The Honourable Madam Justice M. Marvyn Koenigsberg

Practice Point


Marvyn Koenigsberg was born in the USA, then moved to Canada in 1967 where she studied law. Her practice, based mostly in civil litigation, (Aboriginal law, medical malpractice, and products liability), began in Toronto then migrated to Vancouver. She eventually partnered with Loryl Russell in 1987, where she spent 90% of her time on Aboriginal law. Marvyn was appointed to the bench in late 1992 where she remains today.

Marvyn has been a dedicated volunteer for CLEBC participating in numerous evidence workshops and medical malpractice and advocacy-themed courses. She has been involved with the intensive annual award-winning Advocacy Skills Workshop since its inception over 15 years ago, and continues as one of its most ardent cheerleaders.

Sandra A. Cunningham, KC

Sandra Cunningham was born and raised in Vancouver, and joined the Crown Counsel’s office immediately after her articling year. She has spent her entire law career in Vancouver, and the majority of that has been prosecuting criminal cases in all levels of BC courts. In addition, for many years Sandy has taught advocacy both in-house and with CLEBC where she has been involved with the annual Winning Advocacy Skills Workshop from the beginning. She has also taught in the Yukon and in Ethiopia.

How and why did you get involved with CLEBC?

M.K.: I became involved with CLEBC because I was asked and because I enjoy instructing and learning. Increasingly I have found that the best way to learn is to teach. I think the asking occurred because of my participation in George Goyer’s Advocacy course.

S.C.: I became involved in CLEBC programs originally as a representative of the Crown, speaking on panels discussing impaired driving and domestic violence. I was asked by Madam Justice Koenigsberg to be a guest instructor for the first year of the Winning Advocacy Skills Workshop and have remained involved in that program since its inception. I believe it is important for practitioners to share their knowledge with others and CLEBC provides an excellent forum for continuing legal education.

You are highly involved with CLEBC’s annual “Winning Advocacy Skills Workshop”. Tell us more about why you continue to take part in this event every year.

M.K.: Because I am passionate about this subject.

S.C.: I believe the most effective way to learn is by doing and the format of the Winning Advocacy Skills Workshop is designed with that principle in mind. I enjoy watching junior counsel improving their skills from day to day and I always learn something myself from each workshop. Every year is a new group of counsel so the experience is always different even if the materials are the same. I love the experience of learning together with other lawyers and the stimulating discussions generated by the materials and exercises. Every year is new and exciting.

What has been your most memorable CLEBC experience?

M.K.: My most memorable experience is starting and continuing with this course because I truly believe that increasing advocacy skills is indispensable for access to justice in the courtroom. Besides, this course is really engaging and fun.

S.C.: My most memorable CLEBC experience was teaching the Winning Advocacy Skills Workshop in Smithers, BC. It was the first time we had put on the Workshop outside of Vancouver and it was my first time in that part of BC. The bar and the judiciary were so welcoming to us and so enthusiastic about having the Workshop in their community. The entire legal community participated in some way and the entire experience was incredibly rewarding.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you have received?

M.K.:The most valuable piece of advice I have been given is that real fairness takes an open mind and some courage. The corollary to this is that fairness is not just a word– it is a challenging intellectual and emotional process.

S.C.: The most valuable piece of advice I have ever received was from my father who told me two things that have guided me throughout my life: firstly, that “anything worth doing, is worth doing well”; and secondly, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

What advice would you give newcomers who are interested in working in the legal profession?

M.K.: My advice to newcomers to the legal professio: who knows which comes first, mastering a subject or loving what you are doing. We all tend to love what we do well. I can’t agree more with Sandy’s answer to this question, and only add, that hard work in the service of others is truly rewarding.

S.C.: It is important that newcomers who are interested in working in the legal profession realize that it is necessary to work very hard at the beginning of your career to learn about your area of expertise. Law school doesn’t really prepare you for real life and many new lawyers underestimate the amount of work that is required to become proficient. It is impossible to become a good lawyer by only working from 9 to 5.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

M.K.: The most rewarding part of my career has been discovering that becoming a judge has been a road of extraordinary personal growth for me. My journey as a lawyer was about beginning to define my abilities and values as a professional person which involved, among other things, trying to master advocacy skills in the broadest sense of that concept. But, I have learned so much about myself and others in the challenging arena of judging in the courtroom. My notions about what people are capable of both for good and not so good continue to be shaped and reshaped by my exposure to the best and worst of humanity caught in situations which bring them to court.

S.C.: The most rewarding part of my career has been my ability as a prosecutor to work with many different kinds of people, to get to know and be trusted with confidences from witnesses and victims of crime. It is particularly rewarding to be able to explain and help a person through the maze of the criminal justice system.

Other than law, what are you passionate about?

M.K.: I am passionate about my relationships with my family and cooking. Oh, and most recently “cutting trail” on my lovely acreage in the most beautiful part of this province. I could go on.

S.C.: I have always loved being active so for me, my life outside law involves sports and outdoor activities. I love to ski in the winter and swim, run, hike, and boat in warmer weather. I have recently developed a real interest in gardening and enjoy designing and tending gardens. I am passionate about travelling and am fortunate to have had the opportunity to see and experience countries on virtually all the continents.

What are some of your favourite legal resources? (blogs, websites, etc.)

M.K.: My most go-to legal resources are my colleagues and of course, CLEBC materials.

S.C.: As a criminal lawyer, my most frequented legal resource is Quicklaw as it provides me with access to virtually every criminal case in Canada.

Anything you’d like to shamelessly promote? (favourite charity, social cause, etc.).

M.K.: Advocacy Skills!