Canadian Lawyer

July/August 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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14 FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED WHEN CRISIS HITS, a steady experienced hand is often appreciated. But uncertain times also require imagination, and leaders too steeped in tradition may lack the courage to put aside unhelpful dogma. The chief justice of British Columbia, Robert Bauman, has been in his role since 2013 and has been a judge since 1996. When the pandemic hit the justice system in March, his experience helped reassure the bar in B.C. that the province's top appeal court was in steady hands as it transitioned to virtual trials and social distancing. But throughout his career, Bauman has demonstrated an unconventional approach that has also served his court well, an approach that could usher in new approaches to dispensing judgment that draw on his years of experience. While Bauman had what he describes as a "traditional upbringing in Toronto and Montreal," which eventually led him to study law at the University of Toronto in the early 1970s, his decision to article in Northern British Columbia was unconventional. Bauman had worked in B.C.'s lumber industry in the summer during his under- graduate studies where he met a lawyer he admired. He then worked at the lawyer's Prince George firm in between his second and third year of law school and completed his where he became a partner and continued to practise in local government and administra- tive law. While Bauman enjoyed his time in Vancouver, it was not until he was appointed to the bench that he felt truly at home. "I wasn't the world's biggest biller. I was a pretty good client lawyer, but I enjoyed things judges do normally that you do in practice [but less like] research, writing, opinions, legal analysis. I liked that an awful lot. And, of course, as a judge, you do fully nothing but that. So, it spoke to my talents." Bauman's other talent — of keeping an open mind to unconventional approaches — also came in handy as he wound his way through the judiciary to become the prov- ince's top judge. In 2012 and in 2013, just as Bauman began as chief justice of British Columbia, he was listed as one of the "Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers" by this magazine. articles there. It was, Bauman says, "a choice that I think probably perplexed a number of my friends and classmates and profs. I didn't come from a legal family. Nobody said to me, 'This is what lawyers should do.' I didn't know I should go to a big firm in Toronto. . . . I felt comfortable in Prince George. So, I found that kind of attractive; I knew people. And I didn't really consider there'd be much of a difference between a small city and a big city practice. That's how naïve I was." Naïve perhaps, but it may also have been a precursor to a general approach Bauman has taken to questioning conventional thinking while still respecting the traditions of his chosen profession. After eventually becoming a partner at the firm in Prince George, Bauman moved to Kelowna, B.C. to open a two-person firm with another lawyer. He then joined Bull Housser & Tupper in Vancouver in 1982, "I didn't come from a legal family. Nobody said to me, 'This is what lawyers should do.' I didn't know I should go to a big firm in Toronto. . . . I felt comfortable in Prince George." DRIVING CHANGE WHILE RESPECTING TRADITION Chief Justice Robert Bauman has always prodded the profession to do better, but the pandemic has pushed his agenda into overdrive, writes Tim Wilbur

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