The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Beverley Spencer


A fresh new look for fall

By Beverley Spencer September 28, 2012 28 September 2012

September might be the beginning of fall, but somehow it always feels like the start of a new year. That’s probably because September brings the start of school and the transition from the laid-back days of summer (if you’re lucky) to the more disciplined rigour of business as usual.
At National, we’re looking forward to the start of a brand new year, but it won’t be business as usual. First of all, We’re proud to bring you In addition to providing online access to our regular issues, the website will offer thought-provoking blogs and videos from new voices, power players and thought leaders across the legal profession. We’re looking forward to building on our tradition of editorial excellence and interacting with readers in a new way.
In tandem with the development of our website, we’re also giving our magazine a fresh new look. The rebranding will tie together both products, and also respond to what we’ve heard from our readers about how they currently use and enjoy the magazine.
Last September, the CBA and Rogers Connect Market Research Group conducted a readership survey, and your feedback was top-of-mind when we sat down with art director Tony Delitala to consider our new look. We thought about how to seamlessly integrate our French and English content; how to freshen our overall appearance; and how to tailor our editorial to meet your needs. As a result, you’ll still find your favourites, including CBA PracticeLink, Horizons and our in-depth feature articles, but knowing that your time is valuable we’ll be using more graphics and alternative story forms so you can quickly get to the heart of what matters. Other stories take time to tell so we’ll still devote space to examine worthy topics in detail. We’ll also continue to rely on high-quality illustrations and photography to enhance your reading experience.
You told us that National magazine is a valuable re­source. Sixty per cent of those surveyed read the magazine within the week it arrives; readers spend a median time of 20 minutes with it. That’s a significant commitment, but we’d like to do even better. So whether you’re a sole practitioner in Kamloops or a partner with Norton Rose in Montreal, we promise that you’ll find something of interest to your practice in every issue, and that your time will be well-spent. With the new website, there are greater opportunities for interaction so you can let us know how we’re doing.

Read More

Know thyself

By Beverley Spencer September 13, 2011 13 September 2011

I had the opportunity recently to catch up with a group of law school friends over dinner. They are all busy, successful women, some with young children, who have carved out interesting careers: one is a partner in an Ottawa firm, two work as government lawyers, one is a general counsel, and one is an entertainment lawyer.

All of them have one thing in common: they based important decisions at law school on considerable self-knowledge and a determination not to follow the crowd.

I’m not necessarily referring to their choice of courses or even articles nor am I suggesting that everyone enjoyed a smooth career path. I mean they knew themselves well enough to identify their interests, the kind of environment where they would thrive — and where they wouldn’t — and how they want to live their lives. They also prepared for future opportunities by networking and volunteering (one volunteered for an organization that eventually created a job for her) and when one door closed, they found another open elsewhere. They worked incredibly hard, but they are also among the most well-rounded people I know.

There is a lot of pressure on students to make the “right” decisions about courses, summer jobs and articles. The stakes are high: The “right” decisions, we are told, will launch us on a fabulous career where we’ll enjoy challenging work, untold riches, and the respect of grateful clients. The “wrong” decisions can mean no articling job at all and a one-way ticket to Loser-Town.

Of course, what’s “right” or “wrong” depends on the individual, which is why keeping your own counsel is so important. For some of your classmates, it might be Bay St. or bust, but are you willing to put in 80-hour-plus weeks for the money and status? You have to love what you do to make the necessary sacrifices, whether it’s making partner in Big Law or building a successful practice as a sole practitioner. Understanding who you are, what motivates you, and why you went into law in the first place is the first crucial step.

As the stories in this issue show, knowing yourself, keeping your own counsel and demonstrating your interest can lead you to fascinating career possibilities. Sometimes, it leads you away from the practice of law — but that can be a good choice too.

Ultimately, it’s your career. Don’t just let it happen to you.

— Send your comments to

Read More

Moving in new directions

By Beverley Spencer June 1, 2012 1 June 2012

Your experience with National magazine is about to change — for the better.

The National team is preparing to launch an exciting new online presence later this year with the introduction of It’s still the National that you enjoy eight times a year, but with a twist. You’ll find new content in the form of blogs and videos, fresh insights and a greater opportunity to interact with us.

Senior editor Yves Faguy has been instrumental in the rollout of this project. “Our objective is to create a more dynamic forum online for Canadian professionals interested in the practise and substance of law by engaging readers and members. We’ll be offering them original, thoughtful content, from long-form legal journalism to thought-provoking blogs and video,” he says. That’s what makes this initiative so exciting: it’s an opportunity to build on the quality content that National generates and to engage readers on a whole new level.

The online world offers the opportunity to deliver content to readers on a variety of platforms and engage them in a new way. Do you have five minutes? Check out a video: You’ll find excerpts of our conversations with power players and thought leaders in the legal profession. Do you have 10 minutes? Read our picks of the top newsworthy legal stories of the day. Do you have an opinion about something you’ve read? Post a comment on a blog. We welcome the opportunity to start a conversation.

However, our print publication will remain central to everything we do. The website is intended to complement the magazine, not replace it. There are plenty of readers who still enjoy sitting down with a glossy magazine for a good read and we will continue to produce stories that offer a nuanced view of complicated issues. The website offers the opportunity to build on this legacy and interact with you in a new way. Watch for more details.

Speaking of editorial excellence, National has received seven nominations for the KRW Business Press Awards. Our finalists were selected from a field of 600 entries from 57 business-to-business magazines across Canada. The winners will be announced in June.

— Send your comments to

Read More

Moving in new directions

By Beverley Spencer September 11, 2012 11 September 2012

Moving in new directions

Read More

The common touch

By Beverley Spencer August 28, 2012 28 August 2012

Alberta Premier Alison Redford speaks with real conviction about the importance of bringing citizens into public policy discussions. That’s not surprising considering her background: long before she entered politics, she worked in communities around the world on issues that touch the everyday lives of ordinary people. What might be unusual is how that has shaped her approach to politics.

Her international development work took her to South Africa where she managed a constitutional development project for the CBA in partnership with an organization involved in test-case litigation on issues ranging from employee rights to the right to antiretroviral HIV drugs for pregnant women. Later, she travelled to Afghanistan where she helped organize the first parliamentary elections. She was involved in writing the election act, educating voters and negotiating who could run for office (although convincing the cabinet that people with private standing armies should be disqualified was a tough sell since some members actually had their own army.)

As Redford explains, Afghanistan was a lesson in the very fundamentals of the democratic process. She remembers travelling to a small school in Helmand Province to speak to women about voting, and being struck by two things: first, that the women clearly thought it was important because they brought their daughters; and second, that they did not know what a vote was. Her explanation — that voting means having a voice in government — got her thinking about how people connect to government and whether it was time to take a seat at the decision-making table herself.

When I met Redford in Calgary in June, she was fresh from stunning pollsters with her unexpected electoral victory over Wild Rose candidate Danielle Smith. And she was still thinking about people’s connection to government and the importance of bringing voters into the conversation. 

“We really have to bring politics back to the kitchen table and to the school boards and to the community so people feel that they can make a difference,” she said. She connects the dots between low voter turnout and people’s loss of connection to government, pointing out that voter turnout jumped from 40 per cent in 2008 to 59 per cent in the last Alberta election “because we took the political debate to the public.”

In her opinion, good political leadership defines its values and sets the long-term direction, then seeks public input on how to get there. It’s not politics as usual — but then it’s not supposed to be.

— Send your comments to

Read More