Russ MacKay passed away a few months ago after a short but difficult battle with cancer. Many of the members may not have known Russ. Some decades ago, he succumbed to a whole host of demons, which resulted in him leaving our profession a broken and embarrassed man. Over the course of many years he undertook a healing process and, with the help and encouragement of the Lawyers Assistance Program of British Columbia (LAP), he was ultimately readmitted to our bar.
He proceeded to resume his law practice and help other colleagues in distress, and he was eventually appointed a judge of the Provincial Court of British Columbia. It is a wonderful story of fortitude, forgiveness, and redemption that owed much to the goodwill of his colleagues and the good work of LAP.
I was reminded of Russ and his story last month when Derek LaCroix, QC, attended a Benchers' meeting to talk about the work of LAP. It reminded me why the work of LAP is so important. Based on the basic tenet of lawyers helping lawyers, LAP relies on a network of volunteers from the BC legal community. It offers short-term counselling, practical assistance, referral, assessments, information and ongoing support.
LAP will also reach out to lawyers who are clearly in distress. The approach is always respectful, empathetic and compassionate. The interaction with the staff at LAP is non-judgemental and LAP will work with individuals to help them come up with solutions that work for them.
The nature of our profession can sometimes take a toll. None of us is immune or without flaw. May I ask that if you see a colleague in difficulty, reach out your hand. If you find yourself in difficulty, reach out your hand. We can all assist and support the work and spirit of LAP. Our profession is steeped in adversarial traditions, but also has a history committed to the welfare of our brothers and sisters at the bar. That history reflects the story and spirit of Russ MacKay. Derek LaCroix, QC, reminded us of that.