HEEDING THE CALL TO THE BAR
Diverse Array Of Interests Marks B.C.'s Freshest Crop Of New Lawyers
Hundreds of well dressed guests sit in temporary chairs under the sloping glass roof of the Vancouver Law Courts. They've heard inspiring speeches about new beginnings and long roads ahead, and they now gaze up to the six tiers of ivy-covered concrete that rise above the law courts' lobby as they await the end of a long droning list of names.
It could only be the call and admission ceremony where new lawyers are accepted to the B.C. bar.
Some of these 147 new B.C. lawyers are transferring into the province from other jurisdictions. But most of them recently completed law school, articling terms and the Law Society of British Columbia's professional legal training course.
This fresh-faced and eager bunch are ready to embark on careers such as operating a sole practice, being a partner at a large firm, working as an in-house lawyer at a large corporation or even politics.
Dressed in the black robes and white tabs that identify them as lawyers, B.C.'s newest lawyers walk to a podium and sign the barristers and solicitors' roll and are presented a certificate by Law Society of British Columbia president Ralston Alexander.
"They're upholding a profession that has been well ensconced in the province for more than 120 years," said Law Society CEO Tim McGee.
The Law Society holds three of these ceremonies each year. As in past years, the September ceremony is both the largest and the final one of the year.
The ceremony is heavy on pageantry, but it does not bestow the legal entitlement to practice. Strong demand for lawyers encourages law firms to certify their new recruits as soon as possible. So many lawyers earned the right to practice at a small swearing-in ceremony the day they finished their articles.
Two trends are clear from recent years. More lawyers are transferring into B.C. from other jurisdictions, and more women are becoming lawyers.
Women first outnumbered men at being called to B.C.'s bar in 2000, when 196 women and 191 men earned the right to practice law.
Men outnumbered women the following year, but since 2002 women have been the majority of the province's new lawyers each year.
Those young women lawyers are have a range of specializations, backgrounds and driving passions, as is clear from a look at Conroy and Co.'s Katrina Pacey and Lawson Lundell's Johanna Fipke.
Pacey is a lifelong Vancouverite who entered law inspired by the idea of helping marginalized people and supporting the marijuana legalization movement.
She donates time to be president of the Pivot Legal Society, which aims to improve the life of the homeless, prostitutes and other vulnerable people. And she completed her B.A., her masters degree in women's studies and her law training at the University of British Columbia.
The 31-year-old commutes to Conroy and Co.'s Abbotsford offices because that's where one of Canada's best known drug lawyers, John Conroy, bases his practice. Conroy is working to keep the Canadian government from extraditing pot crusader and entrepreneur Marc Emery to the United States for selling marijuana seeds south of the border.
"I had the option to work in Vancouver, but I chose to work with John Conroy because he's one of the few people who has combined activism and lawyering," Pacey said.
Fipke's delight comes from helping business executives execute mergers, acquisitions and other complex corporate moves. Originally from Kelowna, she moved to Vancouver last year after completing all her education at Edmonton's University of Alberta.
Fipke chose Vancouver for its weather and its status as the largest city in western Canada, and because it's in her home province.
"I think a bigger urban centre has more business and corporate work, whereas Kelowna is more geared toward estate planning or family law," she said. "I just thought that a bigger firm is where I wanted to be."
Fipke and Pacey received licenses to practice as lawyers earlier this summer, but that didn't diminish the excitement they held for the public call to the bar.
"My family is coming to the ceremony, and it marks a milestone in my life," Fipke said. "After years of hard work, it's nice to go through the formal recognition that I'm no longer a student. I'm a lawyer."
2005 BIV Publications Ltd.