At the conclusion of the 2014 CBA Legal Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, I was honoured to step into my role as the 2014-15 President of the Alberta Branch. I am looking forward to serving my term as President with Vice President Wayne Barkauskas, Treasurer Jeremiah Kowalchuk, Secretary Jenny McMordie, Past President Marian De Souza, QC, and Executive Director Maureen Armitage. I want to extend thanks on behalf of the branch and the entire Executive Committee to our outgoing Past President Cyril S. Gurevitch, QC, who has served the Alberta Branch over the past five years with enthusiasm. Among other achievements, we will remember Cyril for his dedication to the practitioners in small communities around the province. Look for his introduction in the upcoming Small Centres publication, released by the CBA Alberta Access to Justice Committee, which focuses on issues faced by solo and general practitioners in small communities.
With a busy summer behind us, the CBA continues to be an advocate for the legal profession in a number of different areas. The first of these was the release of the final report from the CBA Legal Futures Initiative titled Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada. The report outlined a comprehensive list of 22 recommendations for the profession, in areas such as alternative business structures, legal education, diversity, and innovation, and can be viewed in its entirety at www.cbafutures.org. Your Executive Committee will be working in the coming months with stakeholders in the legal profession, including the Law Society of Alberta, to discuss ways in which these recommendations can be implemented.
Provincially, the Alberta Futures Committee is working on a project called “My CBA Stories”. The project began with a survey of members on their experience with the CBA, and has now moved on to in-depth interviews by young lawyers to profile typical – and atypical – CBA career paths. The CBA stories collected will be used for insights into strategic membership recruitment and organizational succession planning, and perhaps other purposes, such as awards and recognition.
Another issue highlighted at CLC 2014 was the need to increase awareness about the importance of legal aid programs across Canada. This issue has been at the forefront in Alberta for a number of months, and under the guidance of now-Past President Marian De Souza, QC, the Executive sent a letter to the Government of Alberta outlining the need for, and benefits of, a fully-funded legal aid program in the province. We were pleased to see funding for Legal Aid Alberta is listed as a priority in Premier Jim Prentice’s recent mandate letter to Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis, QC.
We are continuing to work with all stakeholders to support legal aid and ensure that all Albertans, regardless of income, are able to access the justice system. Part of this work will take place through the ongoing support of the CBA Envisioning Equal Justice Initiative, and the 33 recommendations laid out in the final report Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation to Envision and Act.
At the conclusion of CLC 2014, CBA Alberta Past President Michele Hollins, QC, took her place as CBA National President for the 2014-15 year. Michele has long been a strong proponent of health and wellness in the legal profession, and we have both identified lawyer wellness as a key area of interest for the coming year. We are exploring a number of initiatives both provincially and nationally, and look forward to sharing our progress with our membership and the profession in the coming months.
The theme of health and wellness will be prominent at the upcoming 2015 Alberta Law Conference in Edmonton on January 29 & 30, 2015. The conference will feature some excellent speakers relating to wellness, as well as other leading edge topics. The ALC 2015 organizing committee, led by co-chairs Jessica Buckwold and Michael Kraus, QC, is hard at working organizing an innovative conference that will be the premier event for legal professionals in Alberta. Registration is now open; you can get more information by visiting www.cba-alberta.org and accessing the new ALC microsite, or through the ALC brochure included with your issue of Law Matters.
Another highlight of 2015 will be the National CBA Legal Conference, which the Alberta Branch will host in Calgary August 14 – 16, 2015. Our Local Host Committee, headed by co-chairs Ola Malik and Gillian Marriott, QC are extremely passionate about delivering an incredible conference, with first-rate professional development and networking opportunities for legal professionals from across the country and around the world. We want to see the Alberta Branch out in full force, so mark your calendars now. Registration information will be out in the New Year.
I am looking forward to an exciting year, full of opportunity and buzzing with branch activity. Please stay tuned for more information about exciting ways in which your CBA will be looking to improve continuously, remain the choice professional organization for the legal community in Canada and provide valuable services to its members. Again, it is a thrill to be your President during the coming year, and I hope to meet as many of you as possible in 2014-2015.
Steve is the 2014 - 2015 President of the Canadian Bar Association, and a long-time CBA volunteer, having previously been involved as co-founder of the North Pension & Employee Benefits Section, North Section Coordinator, and member of the Court of Appeal of Alberta Centennial Gala organizing committee. Steve is also General Counsel with Finning (Canada).