Bencher Profile Series: Sandra Mah
Sandra Mah is one of nine Benchers who were newly elected in 2020, but don’t let her short time at the Bencher table deceive you. For the last 18 years, Sandra has been a volunteer with the Law Society, serving on multiple committees, task forces and as an adjudicator. After so many years of work with the Law Society, Sandra made the leap to running for Bencher for a number of reasons, but not least of which was to find a new challenge with her commitment to the profession.
“I was first appointed to a committee when I was a fifth-year associate,” says Mah. “I happened to know Cheryl Gottselig, who was the Law Society President at the time.
“She said, ‘Sandra, we need people like you’. She put me on these committees, and it never ended!”
Sandra is currently Associate Counsel with DLA Piper (Canada) LLP. She earned her Bachelor of Laws from Queen’s University and Master of Laws from Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the Alberta Bar in 1995. Sandra’s practice currently focuses on tax, trusts and estates, corporate/commercial matters and dispute resolution. In addition to her volunteer work with the Law Society, Sandra has also spent years volunteering with the Canadian Tax Foundation and Wood’s Homes in Calgary.
Although she started her career as a general practitioner, as a tax and trust lawyer, she notes that her approach is likely distinct from many of her colleagues at the Law Society.
“To be honest, I was stunned I won,” says Sandra. “My background as a solicitor is different than what has been more commonly elected.”
“I’m also a woman and a visible minority – in fact, I believe I am the first-ever Chinese woman to serve as a Bencher in Alberta. I’m doing this work for the future of our profession – for the bright student in high school who is deciding whether a path in law is right for them, making sure that they have an opportunity to develop a fulfilling career in law.”
For now, Sandra is looking forward to getting to know her fellow Benchers and find out areas of mutual interest where she can help to maintain the privilege of being a self-governing profession and to foster some of the changes she acknowledges have been a long time coming.
“After years of working with the Benchers, now I get to be at that table, participating in the decision. While I’m only one vote of many, I now have the opportunity to help shape the profession so it continues to be a relevant part of society.”
For Sandra, a significant portion of that change is focused around education and lawyer competence. She notes that changes to how law is practiced and what is expected of a lawyer is changing and ensuring that the legal profession is able to move through the change is essential to the continued viability of law as a career.
“If we want to continue as a self-regulated profession, I would like to bring our focus back to the value of our judgment. People can get information on the internet; they can print out a contract. It’s the value of our judgment as lawyers that is difficult to replace.”