The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Beverley Spencer


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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To the moon and back

Legal challenges for a changing world

By Beverley Spencer December 7, 2016 7 December 2016

There are lots of good reasons to worry about the state of the world. Here’s one you probably never considered: the geopolitical consequences of a “land rush” in space.

That’s right. Forget the Middle East, the rise of the alt-right and climate change for a minute. A number of countries have been preparing for war in space, according to worried space academics. At stake: billions of dollars in commercial ventures ranging from space tourism to mining the moon. The world’s economy depends on an orbital communications network; imagine the political turmoil if state actors launched anti-satellite operations to secure a commercial advantage.

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Under Pressure: Why legal education needs to change

By Beverley Spencer March 10, 2016 10 March 2016


I came across a story recently about a session at one of the CBA’s annual meetings.  Headlined: “Future belongs to young lawyers who can adapt to change”, it discussed the emerging importance of technology and the need for lawyers to think globally amid rising competition from new players.

“The legal profession must change with the times or face irrelevance,” warned Mr. Justice Michael Kirby, president of the Court of Appeal of New South Wales in Australia, adding “the snail of the law rumbles along faster than a lot of lawyers.”

That was 30 years ago. The young lawyers who heard Kirby’s speech are veteran practitioners now. But today, the drumbeat for reinvention is louder than ever.

As Leo Singer reports in this issue, the call for change is now being heard in the corridors of academia. Still steeped in tradition, law schools are under pressure from students and some faculty to take a more practical approach to legal education.

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Editor's message: Creative lawyers thrive in challenging times

By Beverley Spencer December 9, 2015 9 December 2015

Editor's message: Creative lawyers thrive in challenging times

By now you're probably tired of hearing warnings that, unless it changes, the legal profession will slide into oblivion like dinosaurs unable to cope with climate change and competition from mammals.

Here’s some good news: There is plenty of evidence that the profession is adapting admirably to the challenges of the new legal environment. For real-life examples, look no further than our story line-up this issue.

New lawyers might be struggling to find traction in a tight job market, but some are finding creative solutions that also allow them to prioritize family life. Check out Jason Morris, an Edmonton lawyer who turned to technology to power his home-based practice after deciding he was more interested in “being a dad than making partner.” He has some tips for classmate Crystal Schening who wants to put her hard-earned law degree to use while caring for her son at home.

Then there’s Martine Boucher who followed an unconventional route when she recruited her spouse – a non-lawyer – to bring a fresh perspective to growing her Calgary law firm.As COO and CFO, he receives his share of the firm’s profits by way of dividends, a quasi-ABS arrangement, she writes, that’s delivered nothing but positive results.

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Is it time to legalize marijuana?

By Beverley Spencer February 20, 2015 20 February 2015

Is it time to legalize marijuana? Public support for the legalization of marijuana in Canada has increased over the decades, with 59 per cent of people polled saying they think the use of marijuana should be made legal, according to a 2014 survey by Angus Reid Global. But just as public support has grown, so has the scientific understanding of the real dangers of marijuana. Opponents to the legalization of marijuana worry about the health risks of “normalizing” its use, including the risk of addiction and the implications for brain and heart health, particularly for younger users.

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