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A Call for Mentorship Right from the Top

"A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you." — Bob Proctor

Effective mentorship begets effective lawyers. It is that simple. I credit most of my skill to

mentorship received during my career. There are too many to name but, by way of example, Former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin and Prof. Ian Kerr taught me how to think. Ronald Caza, Ivan Whitehall, and Kathleen Grimes taught me how to litigate. Jody Wilson Raybould and Paul Labarge taught me how to strategize. Eugene Meehan, Carole Legare, and Stanley Chan taught me how to run a business. And my kids, husband, mother, and our team at Black and Associates (Den, Kat, Kelli, and Sarah) - they taught me and continue to teach me how to persuade and be strong in my beliefs.

In short, we are the product of our values, our effort, and the teachings of our mentors. Not

only is it important to learn, it is equally important to teach. I say this because I have learned as much from my mentees as I have my mentors for as Winston Churchill stated, "[w]e make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give". When an opportunity for mentorship arises, in any form, encourage it regardless of whether you are the mentor or the mentee.

It is against this backdrop that I ask you to (1) consider within the context of your own practice, and (2) circulate widely, the recent statement of the Chief Justice of Ontario and the Associate Chief Justice of Ontario:

The Court of Appeal has a rich tradition of welcoming submissions from counsel at all stages of their career. Opportunities to address the Court are essential to the development and the retention of junior and intermediate litigation counsel. While the ultimate decision of who speaks on behalf of the client in a particular case belongs to counsel and their clients, the Court welcomes the chance to hear from newer counsel, who have often played a significant role in drafting written submissions and have in-depth knowledge of the case before the Court.

The practice of senior counsel sharing a portion of oral argument with more junior counsel not only enhances training and mentorship for newer advocates, it also contributes to the vibrancy of the Court as a public institution and increases public confidence in the justice system. The courts have an important role to play in fostering an environment that makes space for, and welcomes hearing from, all members of a Bar that is increasingly reflective of the diversity of the province it serves.

The Court’s new counsel slip provides an opportunity to specify counsel’s prefixes and pronouns and, should counsel wish to do so, the ability to record the proper pronunciation of their name. All counsel appearing before the Court are encouraged to make use of the new counsel slip.

The Honourable George R. Strathy Chief Justice of Ontario

The Honourable J. Michal Fairburn Associate Chief Justice of Ontario

Posted on on November 26, 2021.

It is an honour to practice in Ontario under such effective leadership. Well said.

By Katie Black

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