Bencher Profile Series: Jim Lutz, QC
Born and raised in Calgary, Jim Lutz, QC, grew up in the profession of law.
“My dad is a retired Queen’s Bench judge and my sister was a lawyer, now a mediator. I really never thought of anything else to do as my own career path,” he laughs.
Jim has stuck to the downtown core of Calgary for most of his personal and professional life, having been born about seven blocks from where he now works and about four blocks from where he now lives. Despite his strong local roots, he did venture outside of the province to pursue post-secondary education, completing his bachelor of arts at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick and his law degree at the University of Wales.
Jim returned to Alberta after his education and was called to the bar in 1992. He is a criminal defence lawyer at a small firm named Dartnell Lutz, a version of which he once articled for and has worked his way up to now be a name partner. Jim comes to the Bencher table for a second term having been initially elected in 2017.
“Personally, it’s been an incredibly enriching experience working with such great people both at the Law Society and the Bencher table. Professionally, it allows the opportunity to try to add your little bit of knowledge to the decisions that will guide the profession into the next couple of years and decades. It’s nice to be able to contribute and give back,” he says.
Jim brings a unique perspective to the group of Benchers having worked for so long in the criminal defence community.
“Before becoming a Bencher, I worked on the other side of the Law Society representing lawyers who were in the conduct process, so that sort of stoked my initial interest in being on the policy side, the part that makes the decisions. I saw things from a very different view.”
Jim also brings a wealth of board experience with him as a past president of the Calgary Bar Association. He has lectured at the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology as a member of the Calgary Bar Association, Criminal Trial Lawyers Association and Criminal Defence Lawyers Association.
Having served a term as Bencher already, Jim was a part of the important discussions during the development of our current five-year Strategic Plan. This included developing the four strategic goals that guide our decisions now: innovation and proactive regulation; competence and wellness; access; and equity, diversity and inclusion.
“The plan itself is I think one of the most comprehensive and cutting-edge for any law society. It really is a comprehensive overview from top to bottom of an individual’s practice. It’s amazing that pieces like competence and wellness and equity, diversity and inclusion are now being formally recognized in our strategic work,” he says.
Part of this strategic work that Jim was particularly passionate about included the introduction of part-time fees last winter. In February 2020, the Law Society launched a part-time membership status option to allow for greater flexibility for Alberta lawyers, particularly young women who were leaving the profession for a variety of reasons.
“Why not make it easy for people to stay, particularly those who may have other personal commitments in life? They’re adding so much important information and perspectives to the bar and are significant contributors to the profession. Let’s find ways to work around the barriers.”
Outside of the strategic priorities of the Law Society, Jim is also fascinated by the regulation and adjudication side of the role.
“My pet-project will always be adjudication because that’s my wheelhouse. That is what I do all the time. I try to volunteer as much as I can for adjudication opportunities as a Bencher.”
Regardless of the tasks that he is taking on within his role, Jim is true to the mandate of protecting the public interest.
“We protect the public interest by giving the public the opportunity to have the best possible lawyer and legal advice they can have, and that means training them and equipping them with all the skills they need to be competent. For example, Practice Management exists to help practitioners become better practitioners, balance their life and their practice, and know what to look for in terms of warning signs. You don’t always know the pitfalls of practice until you practise, and Practice Management is a great example of helping people is this area.”