Not a goodbye… but a thank you.

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As I begin to wrap up my final week at TLABC, it’s impossible not to ride a rollercoaster of reflection of the past 12 years of my life at this association.  It has been a wild and wonderful time and certainly not without its challenges, but every twist and turn has brought me to who I am now – and for that, I am enormously grateful.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with an AMAZING team, I’ve grown as a person and a professional, and I have had the support and love of my colleagues every step of the way.  Choosing to move into a new realm is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
– Winnie The Pooh

I want to send my appreciation for our Board, members, associates, sponsors and friends.  There aren’t adequate words to express my gratitude for your passion, your work and your commitment to justice in BC.

Instead, I will leave you with my final column for the Verdict magazine, as it encompasses my thoughts as I move forward.

All the best,

Megan Ejack
Development Director – TLABC

 

THE ETHICS OF PAC –
from the upcoming issue of the Verdict magazine

“Do the right thing.  The ethical path can be lonely, hard, costly… but you’ll never lose self-respect, and that’s priceless and fragile.”  – Waylon Lewis

They say that to have integrity means to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.  In our profession, however, they’re all always watching – the media, the government, our members and the public.  What will TLABC do, say, or respond in the face of the issues that affect BC citizens…?

It can be a double-edged sword – or, it can be an opportunity.

In the face of sometimes unfortunate misperceptions about the legal profession, TLABC embraces the opportunity to show the citizens of our province that we are willing to stand up for their rights, and the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) is what gives us a voice to carry though with that promise.

It’s all about integrity – of the work itself and of those who dedicate themselves to doing that work.

At TLABC, we have a small, specialized staff, but our network of committees, including the Board of Governors and Executive Committee, is made up entirely of volunteers.  These volunteers are regular members – BC lawyers who choose to go above and beyond to help protect our justice system.  To support those who give their time on these task forces, many others also choose to contribute dollars to the PAC fund.  Some of them donate to a specific cause or campaign, while others are ongoing monthly donors, trusting in the process of the TLABC leadership.  Every dollar is extremely appreciated – no amount of time or money is insignificant.

As Development Director for the past ten years, I have seen the frontlines of this commitment to justice, firsthand.  I have worked with these ‘volunteers’ and I’m proud of what we have all been able to achieve in the name of this association.  We have made great strides, yet we will continue to push for justice in BC.  It is often hard and sometimes thankless and we don’t always take the time to celebrate the successes, so today I say… thank you.

From me to all of you:

Thank you for your time, your energy, your ethics and your integrity.  Thank you for the early meetings and late-night strategy sessions, for your humour after long days and all the inside jokes, for the friendship and support, the banter and respect, but most of all for your dedication to the cause. 

Integrity is defined as both “the quality of having strong moral principles” and “the state of being whole and undivided.”  Both of which we do and are. 

Regardless of what challenges may arise, I’m confident that the work will get done because of this. 

This will be the spirit of our legacy, and I’m proud to have been part of it.

 

Why We Fight

The following is a piece written by lawyer, Mike Campbell, a member of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys (MATA) – our cousin association in Missouri.  

For those who may need a reminder, at times like these…

 

WHY WE FIGHT – By Mike Campbell, MATA

“Can you draw the pedal for me?”

That’s the only question I can remember from my deposition. I was around nine years old and I wasn’t frightened by the man asking me questions, or by the scary person wearing a mask at the end of the table (who I would later discover was a court reporter). I was frightened because I had no artistic ability whatsoever. I could, at that time, remember watching the pedal break and witnessing my dad have a catastrophic injury that would later take his life.

I could remember my dad work on the pedal in our garage in Kansas City. But, I couldn’t draw it and I was scared. But, then I heard, “objection.” Relief came over me. You see, I had a superhero with me, watching over me, protecting me from scary questions and scary people.

I recently had to fill out a questionnaire asking me to explain why I wanted to practice law. Here’s my response:

“Many years ago my family experienced a tragedy that put us right in the middle of the legal world. As a result, my superheroes growing up did not wear capes; they wore suits and carried briefcases. They argued in courtrooms and fought tooth and nail for my family. I’ll always be indebted to those attorneys and I think they know that. That’s the power we have as attorneys and we should always remember the lifelong impact we have on our clients.”

That’s the truth. That’s my truth, anyway. 

When I was five years old my dad purchased a brand new bicycle from a bike shop in Kansas. Both my godfather and I agreed to ride back in my dad’s truck while my dad rode behind us at a safe distance. I watched through the rear window as he wrecked. Memories are funny, though. I can no longer recall the wreck or much that happened shortly after. There’s a slideshow of memories though: Wrestling with my dad in a hospital bed one of the numerous times he was having surgeries, meeting with attorneys, my dad’s funeral. Good memories, sad memories.

My dad suffered a catastrophic injury when the pedal on his brand-new bicycle snapped off halfway through a cycle. He fell into the bike and suffered substantial internal injuries. He was later treated at a medical facility in Kansas, and his care was completely mismanaged. There are things that happened to him that I cannot write out of respect for his privacy and for what he went through. However, the result of the doctor’s actions led to undetected blood clotting, which traveled to an artery. He suffered a massive heart attack in our home and died in my mom’s arms.

My mom was left to raise four kids, alone. We had limited means at that time and my dad had been the primary provider for my family. When my dad died, we were broke…mentally, spiritually and financially.

Before my dad died, I can remember wearing clothes from the Salvation Army, shopping for food at the local Aldi (before Aldi was a thing), going to mass every Sunday morning and not having many concerns about our lot in life. We were a family and we loved each other, and had a roof over our head and food to eat. My dad and my mom cared for us. When my dad died, I’ll never know the stress my mom went through. I never want to know.

A close friend of the family talked to my mom about investigating my dad’s case. He was an attorney with a law firm in Kansas City who pleaded with his firm to investigate this case. The background to this is literally something you might read in a legal novel, but know this: This lawyer was relentless, was willing to give up everything to fight for the case, and nearly did. There is too much to the story to share here, but that is where I came to know that the passion which drives good and decent trial attorneys is not money. Money comes and goes. What drives good and decent trial attorneys is justice and a desire to help the helpless.

This attorney discovered a number of troubling things when he investigated our case. First, the bike manufacturer skimped on buying the proper parts for the bicycle pedal-and-gear mechanism. Instead of finding the right part, the company ordered the employees at a manufacturing plant to literally jam and hammer the defective parts into the bike. Our lawyer went to the manufacturing plant and witnessed for himself how the defect occurred during the process, and how it was known to the company. The employees openly admitted that they knew the defective part would cause harm to someone and told management, who ignored them.

The bike company had been warned multiple times about the shaft snapping on the pedals, leading to bicycle returns at stores throughout the United States. The manufacturer never recalled the bikes. Either the company didn’t believe someone could be catastrophically injured from this defect or it did, and simply did the cold math: A potential lawsuit versus a nationwide recall of bicycles. They decided to go with the risk of a lawsuit. Our attorney also discovered that the doctor who was treating my dad permanently damaged him, the result of which would eventually lead to my dad’s death. The attorney was convinced that both the manufacturer and the doctor were responsible for my dad’s death. He talked with my mom at length about the steps the family should take to hold those parties responsible. My mom agreed and we eventually filed suit against both.

My mom is as mentally and physically tough as they come. Here’s one story to prove that: After my family filed suit against the manufacturer of the defective bicycle, our case was forced into mediation. In our case, the judge who was mediating the case told my mom she should take a certain amount of money and run. Our attorneys told her to stand firm, that the sum she was offered was paltry in light of how much we had lost. My mom listened to our attorney’s advice. The judge brought her into an open courtroom in front of all the attorneys and told her that she was a terrible mother for not accepting the settlement and then he actually appointed a guardian and conservator for her children (including me) because of how terrible he said her judgment was. Our attorneys protected her and she believed in them.  The judge eventually relented and retracted his own order. My mom trusted her attorneys. She was right to… and she will tell you that. My mom is tough.

There are other stories I can tell you: Spending my early childhood in courtrooms, law offices, and learning about lawsuits while other kids played catch with their dad or did what normal kids do. I enjoyed it though. My attorneys were my superheroes. I liked being around them. I started to think that one day I could become one too.

When our case against the manufacturer was finally resolved several years later, we had received a small amount of justice. The manufacturer of the bicycle eventually settled with my family… and with several others. It turns out many people had been injured by these defective bikes and the company’s calculated risks didn’t pay off. There are horror stories I could share about this case and the dirty tricks played by the actors involved that are nearly unbelievable. Someday, maybe I’ll share them.

John Grisham has done a pretty decent job describing cruel company decisions in many of his books. But know this: A company that makes its financial decisions by weighing a human life versus profits will go to any lengths to protect those profits. I’ve seen this first-hand in my own practice and in my own life.  The cases against this specific corporation against eventually drove it into bankruptcy, got its terrible bikes off the road, and reformed certain manufacturing processes.

All of this was possible because of the trial lawyers who helped us. They believed in us, fought for us and did everything they could to make our family whole. I am friends with them to this day. The main attorney who took our case taught me how to shoot a gun for the first time, his wife taught me the alphabet when I was very young and he has stayed in touch throughout my entire life. He and his family are family to me.

I see a lot of negative talk about trial attorneys. For me, for my family, and for countless others, trial attorneys are who stood up and demanded that the parties who cause harm are held responsible for their actions.

No amount of money could bring my dad back, but at least that bicycle manufacturer was unable to produce any more defective bikes. While the rest of the world moved on after my dad’s death, attorneys working in the background fought to give his death meaning. They fought for a single mother of four who had no money to her name.

I am now a trial attorney. I am proud to call myself a trial attorney. But trial attorneys are under attack.  We are told by well-paid politicians that trial attorneys are causing businesses to go under and insurance rates to go up. My experience is that businesses go under because they are bad businesses, and insurance rates go up because insurance companies like to make money.

The people who throw these accusations around don’t know the attorneys who helped my mom and my family. They don’t know me. They don’t know my colleagues. They don’t understand that most of the laws they pass don’t affect trial attorneys; they affect the people trial attorneys represent. These politicians work to the benefit of a corporation or a company that has done some harm or wants to do something harmful, only cheaper and with no consequence.

Politicians should know this: There’s no law they can pass to stop trial attorneys from trying cases and working hard for their clients. I can understand how a politician who is more accountable to large donors than to the citizens of his or her district might be told (or even believe) that a trial attorney would have a financial motive to file more lawsuits. Maybe that mistaken perspective is all they have known.

But, real trial lawyers like the attorneys who worked on my family’s case and the colleagues I know in our profession are not in it for the money. We are deeply passionate about our clients and our work. No amount of restrictions or laws will stop us from helping people who have been wronged. We are born with this passion… and politicians cannot legislate that passion away, no matter how hard they try.

I recently tried a civil case where the jury was out for 20 minutes before it returned a verdict against my client. It takes me longer than 20 minutes to flip through my Facebook feed! I was heartbroken for my client. I thought that the jury hated me. They hate what I stand for. I thought, for just a moment, that it would be so much easier to switch sides.

Then my client told me “thanks” for fighting for her; that we did our best; and that she glad we agreed not to settle. And my phone started to ring from fellow trial lawyers who told me to keep my chin up and told me that we all fight in the trenches to keep the other side honest.

I would much rather be on this side. We are told that there are always two sides to an issue, two sides to a debate. I don’t say this arrogantly, but I say it because of my experience: I would much rather be on this side and lose, than on the other side and win. I believe that there are plenty of good people on the other side, but for me and for my fellow trial lawyers, we fight for what is right and what is good.

We don’t fight to win popularity contests, for approval or for self-assurances. We fight for the inviolate principle that every person deserves his or her day in court. We have a proud responsibility to strap up our boots, face our fears and give that opportunity to our clients. What a great privilege that is. I am thankful for having a trial attorney in my corner to give my family that opportunity and daily I am grateful for the ability to give that same opportunity to my clients. I know you, my trial attorney family, feel that way too.

This is why we fight.

 

 

Mike Campbell is a member of the Missouri Association for Trial Attorneys and the American Association for Justice. He practices at The Law Office of Mike Campbell in Columbia, Mo.

 Reprinted with permission from The Missouri Trial Attorney, © 2017

 

Socks For Santa

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For those of you who don’t know, each holiday season, TLABC’s Public Affairs Committee (PAC) collects new or gently used, clean socks for Santa to give to the First United Downtown Eastside shelter.

Over the past few years, we have had the opportunity to get to know the directors of the shelter and tour the facilities, and the work that they do for the less-fortunate of our province is truly outstanding and inspiring!

They provide 60 beds each night (40 for men and 20 for women), an address for guests to use for job searches, as well as social programming, meals and a foot care program.  Keeping your feet warm, dry and protected can be challenging in this rainy city, and they often run out of socks, especially during the busy holiday season.

Each year, our membership enjoys sending in packages of socks and goodies, along with donations towards the purchase of supplies – and we take great pleasure in our annual delivery day!

We are so proud of this small gesture we can make to help support BC citizens and we are always thrilled at the generosity of our legal community.  #TLABCCares

Please consider participating in one of the following ways:

1) Send or drop off your new or gently used socks to:

1111 – 1100 Melville St.
Vancouver, BC V6E 4A6

 2) Pledge to donate $5 – $100 (or more!) towards the purchase of socks & supplies for the shelter.

3) Bring your socks to an upcoming seminar/event, the AGM or the Holiday Bash on Friday, December 7th, 2018!

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To make a pledge, or for more info please contact megan@tlabc.org or call the TLABC office:

604-682-5343 / (toll-free: 1 888-558-5222)

Let’s keep our less-fortunate citizens warm this holiday season!!

 

TLABC goes to Prince George!

 

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TLABC President, Sonny Parhar and Membership Director, Karen St.Aubin flew to Prince George Tuesday, October 30 to reach out to Prince George lawyers.

They met long-standing TLABC Sustaining Member Dick Byl at his office for an informative conversation. They visited the local Elizabeth Fry Society where they learned about legal issues specific to the community. Finally, they hosted a focus group/dinner meeting with 11 local lawyers, including a few members. This focus group discussion allowed for a strong learning opportunity both ways.

It provided the chance to inform the attendees about TLABC, its issues, membership reach and benefits, programming, to name a few areas, and allowed TLABC to better learn about issues specific to BC North.

“It was a great experience to meet our members in their community and better inform yet-to-be members about TLABC.” – Karen St.Aubin

Ambassadors from TLABC may be hitting your community soon too! Stay tuned for more info…

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Future Leaders – Feature Member, Lindsay Frame

Meet Lindsay Frame! 

Lindsay is one of our law student members who has been stepping up in helping to engage her peers at UBC, particularly with raising awareness about the many issues that the law profession is currently facing.  Recently, she helped to facilitate a presentation to her classmates by one of our mentor-lawyers, the now-retired, Mr. Larry Kancs, and we can see many more opportunities for her to find her place as a future leader of TLABC.  Lindsay is the daughter of long-time TLABC Governor & Past-president, Steve Frame, and we look forward to seeing how she is able to continue to grow within our association.

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Q & A…

What were some of the main reasons that you have chosen to pursue a legal career?

Both of my parents are practicing lawyers, but in a kind of ironic twist, the person who convinced me to apply for law school was actually my molecular genetics professor, Don Moerman. I was in the process of completing my Bachelor’s degree at UBC in Integrated Sciences, and my chosen integration was Neuroscience & Immunogenetics. I was very engaged with my courses at the time, but my distaste for lab work made me acutely aware that a career in research was probably not in my future. Professor Moerman was the first person who ever explained to me how a science background could be valuable in law. It was a perspective that I had never really considered – so when he set me up to have coffee with a former student of his who had recently started practicing IP law, I think that’s when I first started to see a place for myself within the field. My interest was initially focused towards genetic patent work, but I have since expanded my horizons and am interested in anything that intersects at all with science or medicine – especially areas like intellectual property, personal injury, criminal and medical malpractice law.

Were there mentors, leaders, or others who have inspired you?

My parents have been my biggest mentors. My dad is a personal injury lawyer, and my mom is a prosecutor, and although their practice areas are quite different, what they have in common is that they are both very enthusiastic about their work. Growing up, a lot of my friends’ parents would come home from work exhausted, but most of the time, mine would come home excited to tell us about their day – so that has always pushed me to find work that I genuinely love doing. Having been to court a handful of times, I am certainly starting to understand their excitement, which I think is a good sign. My parents also share the philosophy that lawyers have a duty to do work that helps people in the community, and that philosophy has always pushed me to get involved with organizations like the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (LSLAP) and the Special Olympics, which have been some of my fondest memories.

Growing up, I was also a competitive athlete, so naturally, my coaches were big inspirations. They pushed me quite hard, with a very “tough-love” attitude. During training, as one of a few girls on a mostly-male team, I was generally held to the same standards as all of my male peers – I was expected to run as fast, jump as high, and do as many push-ups. That was sometimes hard because they were big guys, and I was weaker than a lot of them. But nobody ever “went easy on me” because I was a girl, so I had to work harder. I think that experience made me driven, and it made me expect a lot of myself. It really helped to prepare me for this moment, as a young woman entering a somewhat male-dominated field.

How do you handle the pressure that can often accompany the heavy course load of being a law student?

I have always found the ocean to be very calming, so one of my favourite ways to manage stress is to go for a jog on the seawall on a sunny day. I am a fair-weather runner, though, so throughout the winter I’ll often substitute spin and kickboxing classes. I generally find exercise, as well as cooking, to be very therapeutic.

Additionally, the nice thing about law school is that on any given “bad day” another law student is likely within arm’s reach that has also had a bad day for the same or similar reasons – so, I have found a lot of support in my peers this year, as well as from the many lawyers I have spoken to who can relate with their own 1L experiences.

What do you enjoy most about law school?

One of my favourite experiences has been my involvement in the LSLAP. It has given me a lot of exposure to different areas of law, and I have been lucky enough to pick up a few trials which I will be working on over the summer! I have always wanted to be a litigator, so I feel lucky to have hands-on experience like this so early on in my career. Every lawyer I have dealt with so far has been incredibly supportive, and very forgiving of the inevitable embarrassing moments which happen when I am not entirely sure what I am doing. I had always imagined the courtroom to be an incredibly adversarial environment, but I quickly learned that the opposite seems to be true, at least for law students.

What do you find most challenging
about law school?

Time management was one of the things that I have found to be the hardest about law school. The course load is much heavier and more reading-intensive than what I had become used to in undergrad. There is also a constant flow of networking events, and a number of exciting opportunities (such as LSLAP, or other pro bono initiatives) to do in one’s “spare” time. Juggling my academic, extracurricular and personal commitments was sometimes challenging, and at times I certainly felt that I had over-extended myself. At the same time, though, I know it is a rite of passage and that it builds useful skills for the practice of law.

What advice would you give to those thinking about pursuing law school?

Some of the best advice I got at the beginning of law school was not to narrow my focus to one area of law right away. It seems like the first question that anyone asks a law student is “what kind of law do you want to practice?” My answer to that question is ever-changing because I have gained exposure to more practice areas than I would have imagined existed when I first started 1L. I will admit that in the summer before law school started, I complained incessantly about one particular class being a required course… and that class was actually my favourite this year! So, I would tell people who are thinking of pursuing a career in law to do so with an open mind.

If you weren’t studying to become a lawyer, what career path would you pursue?

Occupational therapy. Prior to coming to law school, I spent a number of years working as an “aide” for people with disabilities, and I found the work to be very enjoyable and very rewarding. I contemplated applying for occupational therapy school at one point, as I hoped to be able to directly support victims of traumatic brain injuries, and help them regain control of their lives. Ideally, in my future career as a lawyer, I hope to be able to do this same thing through advocacy, as well as by being involved with volunteer organizations like the Special Olympics.

Why is being a member of TLABC important
to you?

My dad was very involved with TLABC throughout most of my childhood, so while I was growing up, I learned a lot about the types of advocacy that TLABC engages in. I have always found those endeavours to be things that I felt passionately about, as well. I think that TLABC’s access to justice initiatives are particularly important, because they give a voice to those who might not otherwise be able or willing to self-advocate. What I think is most important about TLABC is that their initiatives are powerful: they bring together some of the best and brightest minds to solve problems, together. I think it is so much more effective than branching out alone, and I am happy to have an opportunity to be a part of it.

Additionally, I think that TLABC provides amazing opportunities to meet litigators and learn about their practice areas. To a law student,
the experience is invaluable, because we get a good amount of exposure to corporate firms, but not as much to the types of small firm litigation that a lot of TLABC members practice.

If you could ask a senior lawyer one question, what would it be?

If I had the opportunity to pick senior lawyers’ brains, I would likely ask them what advice they would give to someone who is brand-new to litigation?, or what mistakes they made on their first trials?

Editorial Note:   Would you like to help Lindsay answer her question?
Email julia@tlabc.org

@tla_bc

Recent Success! #PAC

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The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) is TLABC’s fundraising arm for non-operational expenses, generally in the form of special projects and initiatives. Whereas operational expenses cover day-to-day office needs, PAC funds are in place to ensure TLABC can follow through, when and where needed, with regard to seeking justice and fighting back against threats to the rights of individuals.

We have recently had a success that you should all know about! 

The TLABC Legislative Committee has been fighting for over 5 years for changes to the Class Proceedings Act.  Currently if you start a class action in BC, you only act for BC members of the class and others in Canada can opt in to the BC class.  This means that that once a class action is commenced in BC, counsel will be deemed to be acting for all members of the class in Canada.  There can then be a beauty contest between firms in other jurisdictions for a case, but these changes will put us in the running to start class actions that are of national significance and compete for carriage of them with lawyers in Toronto and elsewhere. 

Big thanks to Past-President, Richard Parsons for leading this charge!

Thank you to all of our dedicated PAC Donors who are committed to justice in BC!

Distracted Driving is the new Drunk Driving

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“When you are driving—it should not be a secondary task, it should be the only task.”

 – Joel Feldman, creator of End Distracted Driving www.enddd.org

This is not an exaggeration.  Distracted driving has overtaken driving under the influence by a shocking margin.  In fact, incidents involving distracted driving have surpassed driving under the influence at least six fold.  International research shows that 20-30 per cent of all collisions involve driver distraction.

“The moment you take your eyes off the road and your hand off the wheel you don’t have your full attention on the road, which can pose a danger to you and those around you,”  – Kristine Simpson, manager of public affairs at the Canadian Automobile Association.

This is not only texting, but any activity that reduces your ability to focus 100% on the task of driving – in fact, we need to be reminded that even changing the radio station, adjusting your GPS, eating or even putting on makeup are distracting and can be fatal.

TLABC is proud to partner with the End Distracted Driving a program developed by Joel Feldman, a litigator from the US, who lost his beautiful daughter in a distracted driving incident.  Following this horrible loss, Joel created End Distracted Driving – a program designed to be presented in schools, by lawyers, in order to begin to create an effective dialogue about one of the most pervasive driving issues of the past decade.

TLABC is dedicated to creating awareness and bringing attention to distracted driving and TLABC members have been participating in presentations around the province that are geared toward preventing these senseless tragedies.

For more information, or to get involved, please contact the TLABC office at:
604-682-5343, or visit our website www.tlabc.org

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