The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Beverley Spencer


A season of epic reinvention

By Beverley Spencer December 4, 2012 4 December 2012

The legal profession is changing. But is the future as dire as some fear? There is plenty of evidence that there is reason for optimism and opportunity for renewal.

The repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis continue to reverberate around the globe. But something interesting is emerging: a new sharing economy. As Leo Singer writes in this issue, cash-strapped young people shut out of the traditional economy are learning to create wealth by other means, including the use of time banks to exchange skills — a new twist on the ancient practice of bartering. There’s a move to community ownership, and people without access to traditional sources of capital are using social networks to crowdfund projects ranging from theatre shows to co-working office space.

But our laws and legal practices are out of sync with the new realities of the sharing economy. Janet Orsi, a California lawyer who advises social enterprises with unconventional needs, observes that “the reality of most activities in the sharing economy is that they don’t fit into traditional legal boxes and categories.” She believes that transactional lawyers are needed en masse to aid in an “epic reinvention” of our economic system.

Meanwhile, a new generation of lawyers is finding meaning working to improve the lives of the disadvantaged. Michael Dempster spoke to Amanda Dodge, winner of the CBA’s inaugural Legal Aid Leader Award. She is the supervising lawyer at Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City where last year more than 100 students served nearly 700 clients and learned a powerful lesson in the roots of inequality.

There will always be a place for lawyers motivated by a passion for change in a world where so much work still needs to be done. That’s a reason for optimism as we enter the season of hope and goodwill.

From everyone here at National, best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous new year.

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Happy Anniversary, National!

By Beverley Spencer October 23, 2012 23 October 2012

We’re celebrating a special anniversary at National magazine this month. It’s the 20th anniversary of the publication in magazine form, and a good time to look at how far we’ve come.

National magazine officially made its debut in October, 1992, but the CBA was publishing asso­ciation news long before that. Stephen Hanson, senior director of communications who retired in early October, was tasked with redesigning the CBA news sheet when he arrived in 1975.

The first incarnation of National was a tab newspaper produced under contract with Le Droit. Steve along with Hannah Bernstein (our current director of publishing), learned how to lay it out and send type (truly lost arts). Editorial independence was established early on. Content expanded to include commentary, regular features by professional writers, and a cartoonist. By the mid-1980s, the association decided it was time to create a magazine.

An agreement was reached with Mac­lean Hunter (now Rogers) to print and distribute the magazine, an arrangement that continues to this day.

Today we are on the cusp of another new era for National with the launch of You’ll also notice our magazine has a new look; thanks to our art director Tony Delitala for a great job in executing our new modern vision.

I’d like to thank everyone who has helped build our success, especially the many volunteers on our communications committees and editorial boards who have provided valuable guidance and direction over the years.

A special thanks to Steve and Hannah for building the foundation on which we stand today. National is one of Steve’s most important legacies as senior director of communications. His guidance and enthusiasm helped create a lively, intelligent publication of which we can all be proud. And I’ll be proud to build on his legacy into a bright new future for National.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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