The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Beverley Spencer

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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 nationalmagazine.ca. 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 national@cba.org.


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Moving in new directions

By Beverley Spencer September 11, 2012 11 September 2012

Moving in new directions

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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 national@cba.org.

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Feeling the Pressure? You're not alone.

By Beverley Spencer August 28, 2012 28 August 2012

After I was accepted to law school, one of my newspaper colleagues made a point of sending me stories about lawyers in crisis. The common thread was that lawyers suffer high rates of depression and addiction and as a professional group are vulnerable to suicide. It was a reminder — and perhaps a warning — that the profession has a dark side.

It turns out these were not apocryphal tales. It was true 20 years ago and it’s true today: lawyers and law students face a disproportionately higher risk of depression than the general population. In fact, one in three will experience a major mood disorder or problem with addiction at school or work during their careers. These are intelligent, capable, high-achieving individuals. And yet they struggle, often in silence, unwilling to reveal the depth of their pain. Why?

Environment and personality both play a role, according to researchers. Law school is competitive and “notorious for deflating the self-image and sense of competence of its students,” says Dr. Lawrence Krieger of Florida State University College of Law. Other studies have revealed that law attracts individuals with certain personality traits. Dr. Larry Richard, a U.S. psychologist and former trial lawyer, found that when tested for resilience, 90 per cent of lawyers consistently scored in the bottom half of the general population, making the majority more sensitive to criticism, setbacks and rejections and quicker to become defensive. Many find it hard to strike a work-life balance and they deal with stress in unhealthy ways.

Fortunately, the profession has recognized this problem and is ready to help. The CBA’s Legal Profession Assistance Conference (LPAC) helps lawyers, judges, law students and their families with personal, emotional, health and lifestyle issues. Confidential help and professional referrals are available through LPAC’s 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-667-5722. LPAC also develops programs and liaises with law assistance program across the country.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. In Ontario alone, the Ontario Lawyers’ Assistance program is working with about 1,200 individuals. About 42 per cent of cases involve mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and debilitating stress, according to the 2010 annual report.

There is no need to suffer in silence and no shame in asking for help. In fact, making the decision to seek help can be the most difficult part of the process. But once you do, you’ll be on a path to a much brighter future.

All you have to do is ask. 

— Send your comments to national@cba.org.

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In conversation: Alison Redford

By Beverley Spencer August 16, 2012 16 August 2012

In conversation: Alison Redford

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