The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Beverley Spencer

CBA Community: Young Lawyers International Program

Finding a calling far from home

By Beverley Spencer July 6, 2017 6 July 2017

Finding a calling far from home


Persia Sayyari’s path to the BC Coroners’ Service took her via Constitution Hill, a former prison in Johannesburg where men and women who fought apartheid were once incarcerated.

Home to South Africa’s Constitutional Court and the offices of the South African History Archive (SAHA), it’s where she worked as an intern with the Young Lawyers International Program in 2012-13. Her experience there shaped her decision to pursue a career with an investigative role – as a coroner who conducts preliminary investigations of unnatural, unexpected or unexplained deaths.

It’s a long way from SAHA, an independent human rights archive that preserves histories about struggles for social justice and uses access to information laws to support present-day activism.  But the work was an eye-opener for someone who, as an articling student, had been frustrated with how the human elements of a case can be ignored during litigation.

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Message from the editor

Me inc.: Doing it all in the new economy

By Beverley Spencer June 16, 2017 16 June 2017

 

Do you ever wonder why everyone is so stressed? Blame the new economy.

Consider this: We’re not just juggling our responsibilities at home and work anymore; dozens of little micro-jobs have been added to our plates. We’re also bank tellers, travel agents, insurance claims officers, investment specialists, retirement planners, health-care co-ordinators, parking lot attendants and customer service agents. We scan and bag our own groceries and pump gas. Sure, it can be convenient, but no wonder people get grouchy.

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Message from the editor

150 years of progress: Legal milestones show changing society

By Beverley Spencer March 15, 2017 15 March 2017

I grew up in the suburbs of Montreal’s West Island in the 1970s. I attended a solidly middle-class high school where the students were predominantly white Protestants and the closest we came to poverty was collecting canned food for the needy.

But outside our insular world, things were starting to change for those who didn’t share our privilege. In the 1970s, the Canadian Human Rights Act was passed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, age and gender and the federal government started funding legal aid so the poor could have equal access to legal representation. The steady drumbeat of progress continued through the next four decades as some historic injustices were redressed and the law reflected social change.

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Practice hub

The innovation game

By Beverley Spencer March 15, 2017 15 March 2017

The innovation game

 

You’ve read the books, gone to the seminars and accepted the inevitable: If your firm wants to stay competitive and attract the best people, it has to develop a business strategy to deal with changing client demands, new technology and a shifting regulatory landscape.

So now what?

You’re already ahead of the game if you recognize that business as usual isn’t viable in the long-term, says Mike Ross, founder of Juniper, a Montreal-based strategy consulting boutique. Now you have to get your partners on board and start rethinking how to deliver client services.

That’s not going to be easy: in law firms where money is still rolling in, partners don’t have much incentive to change and there’s a succession crisis brewing; in 
63 per cent of U.S. law firms, for example, partners age 60 or over control at least a quarter of total firm revenue but only 31 per cent of firms have a formal succession planning process, according to an Altman Weil study released last year.

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Ethics

The presumption of innocence and trial by mob

By Beverley Spencer March 13, 2017 13 March 2017

The presumption of innocence and trial by mob

 

Postmedia columnist Christie Blatchford wants you to know that she really doesn’t care what you think of her. Her acerbic speech last week to a roomful of lawyers and judges at the CBA-FLSC Ethics Forum was laced with profanity and self-deprecating jabs (when she gave a similar speech to another CBA audience, she said she “finished to a lumpen and hostile silence.”)  She doesn’t just attack sacred cows; she beats them to a bloody pulp and mounts their heads on sticks as a warning to others.

But don’t dismiss her as another cranky contrarian. Strip away the snark and you’ll soon realize that Blatchford’s provocative positions are rooted in expertise developed over decades spent covering the criminal justice system. You might not agree with everything she says, but some of her insights are worth pondering.

Her topic at last week’s lunch was defending the presumption of innocence in sexual assault cases, a stand, she dryly observed, that she never realized would be controversial. 

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