March 19, 2021
Letter From the Law Society: A Year Into Working Remotely
Effective tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, the Firm will be moving to remote working across all our Canadian offices. That was the first line of a long email from our firm’s CEO that hit my screen at about 10:30 a.m. on March 16. My wife and I had arrived in Calgary shortly before midnight on the prior evening, rested and relaxed from a scuba diving trip in the Caribbean. The terms COVID-19 pandemic and self isolation were not part of the Canadian lexicon when we left the country. Towards the end of dive trip, we learned that we would need to self isolate for 14 days when we returned to Canada. Little did we know what was to come.

The pandemic has brought acute pain and suffering to many. In our tradition encumbered, conservative and often staid profession, it has caused us to rapidly reinvent how we work. It was not orderly and the pace was uncomfortable. However, we, and the Courts, pivoted in approaches unthought-of a year ago, evolving in ways that would have taken several years absent the pandemic. We have proven that our profession is capable of radical transformation when it has the impetus to do so. I believe that much of that change will stick, to all of our betterment.

Warm regards,


Ken Warren, QC
President-Elect and Chair, Lawyer Competence Committee
Letter from Assist: Trends in Assist Usage
What can we learn about how Alberta lawyers and students are managing stress and distress levels caused by the pandemic? Trends in usage of Assist’s professional counselling sheds some light on how Alberta lawyers are experiencing COVID-19.

In 2020, while more than 95 per cent of program users identified psychological issues (anxiety, depression or stress), 30 per cent also identified COVID-19 stress as the primary or secondary reason for seeking counselling.

Dr. Brian Forbes, the head of Assist’s psychological services provider, believes that COVID-19 acted as an amplifier for existing issues. For example, if a lawyer was having workplace conflict, the pandemic intensified that conflict, and if a couple were having marital issues, being locked down together similarly amplified those issues.

Almost 60 per cent of new cases featured work problems. According to Dr. Forbes, lawyers and students faced uncertainty due to the pandemic and the shutdown, lawyers struggled with the expectation that they could continue to reach pre-pandemic billable hours quotas while working from home, and other lawyers lost their livelihoods while the courts were closed. A smaller number of lawyers indicated that they were getting more done while working from home.

Assist saw a dramatic increase in lawyers and students seeking assistance with addictions: 13 per cent of new cases involved substance use issues, up from 4 per cent in both 2018 and 2019.

Stay well,


Loraine Champion
Executive Director, Assist

Psychological First-Aid
Helping the Stressed/Distressed Individual
with Brian Forbes, PhD, R.Psych.
Forbes Psychological Services

According to the Morneau Shepell’s Mental Health Index, the mental health of Canadians has been declining significantly for several years, and even more so since COVID-19. The stress and distress that we experience is the result of many factors including work, family, finances, parenting, health, and fear about the future, to name a few. Despite our stress and distress, up to 70% of those experiencing some form of mental health issues do not seek help. Rather, they continue to suffer needlessly in silence. Why? Because of the stigma and the fear of how we will be viewed by others if we disclose having a mental health problem.

One of the key supports available to Alberta lawyers is provided by the Lawyers’ Assist Professional Counselling service at 1.877.498.6898 or the Lawyers’ Assist Peer Support program at 1.877.737.5508.

Ethically Speaking
Immune-Compromised Work Expectations
In Ethically Speaking, our Practice Advisors tackle frequently asked wellness-related inquiries from Alberta lawyers and students.

Question: What should I do if I’m immune compromised or someone in my family is immune-compromised but I’m still expected to come into work?

Answer: It is now well recognized that an immune-compromised person has a greater risk of severe illness caused by COVID-19 than the average person. This vulnerability triggers disability provisions under the Human Rights Act which protect the employee. Even an employee who did not require accommodation pre-COVID-19 is entitled to reasonable accommodation in the workplace to prevent the risk of their vulnerability materializing into serious illness. For example, employees who have Diabetes may not have required any accommodation pre-COVID-19, but may now require accommodation. The employer is obliged to provide reasonable accommodation to the employee, provided the accommodation does not create hardship for the employer.

Because the Alberta Government has designated lawyers as an essential service, accommodation of higher-risk employees must be balanced with the business’s ability to serve clients. In some instances, this will be an admittedly difficult balance.

A Word on Wellness
How to Better Support a High Performing Workforce and Yourself During the Pandemic
In this honest essay, Erin Durant, a partner and litigator at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, shares her struggles with burnout and mental health related to the intense demands in a high performing workforce. She is not only vulnerable about her own experiences, but also shares some thoughts on how to avoid the same struggle that she faced when she pushed herself too hard for too long.

Read this LinkedIn essay to hear her story and learn strategies like being mindful of taking breaks, considering small changes when necessary, being direct when you need support and more.

She also recently published a sequel to the essay called Why Speaking About Mental Health as a Leader is Not Brave—but Necessary.

Brain Break
Pixar's "Float"
It is important to take breaks from your day-to-day
work to get some exercise, grab a bite to eat and watch, read or listen to something else.

We would like to share this animated short story from Pixar called "Float" with a great message for adults and kids alike.

"In Float, a father discovers that his son is different from other kids in the most unusual way. To keep them both safe from judgement, Dad covers him and keeps him out of sight—but when his son’s ability becomes public, Dad must decide whether to run and hide or to accept his son as he is."