Recognizing our dedicated volunteers

During National Volunteer Week (April 27 – May 3) organizations across the country will recognize the many different ways that volunteers make a difference in our communities. From delivering free legal services to those in need to serving non-profit, community and public organizations throughout the province, BC lawyers make an enormous impact through their volunteer service.

In addition to an unwavering commitment to serving the public good, BC lawyers volunteer a huge amount of time serving their own profession, whether through mentoring, teaching, serving their local bar association or bringing a voice to issues that affect the justice system and the delivery of legal services.

As a non-profit organization, the Law Society benefits greatly from our volunteer resources. In addition to the many lawyers who volunteer their time and talents to serve the legal profession and the community at large, we are indebted to the invaluable contributions of our Lay Benchers and lay volunteers. This past year, over 450 lawyers and lay volunteers offered their services to the Law Society. Our volunteers serve as members of committees, handle conduct reviews, provide advice on special projects such as courthouse accessibility, teach young lawyers and so much more. Over 350 lawyers passed on their experience and expertise as guest lecturers and authors in the Professional Legal Training Course. As a group, our Benchers contributed at least 10,000 hours of their time to serving the public, and their profession.

On pages 10-11 you will find a full list of all of the lawyers and other professionals who volunteered with the Law Society in 2007. This year we wanted to tell you a bit more about some of our dedicated volunteers, what they do and why they do it.

Elizabeth C. Hunt, chair, Aboriginal Law Graduates Working Group

Elizabeth HuntVolunteering with the Law Society is a big juggling act for Elizabeth Hunt, a sole practitioner in the Esketemc First Nation community, and mother of two children, four and six years old. As chair of the Law Society’s Aboriginal Law Graduates Working Group and a member of the Equity and Diversity Committee, Hunt made the trip from her residence in Williams Lake to Vancouver to attend several meetings this past year. “It wasn’t that long ago that there were only four Aboriginal lawyers in all of Canada,” says Hunt, a member of the Kwakiutl Nation from the Port Hardy area. “To be truly representative, we need more Aboriginal people on the Bench, more Aboriginal Benchers and more Aboriginal lawyers.” Hunt, also a volunteer with the Lawyers Assistance Program, has seen progress during her three years on the two committees, including the fact that the Aboriginal Law Graduates Working Group now includes regular participation from UBC and UVic. “It is a very exciting time to be involved in the legal community. The public can only benefit from these changes that reflect our diverse citizenry in BC.”

John Waddell, QC, conduct reviewer

WadellJohn Waddell, QC, a civil litigator with Waddell Raponi in Victoria, has been one of many volunteers handling conduct reviews for the Law Society for the past 15 years. “It’s very important that the public sees that the Law Society responds to mistakes that are made, but not every mistake warrants a disciplinary proceeding,” says Waddell, who also practises as an arbitrator and mediator. “In holding conduct reviews, we want members to acknowledge responsibility for their mistakes, and we discuss steps that can be taken to prevent the situation from happening again.” In addition to his volunteer work with the Law Society, Waddell has been involved with the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch for 24 years, including as president in 1995-1996. He also serves as a director of the CBA (BC) Benevolent Society and as a governor of the Law Foundation. He received the Queen’s Jubilee medal in recognition of his contributions to the community and the legal profession in January 2003. “I have always treated my volunteer responsibilities just as I would any other responsibilities I take on in my practice — I make time.”

Florence WongFlorence Wong, guest lecturer, PLTC

“We are privileged to be a part of the legal profession, and I feel we as lawyers have an obligation to share our knowledge for the benefit of others,” says Florence Wong, who has taught lay people for many years through the People’s Law School, UBC and SUCCESS and co-hosts a current affairs program on Chinese-language radio AM 1320. As an instructor to lay people, Wong thoroughly enjoys helping students to develop a general understanding of wills and estates and contract law, and to know when to consult a lawyer. So when the call came in for Wong to offer her expertise as a guest lecturer in the real estate portion of the Professional Legal Training Course, she knew she was up for the challenge. “The students are in the midst of their articles, so they often bring real-world questions, which is really beneficial for the class,” says Wong, who has taught residential conveyancing during three PLTC sessions. “It’s great to see the vitality and enthusiasm among the new entrants to our profession.”

Neal HallNeal Hall, media workshop panellist

Neal Hall, a senior reporter with The Vancouver Sun, offered his expertise to more than 60 journalists who attended the seventh annual Law Society-Jack Webster Foundation Media Law Workshop held November 6 in Victoria ¾ Reporting on the Courts: What you should know … and do. Hall, along with Chief Judge Hugh Stansfield and media lawyers David Sutherland and Michael Scherr, rounded out an expert panel that provided reporters with an overview of the legal issues surrounding publication bans and contempt of court. “It’s important for journalists to be able to stand up for the rights of the media,” says Hall, who has attended several media workshops as a participant, and has challenged publication bans himself in the past. “It was great to be able to have an open discussion about the issues that we face as journalists reporting on the courts.”

Interested in volunteering?

For more information about serving as a volunteer on a Law Society committee or as a Law Society appointee to an outside body, please contact David Newell, Corporate Secretary at Expressions of interest and accompanying resumes are always welcome. If you are interested in volunteering as a guest instructor, lecturer or author in the PLTC program, please contact Lynn Burns, Deputy Director at Guest instructors are needed for family practice, Personal Property Security Act, corporate practice, wills, business, and those who can judge a criminal or civil advocacy exercise. Teaching as part of the PLTC program counts towards the annual 12 hours required for the continuing professional development program (one hour of teaching will equal three hours of reporting credits to take into account preparation time).