By Amanda Jerome for The Lawyer's Daily
Vivene Salmon, the incoming president of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), is a young lawyer and the first racialized person to take on the role. She understands the impact a recession can have on a legal career, so she wants to focus her term on young lawyers and encouraging intergenerational dialogue.
Salmon, who will take over as president in September, graduated from law school at the University of Ottawa in 2009 and was called to the bar in 2010 “just after the financial crisis had been unleashed.”
“I feel that the legal profession in [the past] 10 years has changed so much. So, that will be my main thing, to get lawyers to engage in the intergenerational dialogue theme,” she said, adding that this fall the CBA will release a podcast centred around the beginning of the financial crisis “to where we are today in terms of a new world of law.”
“As well, in the spring of 2020 I’ve asked our young lawyers to launch a national young lawyers conference,” she said, noting this initiative is “near and dear” to her heart because not only is she a young lawyer, but she was the chair of the Young Lawyers Division, Central Region, as a board member of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA).
The incoming president is excited about a national young lawyers conference and hopes it will open up a dialogue about important issues.
“As we’re now coming up on the 10th anniversary of what happened in the financial crisis, I think it’s important to highlight those issues for lawyers,” she said, adding there’s a difference when speaking to senior legal professionals about their experience with law school and tuition fees, compared to those who have graduated in the past decade.
The issues she’d like to highlight are student debt, changes in technology, mentorship and how to be a healthy lawyer.
“Talking about diversity as well is important as I am a diverse person myself. I think those issues are not one-time issues, but I feel those issues, with respect to diversity and having healthy lawyers, are part of that shift we see in the legal profession and are important for all ages of lawyers, but in particular it’s important for younger lawyers,” she explained.
Salmon said being the first racialized president of the CBA is “daunting.”
“It’s important that everybody is part of the dialogue and so I’m happy to be joining the dialogue in terms of a shift in reflecting Canadian society. I think it’s important that, especially for lawyers, that we reflect Canadian society,” she noted.
She hopes that, as time goes on, she won’t be the “the first and the last” diverse person to hold the role of president.
“Hopefully, over time we will have many young lawyer leaders, many leaders of colour, who will follow me and become the Canadian Bar Association president. That would be amazing. In the end, I think I’m just one person, but hopefully I won’t be the last person, either a younger person or a person of colour, to step into these shoes,” she said.
Salmon stressed that the CBA is committed to principles of diversity and inclusion. She defines diversity broadly, including many differences such as race, people of different abilities and LGBTQ+.
“I feel that it’s not just a feel good, motherhood thing, it is inherent in our Canadian identity,” she said, noting that institutions, including the CBA, “need to reflect the legal profession and Canadian society as a whole.”
Salmon is a vice-president and country compliance manager of global banking and markets compliance at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She said coming from an in-house counsel position gives her a different perspective on the importance of communication to her role as president.
She noted that in-house counsel often bring governance skills to a role, which can be beneficial to any institution, whether it’s a not-for-profit or corporation.
“Before I became a lawyer I worked for the government of Ontario, so I bring the policy skills as well as the communications skills to my role. But I think the one thing about working as in-house is the power of the team. I think that’s very unique to in-house counsel, that we understand how businesses work, we understand teams, and that is critical,” she said, recognizing that the CBA’s board of directors is a team that is “pulling together” across the country.
Salmon said she’s excited about her new role as the leader of a national organization, and she’s aware there are “many challenges that lie ahead.”
“I know it’s a big responsibility and I know many people supported me in this role that I’m taking on,” she said. “Most of all, I hope that the CBA can continue to grow, that other lawyers will see the value in the CBA and that we’ll have a new generation of young leaders, and also the expertise of the senior leaders, to take the CBA to the future.”