Tag: work life balance
Many in the legal profession are stretched thin when providing legal services during the pandemic. Working from home often blurs the distinction between work and “not-work”. A co-worker recently told me that with her computer on in her kitchen, it is as if she is always working. Adding issues of child-care and home-schooling, or caring for isolated seniors only serves to heighten the complexity of the lawyer’s life.
(Clearly, non-lawyers face these challenges as well: often to a greater degree. Many lawyers have the luxury of being able to continue to work. Others are not so lucky.)
A recent decision of Justice Myers acknowledges the heightened demands on lawyers, judges and court staff during the pandemic, and the effect that these may have on their health and well-being.
Briefly, the case involved a commercial lease issue. The landlord wanted to rent out space in a mall to a call centre. Another tenant in the mall objected, asserting that is had a right to consent to the lease, and that the call centre would change the retail nature of the mall.
The landlord entered into a lease with the call centre that had a conditional period expiring February 1, 2021, in order to allow the landlord to obtain a court determination of the tenant’s claim to a right to consent. A court date was set for January 29, 2021, but counsel for the tenant was not available. A hearing on Saturday, January 30 was proposed by Justice Myers. Counsel for the tenant resisted, saying that “while his firm has conducted a fair bit of work during the pandemic on weekends and evenings, they have ‘been encouraged to be alive to the effects of doing so on younger members of the team who have childcare commitments etc.’”
Justice Myers noted that the court makes efforts to accommodate business transactions and recognizes real-time schedules. However, of significance, the court must also recognize the realities of lawyers’ lives and well-being.
The court takes very seriously issues of health and wellness of practitioners, members of the judiciary, and court staff during the pandemic in particular. While lawyers and the courts are in a service business, there has to be a brake applied to service providers’ willingness to compete themselves (or their juniors) into unhealthy states in the ordinary course of business. Recognizing that young counsel and staff may have other responsibilities or just need down time does not impair access to justice provided that everyone understands the need to make personal sacrifices when truly urgent circumstances arise.
Ultimately, a hearing date of February 4, 2021, was set. “Absent urgency that was not voluntarily assumed, I find it to be in the interests of justice to grant the adjournment sought.”
It is good to see that the court is recognizing the demands being placed on those in the legal profession, and the increase in these demands as a result of the pandemic. Yesterday was Bell Let’s Talk Day. Their motto, “When it comes to mental health, now more than ever, every action counts” is particularly apt.
Have a great weekend.
The Canadian Bar Association held its Canadian Legal Conference and Expo on August 14-16 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of the keynote speakers was the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.
Johnston is a former dean of law at the University of Western Ontario, and is a lawyer who knows that of which he speaks. He commented that as lawyers we enjoy a social contract with society whereby in return for self-regulation and a monopoly over the practice of law, we are duty bound to improve justice and serve the public good.
He further commented that Canadians in all provinces wait too long to have their cases heard in court, and face unacceptable delays once there. He singled out Ontario for the worst court processing times in the country, and said that despite efforts to reverse the trend the pace of change is slow.
Johnston said judges and lawyers must act with urgency to break through what criminologists have called a court culture of complacency, if they hope to streamline the process.
Other comments of note by Johnston were that Canada’s law schools are losing touch with practicing lawyers in the real world, and rely too heavily on narrow criteria, such as the standardized Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), for selecting new students.
He also lamented the lack of work-life balance in law firms that penalize those with a family.
Johnson and another esteemed keynote speaker, the Honourable Madam Justice Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada, both commented that the profession must make legal services more affordable and accessible to Canada’s millions of middle-class citizens.
He offered some good advice in suggesting we must engage our most innovative thinking to redefine professionalism and regain our focus on serving the public.
Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.
I am a big fan of the feel good test in my approach to success in law, business or anything else. It is not what people actually get that dictates success but how people feel about it at the end of the day. In a previous blog I commented that client satisfaction is based on this very principle, but what about our own success as lawyers? How those in the legal profession define success has many answers, depending on the individual and the area of law.
In this week’s edition of Canadian Lawyer Magazine 4Students you can see what some lawyers think of as the pros and cons of practising in a particular area. If you scroll way down, you’ll see pros and cons of practising in trusts & estates by Liza C. Sheard, of Evans Sweeny Bordin LLP in Hamilton, and by our very own Paul Trudelle at Hull & Hull LLP in Toronto.
A definite pro for any trusts and estates lawyer is that it is an intellectually fascinating and challenging area of law. The cons are based around the emotionally charged atmosphere we often encounter.
Work life balance is a very common buzz-word these days. Ultimately work-life balance comes from within and not from your job description. You must know yourself and integrate your talents, your passions and your responsibilities into each day to meet your constantly changing priority list.
I’m a firm believer that in order to be a success at anything you have to enjoy it – it has to mean something to you. As I celebrate my first anniversary in trusts & estates law, at the end of the day I feel pretty good. But I feel even better about getting up the next day to come in and do it all over again.
Thanks for reading all week and have a great weekend!
Sharon Davis – Click here for more information on Sharon Davis.