Sharon Sutherland

Practice Point


SHARON SUTHERLAND, principal at True North Dispute Management, is a mediator and mediation consultant with expertise in conflict resolution training and program design. Sharon was one of the first project managers at the BC Court Mediation Program. From 2000 to 2014, Sharon was a full-time faculty member at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law where, in addition to a range of substantive legal courses, she taught an intensive clinical mediation program and supervised the faculty’s Judicial Externship Program. She has worked with Mediate BC to develop a province-wide Child Protection Mediation Practicum that is aimed at increasing the number of child protection mediators in under-serviced areas of BC. Sharon is currently applying her design expertise as a knowledge engineer in the development of the Civil Resolution Tribunal.

Sharon is Co-chairing CLEBC’s annual Dispute Resolution Conference September 16, 2016.

How and why did you get involved with CLEBC?

I had my first involvement with CLE in the summer of 1987 when I worked there as a temporary receptionist. Even then, I enjoyed the degree to which I was invited to participate in activities well beyond the scope of my job description – filming course videos, helping with PLTC materials… Every time I’ve worked with CLE since – with Ron Friesen on the development of the Court Mediation Program and in online course development at UBC, as a faculty member or course chair, or as a coach in skills programs – I’ve really enjoyed the staff’s enthusiasm for combining creativity with learning.

What are you are currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?

I’m involved in a few projects this year:

  • Co-chairing the annual Dispute Resolution Conference with Jenifer Crawford (September 16)
  • Developing a CLE-TV course on Online Dispute Resolution platforms with Brandon Hastings
  • Assisting Kari Boyle in the design of a CLE-TV session on Dispute Resolution Clauses
  • Designing a new course in negotiation and mediation advocacy with Carrie Gallant and Emily Martin – Negotiation Skills for the Zombie Apocalypse (October 31)
  • Designing an online course on Supporting Vulnerable Parties in Collaborative Decision-Making (early 2017)
What has been your most memorable CLEBC experience?

The experiences that come to mind all share one characteristic: co-presenting with or attending a session presented by someone I’d first met when they were a student. I’m always especially impressed by newer practitioners who bring new insights to the field. Notable amongst those sessions was a presentation on “Mediation in Virtual Worlds” with Mike Doyle in 2009. It is hard to forget the looks on some attendees’ faces as Mike first teleported his avatar to a virtual mediation room!

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

My (now adult) children will tell you that somewhere along the way, I learned that you only need to follow three rules in life:

  • Don’t be stupid (always called the “safety rule” when other people’s children were around)
  • Don’t be a d*ck (the “Wil Wheaton rule”)
  • Don’t sleep with mean people (the “Baba Brinkman rule”).
What advice would you give newcomers interested in working in the legal profession?

There are an endless number of opportunities in the legal profession: too many people leave the profession when they find they are not happy in a traditional practice instead of exploring/creating new opportunities.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career?

The most rewarding part of my career is helping others to get started on a path that is meaningful and rewarding to them. I am happiest when I hear about the success of practitioners that I’ve had some small role in mentoring, or sometimes just encouraging, to pursue their own ideas about practice.

Other than law, what are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about new experiences, new ideas, new people! A few recent “new” things that continue to excite me:

  • GISHWHES (the “greatest international scavenger hunt the world has ever seen” – a week-long opportunity to do fun, crazy, and meaningful things!)
  • Game Jams! – Creating collaborative tabletop games as a means of exploring culture change and creating tools for practice.
  • House concerts – We love the chance to host performing artists in our home, and to introduce our friends and colleagues to music they might never encounter otherwise.
What are some of your favourite legal resources?
Anything you’d like to shamelessly promote?