Bencher Profile Series: Louise Wasylenko, CPA, CMA

June 3, 2021

Louise Wasylenko, CPA, CMA is one of four public representative Benchers. She was initially appointed at the end of 2015.

“From a professional point of view, the Bencher role coalesces my experience in governance, human resources, business management, process improvement, adjudication and resolution of challenging problems. It has offered me an enriched experience and a great way to learn and contribute near the end of my career,” she says.

Louise grew up in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta in a French-Canadian family, with French being her first language. She completed her Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Alberta before obtaining her Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation in 1989.

“At the time of my first accounting roles, there weren’t many women working in accounting firms,” she says.

Much of Louise’s career has been in the public sector, specifically in the sphere of health care. Her primary interest has been in-house accounting and budgeting, focusing on business and practice improvement and digging deep into the effectiveness and efficiency of operating systems. In her various positions, Louise gained valuable experience in a variety of key areas, including governance, finance, strategic management, human resources and information technology.

Louise has held several senior positions throughout her career, including City Treasurer for the City of Fort Saskatchewan, executive leadership positions with Calgary Laboratory Services and Headwaters Health Authority, Senior Financial Officer and Director of Business Analytics at the firm Bennett Jones LLP and Municipal Treasurer for the Town of Okotoks.

“I found the work in smaller communities very rewarding because of the opportunities to make a significant impact. I have always tried to make a difference wherever I worked, and I think I achieved that.”

It is with this broad management, financial and business expertise that Louise comes to the Bencher table.

“The Bencher position was of particular interest to me because of the intersection of efficient and expert practice of law, and how the public accesses those services. The opportunity to challenge my skills and my natural curiosity about the way our society’s complex systems—like the law—work, is really enlivening to me.”

Given her length of service as a Bencher, Louise has been involved in the development of two strategic plans at the Law Society.

“To me that’s really important because strategic plans are at the heart of deciding the direction of the organization. I see the development in this organization even just in the time I’ve been on the board, and it’s exciting. In terms of being responsive to the profession, recognizing the environment that we operate in and the changes in the community—it requires some innovative thinking to make sure that we are still relevant and can still fulfil our responsibilities.”

Naturally, Louise has held leading roles on the Finance and Policy Committees over the years of her service. More recently, Louise has chaired the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee, formed in early 2020 to address key issues within this sphere and to gather diverse perspectives on the issues.

“I’m interested in access, especially for people who have traditionally found access to justice to be a challenge. This is one of the reasons why I have been deeply immersed in EDI initiatives. I feel privileged to be able to chair that committee,” she says.

Within the EDI sphere at the Law Society, Louise is particularly passionate about the “My Experience” Project. We invited 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. We are now sharing those stories with the profession so we can all listen and learn together, raise awareness and understand how we can collectively do better.

“Our approach in that project and what has become our mantra is to listen, learn and then act. I’m grateful for the people who have come forward to tell their stories and form our advisory committee – it presents a much broader, more diverse perspective, which is important in everything we do. The more inclusive we are, the stronger and more beneficial our impact will be.”

Coming from a profession that also has a regulatory body, Louise offered this personal perspective to Alberta lawyers and articling students:

“I think the Law Society adds support, guidance and information to the profession, and if young lawyers recognize this early in their career and, frankly, throughout their career, they can take advantage of that support. I encourage lawyers to voice their needs and provide their thoughts on how the public can be best served. Get in, make your voice heard, participate and add to the service that the profession provides.”