Speech: CBA NB Council November 2012

Janet Fuhrer’s Remarks for CBA NB Council

November 2, 2012, Saint John, NB

Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them: Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart.

Bienvenue/welcome. I am honoured to be with you this morning to talk about our CBA.

In my leadership roles leading up to this campaign, first with the CBA (National Intellectual Property Section Chair, National Sections Council Chair and now National Professional Development chair), second with the Ontario Bar Association (Strategic Planning Chair) and third with other organizations (Intellectual Property Institute of Canada President), I have learned that the organization prospers the more we include others and work together. Being President is a big job and the CBA is about more than any one individual. As we await the outcome of the upcoming US presidential election, I am reminded of the words spoken by Barack Obama during his inauguration speech in January 2009: …the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time… but they will be met.

Nul doute que ceux d’entre nous qui travaillent bénévolement pour l’ABC savent bien que les défis seront relevés et que nos contributions servent justement à cela. En qualité de présidente, mon devoir serait de garantir que les compétences et les points forts de chaque personne sont harmonisés avec les buts de l’ABC énoncés dans notre nouveau plan stratégique. I am thrilled with the evolution of our strategic plan into concise statements of our goals and objectives. Influence and Leadership. Community. Education. Cohesion. Operational Excellence. These priorities will ensure the continued growth of our organization in years to come. The president’s goals also must be linked to and support the strategic plan in service to you the members.

Nous devons valoriser au maximum le bénévolat afin d’assurer la continuité et la relève. L’expérience des bénévoles se doit d’être enrichissante et agréable. Without your contributions, the important work of this organization would never be accomplished. Without your new or renewed membership, your interest in belonging, we would cease to be the professional association for lawyers across this great country.

So what is the important work of the CBA? Surveys and studies demonstrate that professional development is the primary driver of membership and attendance at meetings such as the Canadian Legal Conference or CLC.

The PD component of the 2013 CLC will be changed substantially with focus on skills-based, workshop type programming and roundtables. We’re very excited to be introducing these more interactive and current methods of providing PD to our members. Les Sections et les Conférences sont les principales sources d’activités de perfectionnement professionnel et de défense des intérêts pour l’ABC.

Le perfectionnement professionnel est pour moi une passion depuis de nombreuses années. My initial involvement with the CBA was as Chair of the CLE committee of the National IP Section. During that three-year term in the early 90s, I had the pleasure of organizing with Pat Anglin, a previous executive director of your Branch, a one-day intellectual property program added on to one of your mid-winter meetings. I am glad to have the opportunity to re-connect with your Branch.

 Advocacy also is integral to the landscape of important work of the CBA, first on behalf of the profession as our voice, but also on behalf of the judiciary and the public. Independence of the bar and judiciary are cornerstones of our legal system in Canada and form the backdrop of much of the CBA’s Legislation and Law Reform efforts. Envisioning Equal Justice, is a CBA initiative announced at the August 2012 CLC in Vancouver. It will involve research and consultation, including a national Summit planned for April 2013. The Summit may be similar to the town hall meetings held by the Manitoba Bar Association with the public several years ago and by Ontario before that. Le Comité d’accès à la justice espère présenter son rapport final au Conseil national à la CJC de 2013, à Saskatoon.

I read recently that after a hiatus, Small Claims Court is being reinstated in New Brunswick. That’s good news from an access to justice perspective but it may not offset or only partially offset the impact on smaller communities of the consolidation of your provincial courts from 28 to 16. I grew up in rural Ontario, near a small town called Bolton, and understand the strains on individuals and families when much needed essential services, including legal services, are not close at hand. Clearly, access to justice or equal justice will not be achieved easily or quickly and will require flexible solutions to meet the different needs.

L’égalité continue être un dossier important pour l’organisation, particulièrement au niveau de la direction. In about one hundred years, we have had only 5 women presidents. Michelle Hollins will be the sixth and we have not had two consecutive women presidents (this century),* This is an opportunity for us to add to the richness of our history! The CBA is reviewing the state of equality among its leadership positions. There are other underrepresented groups. If you haven’t done so yet, I encourage you to participate in the member self-identification initiative of the Equality Committee. The information provided remains confidential and is only aggregated for analysis.

Sometimes we need to look beyond our borders for inspiration in meeting the challenges we face. Often we are not the first to face them. As an intellectual property lawyer, both a solicitor and a litigator, I am familiar with increasing internationalization, such as the influence of foreign judgments on Canadian courts and their decisions, as well as treaty negotiations and implementation. This is but one aspect of the changing landscape of legal practice. Commoditization, project management, alternative fee arrangements are being embraced by our clients. Law firms have adopted more business-like structures. Email has far outpaced both ordinary mail and faxing. Social media, while presenting new opportunities for communication, promotion and client development, have impacted, along with email, our productivity. The pace of change is dizzying. Change management is an area where the CBA can provide invaluable guidance to its members. This can include, among other things, the establishment of a national mentoring committee. Mentoring can be a useful tool in many situations beyond the traditional, in person, senior/junior model.

In the course of my twenty years of involvement with the CBA nationally, I have had the good fortune to meet, work with and develop friendships with dedicated, talented, hard working lawyers, including CBA staff who are truly exceptional and deserving of our respect. Among them is Holly Doerksen, the CBA Director of Sections and Conferences who will be speaking with you later today. I have had the pleasure and privilege of knowing Holly since my early days as the CLE chair of the National IP Section. Please take advantage of the opportunity to get to know Holly. This campaign has accelerated exponentially the process of getting to know many more of you. I look forward to taking my involvement with the Canadian Bar Association to the next level, with and for you the members, as your president/comme votre présidente.

Thank you/Merci beaucoup!

(*Note: Since delivering this speech, I have learned that we in fact have had two consecutive women presidents in the early 1990s and so I have qualified my remarks. December 7, 2012)