It’s time to learn and it’s time to plan
By Sharon Matthews
One of the best parts of being CBABC President is the same as one of the best things about being a lawyer, generally: you learn about things you have not previously been exposed to (at least since the Professional Legal Training Course [PLTC]). For me, elder and incapacity law is an example.
Reading this issue of BarTalk is a start. The law of estates is changing dramatically, as have powers of attorney, representation agreements and tools to direct health decisions.
Even if your practice, like mine, does not involve estate planning, personal planning or other elder law issues, if you have clients who are human beings, they are aging and they need to plan for potential incapacity and certain death. You need to be able to at least steer them in the right direction to do that planning. And here’s a news flash: if you are reading this column, you too are facing potential incapacity and certain death. The best legal acumen in the world will do you no good if you have not planned before either of those events occur.
So as I sat down to write this article, it occurred to me that given that it is the beginning of a new year (I am writing this on January 4, 2012) and 12 hours of mandatory professional development stretch ahead, why not include some elder and incapacity law in the mix? Do your clients and yourself a favour.
Mandatory professional development has had some very positive side effects (other than the stated purpose of protecting the public through ongoing legal learning by lawyers). It gets us out from behind our mountains of work and into courses, Section meetings or study groups where we have an opportunity to meet with our colleagues. In my view, it has enhanced collegiality and camaraderie in the profession. And it offers an incentive to take a course in something out of interest, or just because it might come up.
Many professional development opportunities will follow this evolving law. One is the CBABC live course and webinar entitled “Changing Dynamics for Executors,” which will have been held by the time you are reading this but the webinar will be aired through the year.
Sometimes planning is not enough and bleep happens. I acknowledge the good work done by dedicated volunteer members of our profession through the CBA (BC) Benevolent Society and by the Lawyers Assistance Program of B.C. (LAP) to help lawyers and their families who encounter unanticipated life crises.
The CBA (BC) Benevolent Society was founded in 1997 in response to a tragic incident in which a lawyer was brutally attacked by a disgruntled litigant. Lawyers made financial contributions to establish the capital fund and a legacy of fundraising, such as the annual Battle of the Bar Bands in many communities, has followed. The Benevolent Society has distributed more than $700,000 to lawyers and their families who are hit with a crisis. Look out for a Battle of the Bar Bands and attend to ensure this vital support can continue.
LAP is also an organization of which we should all be proud. It offers our members who are struggling with addiction or other personal crisis a confidential support network. There is nothing like knowing someone who has walked in your shoes to guide you through a thicket.
During challenging times, my law partner likes to say things like “if life is a series of adventures, some of which you would rather not have, then this must be life.” It is true, for all of us. Make a plan.
This article was published in the February 2012 issue of BarTalk. © 2012 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.