Excellence In Legal Profession Recognized


Renatta Austin

Renatta Austin’s bold decision to run in this year’s bencher election was met with surprise by some of her peers and veterans in the legal profession. Called to the Bar in 2013, she was the youngest of the 97 candidates seeking to join the influential board of directors that govern the Law Society of Upper Canada.

For Austin, age and experience didn’t matter.

“I know that becoming a bencher is something very few Black lawyers think about,” she said after being honoured last Saturday night with a Young Lawyer of the Year Award at the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers’ (CABL) 19th annual gala. “However, I thought it was something that had to be done because the people who are making decisions are so far removed from those who are affected by those decisions.

“When I look at some of the decisions the law society has made in the past few years, most of the big ones impact law students and young lawyers. I believe that any board of directors or governing body is truly enriched by having all of the stakeholders at the table.”

Benchers meet monthly in convocation meetings to set policy and determine other matters related to the governance of Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals. They also sit on panels as adjudicators to hear discipline cases concerning lawyer and paralegal conduct, licensing, competence and capacity.

It took 202 years for the first Black bencher to be elected to the law society’s governing council.