Bencher Profile Series: Cal Johnson, QC
Cal Johnson, QC initially joined the Bencher table in 2013.
“The work the Law Society is doing is important both to the profession and the public. I am pleased to have had a hand in the major changes and initiatives developed from 2013 to 2020, but I wanted to see many things through to implementation and move the Law Society forward on important strategic initiatives,” he says.
Cal was born and raised in Calgary and completed his commerce degree in the city before moving to Edmonton to complete his Bachelor of Laws at the University of Alberta. He returned to Calgary and was called to the Alberta bar in 1976 after articling with Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP. He has stayed there ever since, now acting as counsel for the firm after working there for more than 40 years.
After stepping back from client work in 2013, Cal was interested in occupying his time with more service to the community and the profession.
“I have always had an abiding interest in ethics, professionalism and governance. I have served on a wide variety of boards and have a huge interest in this area. When I looked at the role of the Bencher, those were areas where I thought I could add value.”
Outside of his work as Bencher, Cal has chaired and served on the Board of Directors of Vertigo Theatre, the United Way, the Springbank Community Planning Association and the Doorway (A Youth Employment Empowerment Agency). He has instructed in the Bar Admission Course and currently instructs in the Professional Responsibility section of CPLED. He has also served the Canadian Bar Association in the past as Chairs of the South Alberta Real Estate Subsection and Joint Legislative Review Committee, South Alberta.
“When the Bencher opportunity came along and I was re-elected, I thought it was such a great opportunity to serve the profession. I very quickly learned that our overriding obligation is in protecting the public interest.
“Serving the public interest is a challenging task because the public is not this uniform, monochromatic model. It’s a diverse set of people with different imperatives, and you have to factor that into your decisions,” he says.
After serving as Vice Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee last year, Cal is particularly excited to continue his work in this area as an active committee member.
“Equity, diversity and inclusion wasn’t always a major focus, and it has become one now. We need to demonstrate to the public that we are on board, and that we understand the challenges these issues bring. We’re engaging at a meaningful level and really trying to accomplish change within the profession.”
Cal is particularly passionate about the “My Experience” Project, as this initiative launched under him as Vice Chair of the EDI Committee. In September 2020, the Law Society launched the “My Experience” project, inviting Alberta lawyers, articling students, law students and internationally trained lawyers to submit stories about their own experiences where racial discrimination or stereotyping impacted their legal career.
“Once the stories came in, it was in many ways devastating, but also incredibly inspiring to see that so many people were prepared to step up and share very difficult experiences. We can talk policy or scientific or academic approaches, but hearing the anecdotal experiences really personalizes the issues,” he says.
Cal will have served as a Bencher at the Law Society for nine years by the time he retires but plans to take full advantage of all the time he has left to move forward the work that he loves.