From the President

Volunteers – The Backbone of Our Organization

  • February 01, 2015
  • Alex A. Shorten

Lawyers – the quiet ambassadors

I am writing this during the holiday season near the end of 2014. For me, this time of year brings to mind the many acts of kindness and volunteer work that lawyers do for clients, non-clients and society in general. Often, this is overlooked. Perhaps it is simply easier to tell old legal jokes or complain about lawyers.

Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

By now, many will have heard about the pro bono work that lawyers from Borden Ladner Gervais did for the family of Jun Lin during the lengthy trial of Luca Magnotta in Montreal. In addition to legal advice, the firm provided translation services and support for the family throughout the legal case. This is truly an outstanding example of kindness.

On December 23, 2014, the firm announced “the creation of a secure website to collect donations toward The Lin Jun Family Trust in order to support the three members of the Lin family. All donations collected will help them rebuild their lives.”

Closer to British Columbia, another outstanding example of pro bono is the work of Sharon Matthews, QC and Dr. Melina Buckley, both of Camp Fiorante Matthews Morgerman of Vancouver. They represented the CBABC in all levels of the Villardell case culminating in the decision in 2014 by the Supreme Court of Canada, in a 6-1 ruling, declaring civil hearing fees unconstitutional. We appreciate the dedication of these two volunteers and their firm.

Many readers of this column provide pro bono work throughout British Columbia, either formally through Access Pro Bono or informally on a case-by-case basis.

Lawyers also volunteer in other ways. They raise money for charitable causes, sit on boards of societies, coach sports, support the democratic political process and provide leadership to a wide range of community causes.

In addition to these types of work, CBA members volunteer as leaders on our Executive, Sections and Committees. As well as planning Section meetings and organizing speakers on various topics, members are involved in preparing submissions to government or court rules committees. This advocacy work is valuable to the legislative and regulatory process of government and provides me with the documentation that I use in my meetings with Ministers and Ministry officials. Often it involves legal research on legislation in other provinces and foreign jurisdictions, and reviewing legal research by others on similar legislative initiatives. In some instances, the research involves reading and analyzing case law from many different jurisdictions.

Since September, CBABC Special Task Forces have completed the following: a submission on a proposed Franchise Act; two submissions to the Supreme Court Rules Revision Committee commenting on a proposed rule change allowing audio recording of independent medical examinations; a submission on the Ministry of Finance’s draft Societies Act; a briefing note recommending changes to the Family Compensation Act; and a commentary on proposed amendments to the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act.

Thank you, thank you and thank you.

Often the deadlines for this work are tight but the hard work gets done by our dedicated volunteers. I take this opportunity to thank all of our volunteers for the work they do for society and for the CBA.

Alex Shorten signature

Alex A. Shorten
president@cbabc.org