Want to grab a (virtual) coffee?

  • March 17, 2022
  • Candice Ashley Pollack, KJ (Ke-Jia) Chong and Terri Uhrich

Since March 2020, the legal profession, like the rest of the world, has fundamentally changed. Young lawyers, articling students and law students were among the hardest impacted in our field of work. Between lost jobs and articling positions, long-term remote learning, and limited opportunities to form professional connections, younger members of our profession have been experiencing increased isolation, enhanced financial vulnerability, and a lack of mentorship and guidance from their professional community.

To combat the loss of connection being experienced across the country, the Mental Health & Awareness Committee of the Canadian Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section launched Coffee in the Times of COVID.

Coffee in the Times of COVID is a virtual gathering place for small groups of young lawyers, articling students and law students around a topic of common interest. It involved one-hour sessions happening twice weekly with up to 15 participants facilitated by one or more members of the legal profession. Topics ranged from launching a legal firm to balancing home and work, to articling and more. Since the program’s inception in May 2020, the CBA Young Lawyers Section has hosted 34 coffee chat sessions attended by more than 550 attendees from across the country.

Feedback was tremendously positive; participants shared that Coffee in the Times of COVID sessions helped them connect with new people, learn about different areas of practice, and engage with a community that understood and empathized with the experiences they were facing. But in 2021, the Young Lawyers Section decided to take this program to new heights.

There was a growing need to help those starting in the legal profession to build lasting connections and a professional community, which was too difficult to foster over the course of a single session.

As a result, a new cohort format was created. Instead of signing up for one session, individuals registered for five sessions every other week with the same group of facilitators and participants. Leaders from various CBA Sections were engaged to run the cohorts around their areas of practice.

Both participants and facilitators have benefitted from the sessions. “I personally enjoy interacting with young lawyers who are just starting practice,” said one facilitator. “I feel I owe a lot to the profession, and this is one small way to give back. Mentors were super helpful for me early on, so it only makes sense to pay it forward.”

Other facilitators had said they felt energized from hosting sessions and enjoyed sharing ideas with others. Another facilitator had enjoyed the intimate setting to have interesting discussions and felt that participants were more willing to discuss the range of topics covered in these smaller group environments.

Participants have also been thrilled to have the opportunity to learn and support others in the legal profession. One participant said that because of Coffee in the Times of COVID, they were able to connect with another articling student to review their summer student applications and obtained invaluable feedback. Another law student highlighted how much they enjoyed specific practice area sessions in Mediation and Municipal Law. Seeing how passionate and enthusiastic the lawyers were made them even more excited to begin their own legal practice.

Coffee in the Times of COVID sessions and cohorts are still ongoing, with the latest launch of two cohorts in partnership with the CBA Public Sector and Criminal Law sections and a one-time session involving solo and small firm practitioners on the way. If you or someone you know would be interested in running a session or a full cohort, please contact CBA Liaison Officer, Travis Hirschbach, at Travis Hirschbach or check out Coffee in the Times of COVID for more information.


Candice Ashley Pollack is an independent consultant in strategy and governance challenges for public sector organizations. She is the Chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section.

KJ (Ke-Jia) Chong is General Counsel at BroadGrain Commodities Inc. She is Treasurer of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association.

Terri Uhrich has been in-house counsel for over 20 years and has worked in a number of industries including financial services, insurance and mining. She has also been a member of the CBA and the CCCA for all of her time as in-house counsel, and a member of the Saskatchewan (North) CCCA section, including some time as chair, since its inception in 2007.