to run for a second term, I had a real sense that I was just starting to catch my stride, make a difference and assume some leadership responsibilities, so I’m excited to have the chance to come back and continue this important work,” he says.

Bill grew up in Ontario and completed an Honours Bachelor of Arts in History at the University of Western Ontario before moving to Alberta about 31 years ago. Once here, he obtained his Bachelor of Laws from the University of Alberta and was called to the Alberta bar in 1994. He is a partner at Cummings Andrews Mackay LLP, a boutique firm in Edmonton where he has practised for over two decades.

Bill also brings a wealth of leadership experience to the table from his previous positions as a board member, particularly as Past President of both the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyer’s Association (ACTLA) and the Edmonton Bar Association.

“I’ve generally tried to be quite involved with my community from the beginning,” Bill says, and that sentiment is evident in his vast volunteer experience with organizations including the Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA), Spinal Cord Injury Alberta, Alberta Cancer Foundation, Alberta Climbing Association and the Paralympic Sports Association, to name a few.

Prior to his time as a Bencher, Bill also volunteered on a variety of Law Society Committees, including the Conduct Committee and Civil Practice Advisory Committee.

“That gave me a little taste of what Benchers do and what being involved in the Law Society looked like. I had wanted to become Bencher for a long time – it was the logical progression once I got to the point in my career where I felt like I had something of significance to bring to the table.”

Bill is particularly excited about his appointment to the Lawyer Competence Committee (LCC) and is looking forward to joining the conversation and bringing his perspectives to those important discussions.

“All four pillars of the strategic plan are equally important, but if I had to pick one, I’m especially excited about the competence and wellness piece.”

The LCC is looking at the efficacy of articling as training for new lawyers, strategies for the ongoing training of lawyers beyond articling including changes to the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program and the role of wellness in lawyer competence. One key project of the committee is developing a new competence framework for lawyers. The framework would be throughout a lawyers’ entire career, and will be proportionate, effective and dynamic, and will incorporate wellness as a key component.

“We’re kind of jumping off a cliff here in the sense of really revamping what we do with a lawyer competence framework from the start of a lawyer’s career all the way through to the end. Change is something that people sometimes resist, but I think this is a really exciting way to make sure that we keep lawyers educated and engaged at all stages of their career to better serve the public interest,” he says.

Of particular interest, Bill notes the importance of the flexibility in a competence framework and CPD program moving forward. The program should be flexible to work for lawyers at all stages of their career.

“What competence and wellness and education looks like for me is going to be different from someone who is just starting out, so that flexibility is going to be key.”

Bill’s advice for lawyers who are just starting out in their careers is simple.

“In my experience, jump in with both feet. Get involved with the Canadian Bar Association, local bar associations, LESA, ACTLA or practice area specific organizations. I don’t think you can start too early to get out there, make some connections and start giving back.”

Keep an eye out for other Bencher profiles featured in future eBulletins.