Bencher Profile Series: Darlene W. Scott, QC
For Darlene Scott, QC, the time is just right to step into the role of President of the Law Society of Alberta. Backed by the support of her family and law firm, she is ready to lead the Bencher table in tackling strategic goals at hand and issues arising out of the pandemic.
“You get to a point in your life and in your career where you think it’s time to focus on something other than your own career,” says Darlene. “I have been at the Bencher table for seven years, served on the executive committee for six years and participated in most of the Law Society committees over that time.”
Having worn almost every hat imaginable in the governance of the Law Society, taking the helm as President will be the fulfilment of a dedicated and accomplished Bencher career. This makes Darlene the sixth female President and 75th President in Law Society of Alberta history.
“It is just a huge honour for me, both professionally and personally to be the President of this organization. The Benchers are a group of very intelligent, accomplished, passionate and committed individuals who are all giving up a great deal of their time and their practice. They all have very different backgrounds and very different perspectives on the issues that face us.”
All the while, Darlene is a senior partner in the Edmonton office of Dentons Canada LLP practising in the areas of commercial law, real estate and lending. Her service to the profession and the public does not stop at Law Society work, as Darlene has been an instructor at both the University of Alberta Faculty of Law and Legal Education Society of Alberta (LESA) Bar Admission Courses, and has also been a panelist and chair at numerous LESA conferences. Darlene has also served as the Chair of the Alberta Law Foundation and as a director of Little Warriors, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of childhood sexual abuse.
“All of my experiences combine to give me a good foundation for understanding the important work of the Law Society including the processes, the people, as well as the committees and how they function.”
Darlene’s extensive experience in the work of Law Society committees well positions her for the work to come. Some of the key issues that Darlene is most interested in pursuing during her time as President resides in the ongoing work of the Lawyer Competence and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committees. These strategic Bencher committees were born out of the 2019 articling survey and are also supported by two advisory committees, comprised of members of the profession.
“Both of these are areas that I have always been interested in. I think taking a good look at lawyer training both in the first year, in those early years and, in fact, throughout a lawyer’s career is such an important part of what we do as a regulator,” explains Darlene.
“I think if we do that and we do that well, it makes all of the rest of the work that we do much easier. Equity, diversity and inclusion is also an area that I’ve long had an interest in. As a woman practising in a field of law that’s largely dominated by men, I’ve certainly been aware of the challenges that people face in practices and in firms where you don’t necessarily share the same background or the same interests as people who are senior to you and who have an impact on you. Those things shouldn’t matter but we know that they do. And so, it is an interesting and challenging problem for us to work on.”
Darlene also has her eye on the pandemic and the impacts that it is having on the legal profession. While the downsides are undeniable in terms of mental and physical health issues, challenges with mentoring of young lawyers and an interruption in processes, Darlene also sees a bright side to the sudden requirement to re-examine how and why the legal profession does things the way it does. She references the improvements made in day-to-day practices of lawyers, including seeing more desk applications, appearances and documents for land titles and guarantees being executed virtually. These changes are beneficial to all, particularly those lawyers and members of the public in remote areas.
Darlene is also pleased to see the Law Society making operational and policy changes in response to challenges posed by the pandemic.
“At the Law Society, we initiated a pilot project about a year ago where we decided to have all our hearings virtually and that has been just tremendously successful. I think the way we do business as an organization has been fundamentally changed. We’ll see what worked and what didn’t. Many of those improvements will remain once the pandemic is over.”
At the same time, Darlene stresses the importance of prioritizing wellness inextricably with competence for all lawyers. She is pleased that the latest Strategic Plan expands the Law Society’s view on what constitutes the development and sustainment of a competent and ethical lawyer well equipped to serve the public. This also places a high importance on ensuring that junior lawyers are not left behind, which is especially relevant in the circumstances faced today.
“Firms everywhere are struggling with that. How do you mentor young people and how do you train them in situations where we can’t be together? The advice I would give to junior people is to reach out as much as they can and to as many people as they can. Organize social events with your peers and reach out to colleagues and senior people who are training you and trying to mentor you.”
Darlene will continue to update the profession on discussion and decision items taking place at the Bencher table in Bencher recap videos posted to our website after each Bencher meeting.