500 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 77 PART 4 JULY 2019
So many of us at the bar experienced your personal service. For example, if
you heard or read something that you felt unfairly criticized a colleague, the
source could expect to receive a personal letter from you detailing your
objections. If a lawyer suffered a defeat you considered to be wrong, you left
them a voicemail offering your services for the appeal, often on a pro bono
basis. You believe that the primary duty of the judiciary is one of service
and so you, in turn, served not just your client, but also the judiciary. This
meant you were steadfast in your protection of the judiciary, both privately
and publicly. You did not limit yourself to headline cases. You were available
to virtually anyone you could help, often, but not necessarily, other
professionals, and you would usually give your time for free. You believed
in access to justice and provided it unstintingly and generously.
You taught us that it is through our mistakes that we learn who we really
are. One of the authors of this letter met with you at 5:30 one morning after
a sleepless night of tossing and turning while reflecting on a grievous error.
Indeed, the associate burst into your office exhausted and spent to tell you
all about the nuances of the transgression. (You had a commendable opendoor
policy.) You listened kindly to it all and then asked, with only the
barest trace of a smile, “Will this mistake, at the conclusion of the proceeding,
cause the judge to rule one way as opposed to the other?”
The associate reflected and eventually answered in the negative. Gently,
you leaned forward and said that in the practice of law, we need to choose
which mistakes matter and which do not; when it comes to our mistakes we
must exercise the courage of selection. If it is a mistake that matters, we
need to mobilize everything within our power to fix it. If it is a mistake that
will not change the trajectory of a case, we need to take whatever steps are
required so that the mistake quiets in our minds, so we can move onto the
business of making our next—perhaps more promising—mistake.
Recall that the associate met with you at 5:30 a.m. That was because by
even a few moments later, any opportunity for time with you would be lost.
Indeed, in your Russell & DuMoulin days, there was often a veritable lineup
of lawyers waiting outside your office by 6:30 a.m. for a chance to speak
with you. One associate once flew to Winnipeg with you only to turn
around and fly back immediately, simply to harness this uninterrupted
time to brief you on a case. Your assistants from those days, Orlean Burton
and Camille Deslauriers and later Sue Jance, specialized in organizing, reorganizing
and reorganizing yet again your appointments with junior lawyers
and clients. They became uniquely gifted in explaining why scheduled
meetings needed to be rescheduled, sometimes for a second or third time.
But importantly, when it really mattered, you were always there.