THE ADVOCATE 511
VOL. 78 PART 4 JULY 2020
COMPASSION IN THE TIME OF
By Elisabeth A. Sadowski*
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world, affecting
everyone from the most vulnerable populations to members
of the most established professions.
Lawyers in B.C. are transitioning to a new normal even as
some return to their familiar, physical offices. Their families (especially if
they are working parents or caregivers for elderly family members),
friends, neighbours and colleagues are at the forefront of their thoughts, as
they adapt to new technologies, deal with high stress in servicing clients
and keep up with any billable hour targets.
The broad impact of this pandemic will not be fully understood for
decades. Nevertheless, the strains placed on lawyers and the marginalized
individuals who often rely on our support are evident. Central to the social
upheaval of the pandemic is exacerbation of limitations on access to justice
and the compromising of countless organizations and volunteers and the
financial backing on which they rely.
As lawyers, even as we face new challenges and an ever-changing professional
landscape in the upcoming months, we must not lose sight of the
importance of contributing. We need to support each other, our legal community
and our community at large (including our justice system) with compassion.
This approach will benefit those around us and, in turn, ourselves.
In writing this article, I interviewed a number of leading legal professionals
who have found new ways to adapt and continue to contribute to our
communities through the pandemic, including Beverley McLachlin, former
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. McLachlin believes that “the
judicial system was operating on the margins, being underfunded and
understaffed, specifically with respect to legal aid and backlogs in our court
system. The justice system should be able to withstand unexpected stressors
or else it collapses. We need a system, after this pandemic, which has
* The author thanks all contributors, especially Beverley McLachlin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada,
who graciously agreed to be interviewed for this article.