Witten LLP, Edmonton
I have been practising in Edmonton at Witten LLP since I graduated from the University of Alberta Law school in 1991 and I have been the firm’s managing partner since 2010.
A key role of the Law Society of Alberta is to assess competence and ethics of members of our profession. As managing partner and as a senior commercial real estate solicitor, I provide counsel and mentorship to lawyers within and outside of my firm. I have gained insight and experience in dealing with and attempting to resolve many of the fundamental practice issues faced by our profession, including practice management matters, conflicts, trust accounting, ethics and mental wellness. My experience will assist the Law Society in assessing competence and ethics of our members.
Another key role of the Law Society is to try to help, facilitate and respond to the changing demographics and landscape of our society while maintaining the regulatory structure, competency, consistency, and wellness within our profession. Recently, my firm contributed to a wellness scholarship fund at the U of A Law School to help remove the stigma for students who need support.
Our profession needs to ensure that we remain relevant, viable and accessible in this changing world through the expanded use of technology. During this pandemic, as managing partner, I facilitated the transformation of our firm of approximately 200 people to remote operation as we considered issues respecting confidentiality and continued communication and connectivity with colleagues, clients and the public. The pandemic has generated momentum, including working with government registries and the Courts to implement secure and reliable electronic methods and systems for registration of documents and the litigation process that can be continued by the profession.
Access to justice remains an ongoing issue for the Law Society. We are all aware of the need for affordable access to lawyers as well as a need to support the pro bono delivery of legal services to the public. I led our firm into the Civil Claims Duty Counsel program, in which I, personally, participate. I encourage the lawyers in my firm to participate in this program as well as other pro bono activities. The profession may also need to recognize the use of different business models/structures to accommodate non-lawyer ownership and fee-sharing while still ensuring competent and professional delivery of legal services to the public.
Throughout my professional career, I have also volunteered with many non-law charitable organizations including United Way, Habitat for Humanity and YMCA. My weekly route, as a driver for Meals on Wheels, reminds me that it is not always all about the law.