Bencher Profile Series: Stacy Petriuk, QC
Now serving her second term on the Law Society board, Stacy Petriuk acknowledges with a laugh that her understanding of the day-to-day work of the Law Society – and what her eventual commitment would be – is quite different in 2020 than what she had imagined when she decided to run in 2017.
“It’s a like when someone tells you that as a parent, you’re just never going to have enough sleep ever again; you just sort of brush it off and say to yourself ‘that can’t be right’, until it happens to you. The scale and scope of the work that you can perform as a Bencher is such that it might help to a certain extent to go in a little bit ignorant of what you’re committing to, or else it would be too overwhelming.”
Born and raised in Calgary, Stacy has spent most of her career with Jensen Shawa Solomon Duguid Hawkes LLP (JSS Barristers), starting as the firm’s first-ever associate and eventually as managing partner from 2015 to 2018. Her practice focuses exclusively in civil litigation, with an emphasis on professional negligence defence work and commercial litigation.
“I have been incredibly fortunate to work at a firm that has an entrenched mandate to give back to the legal community and the public,” says Stacy. “I have consistently had support from my firm to both build my leadership skills internally within the firm and to support the legal community through volunteerism.”
“I was managing partner of my firm when I decided to run. Prior to that role I didn’t have as much visibility into the work of the Law Society. As managing partner, I saw the ways that the Law Society was interacting with our firm, and I was at a time in my career where I had a chance to give back.”
However, Stacy acknowledges that her experience is not universal. “The articling and principal experience can be hit and miss for so many students and senior lawyers alike. Many principals are placed in mentorship positions without any experience or training; with the constant demands of the practice of law on top of that commitment, there are sadly too many examples of students ending up in a bad situation through no fault of their own.”
“One of the things the Law Society does incredibly well is provide mentoring and practice advice to lawyers who are struggling to meet the demands of their practice. We’re still struggling as a profession where acknowledging those struggles is often seen as a stigma, and there are structural factors that make it difficult to seek help.”
“The role of law firms in the articling process has been so essential for the continued functioning of the legal profession,” says Stacy. “Without the traditional firm environment, the system as it is currently constructed would essentially fall apart.
Of all the work the Law Society is doing, finding new ways to approach lawyer competence and the process through which lawyers are trained and supported early in their careers is, to me, absolutely essential.”
For Stacy, focusing on the Law Society’s strategic goal of lawyer competence and wellness came to define her time first term as a Bencher. Her work as Vice-Chair of the Lawyer Competence Committee focused on issues with the articling process and Continuing Professional Development, while her time as Chair of the Bencher Election Task Force helped foster the most diverse Bencher table in the Law Society’s history. This year, Stacy will serve as Vice-Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
“I have served as the chair of my own firm’s Diversity Committee for a number of years, and I fully understand the importance of diversity in helping organizations make better decisions,” says Stacy. “I hope to carry the energy of a new Bencher table into making significant progress in this critical strategic goal for the Law Society and legal profession.”