How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
While I had previously assisted other lawyers in the firm prepare materials for CLEBC courses, my first experience as a presenter was in 2003 for a CLEBC course, “Banking Basics.” I, along with my friend and colleague Mark Fancourt-Smith, presented “A Primer for Junior Banking Litigators.” Since then I have been involved in many CLEBC courses and projects, including the CLEBC Advocacy Toolkit.
What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
Most recently, I presented “Best Practices for Conducting an Opportunity to Be Heard” at the CLEBC “Forestry Law 2020” course. Last year I also contributed to Introducing Evidence at Trial: A British Columbia Handbook (4th ed.): Chapter 3 – Adverse or Hostile Witness and Chapter 15 –Prior Convictions.
Currently, I am working on the CLEBC and LSBC Mental Health Forum for Legal Professionals to be held on September 14, 2021. I also recently submitted my contributions to the next edition of the British Columbia Civil Trial Handbook: Chapter 3 – Investigating the Case and Gathering Evidence and Chapter 12 – Recording the Results of Trial.
What inspired you to become a lawyer?
I always had an interest in law, particularly as an expression of collective social values. It was also fascinating to me to observe how the law could both lead and lag the changes in those values. In deciding to go to law school, I considered that I could probably do more practically with a law degree than I could continuing with more academic studies. Through law school I had expected to be involved in criminal defence work: I did not take any commercial courses. But, I articled at what was then Russell & DuMoulin, where I worked with the commercial litigation group and never left.
What are some of the rewards and challenges of your practice?
The primary rewards of my practice are the people I get to work with: my colleagues at the firm, my clients, my fellow Benchers at the Law Society. Being surrounded by and getting to interact with so many capable, accomplished, and interesting people is extremely gratifying. Beyond the people I work with, my practice in commercial litigation requires me to constantly learn new things and gain an understanding of the intricacies of other people’s businesses. It keeps practice interesting!
The biggest challenge in my practice is the overwhelming sense of responsibility to protect my clients’ interests, and do my utmost to obtain a favourable outcome for them.
You have long been an advocate for mental health and wellbeing in the legal profession.
Where do you feel that have we made the greatest strides?
I believe we have made significant strides in two important and interrelated respects. First, there is now substantially greater awareness about the pervasiveness of mental health and substance use issues within the legal profession. Second, there is a much greater willingness to talk about these issues and share experiences.
Where do you think we need to focus on going forward?
There remains a critical need in the profession and society more generally to remove the stigma and judgment to which those experiencing mental health and substance use issues are subjected. Health is health, and there should be no more blaming or shaming people who experience mental health and substance use issues than for those who experience physical health issues. We all have a lot more work to do.
Other than helping legal professionals, what are you passionate about?
Although it is not my practice area: animal law. I would love to see greater empathy for and a reduction in the suffering caused by humans to animals, generally.
I am also interested in increased incorporation of empathy as a value, a tool, and a skill in legal education. I did not receive training or even have any discussion about the role of empathy until I trained as a mediator. However, I believe that actively developing empathy is critical to being a good lawyer.
I have long been associated with, and a fan of the UBC Law Students’ Legal Advice Program. It is an important provider of pro bono legal services, while at the same time providing law students with valuable real-world experience. LSLAP was my favourite part of law school, and it remains an important program to me.
Finally, I served for several years on the board of MOSAIC, a provider of settlement and support services for newcomers to Canada. MOSAIC does amazing work, and it is another organization for which I am a huge enthusiast, particularly its important and valuable work supporting refugee newcomers.