Making Connections

The value of community

Making Connections

"Look to your left, and look to your right. One of you won’t get an articling position.”

That was the admonition I got back in law school. Today’s attrition rates for young lawyers suggest an update is required – one of the three of you will leave the profession within five years of your call.

I had the opportunity to address the law students of Thompson Rivers University at their Welcoming Assembly on September 3, 2019. I spoke to them about overcoming adversity by staying connected and engaging within the legal community.

As many do, I struggled in my early years in practice. I was making mistakes. I was at risk of being part of the attrition plaguing the profession. However, I was fortunate enough to be heavily engaged in CBABC activities. I was a chair of a Young Lawyers Section and served on the Branch Executive Committee. I made lasting personal connections within the profession, including many senior counsel from across the country. I realized one of the key values of CBA membership was the ability to connect within different communities: Sections, forums, committees and Provincial Council – all had opportunities to meet professional colleagues away from files. I often speculate whether I would be in the profession, let alone the lawyer I am, if I had not taken the opportunity to volunteer within the CBA.

The most obvious community within the CBABC is a Section. There are more than 75 Sections in British Columbia covering 49 topics, including 44 substantive law areas from Administrative Law to Wills and Trust, and five other interest areas from the Aboriginal Lawyers Forum to the Young Lawyers Sections. Some Sections have regional groups across the province: for instance, seven Family Law Sections from Victoria to Kamloops and the Okanagan.

Section meetings connect you with colleagues in an informal setting while delivering professional development credits. Sections are also a great opportunity for volunteerism within the CBA, as all Sections have executive committees that plan the year’s speakers, events and legislative engagement. Our Sections are a foundational resource for subject area expertise for the Branch in developing CBABC policy.

CBABC has over a dozen committees, mostly dealing with either policy and advocacy work or member services and engagement work. These committees, typically of seven people, are populated every summer.

Another way to connect is through mentoring. CBABC has several mentoring programs with all three BC law schools, the Aboriginal Lawyers Forum and the Women Lawyers Forum. Done right, mentorship can be a rewarding experience for both the mentor and the mentee. I encouraged the law students at Thompson Rivers University to take full advantage of these opportunities, and I encourage all of you do so as well.

There are many other great communities within the justice sector that provide opportunities for volunteerism. This issue focuses on one of them, the Law Foundation, on their 50th anniversary. I offer my warmest congratulations to them for their wonderful work over the last half century.

The issue of retention in the profession is quite complicated. However, it is my view that young lawyers, and indeed all lawyers, will get a greater sense of personal satisfaction within the practice if they connect with their colleagues outside of files. I know my volunteerism within CBABC keeps me energized and engaged. I encourage you to explore these opportunities and get connected!

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