June 30, 2021
Letter from the Law Society: The Well-being Matrix: Why Equity, Diversity and Inclusion are Essential to a Healthy Legal Profession
Susannah Alleyne is the Law Society of Alberta’s new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Counsel. Lawyers are encouraged to call Susannah with questions about equity, diversity and inclusion in their workplaces. Susannah also acts as the Equity Ombudsperson, offering confidential advice and assistance to those experiencing discrimination and/or harassment in their workplace.

Content Notice: This article discusses multiple forms of trauma, including systemic racism, sexual prejudice, microaggressions and mental health. Some of this material may be triggering or challenging to engage with. Please engage at your individual comfort and safety level. 

With many of us working from home for most of the past year (or more), we may have experienced some improvements to our quality of life – having more time with family members in the same household, the ability to work from anywhere that was safe to do so, and the modernization of our profession and the Courts.

Of course, many of us have also struggled to support our children with online learning, carve out self-care space and time in our busy households or to connect with those who do not live with us. Some of us may have faced further challenges if home was not always a safe and supportive place. As a return to in-office or in-person work appears to be on the horizon later this year and beyond, many of us are hearing from colleagues who express missing the day-to-day interactions of yesteryear. And while we often read about the negative mental health impacts of isolation and reduced senses of belonging related to remote work, for some of your colleagues, returning to the office comes with stresses other than changing out of those pajama pants.

Wishing you wellness,


Susannah S. Alleyne
Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Counsel and Equity Ombudsperson

To learn more about our office, visit Equity Ombudsperson – Law Society of Alberta.

Letter from Assist: Q&A on Trends Over 25 years with Bob Philp, QC
Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society (Assist) has been helping Alberta lawyers for 25 years. To celebrate this important anniversary, we interviewed Bob Philp, QC, who has served as a director of Assist through this entire period, to chat with us about how the “lawyers helping lawyers” movement has developed during this time.

Bob has been a lawyer in Alberta since 1976. He has served as a Provincial Court Judge, Chief Commissioner of the Alberta Human Rights Commission and Bencher of the Law Society. He received a Distinguished Service Award for “Service to the Community” in 2017 from the Law Society of Alberta and the Canadian Bar Association-Alberta.

Question: How did Assist come into being?

Answer: Before Assist formally came to be, there was a group of lawyers in Edmonton, with a similar group in Calgary, who were part of the recovery community. They wanted to help other lawyers get to recovery. It was not a sophisticated model and was largely based on informal reports. For instance, a lawyer might have appeared in court intoxicated or acted out in an unusual manner, and then a couple of members from this group would pay a visit to the lawyer’s office to offer help.

There were two responses: the lawyer would either say “what took you so long?” or would tell us to get lost.

We were learning that many people with addictions had other underlying issues, including depression, anxiety or work stress. While we knew how to help people on the addictions front, we did not have the expertise to drill down on these other issues. We knew we had to bring in professionals with the right training.

Psychological First-Aid
Stepping Up to the Plate: Psychological First-Aid
with Brian Forbes, PhD, R.Psych.
Forbes Psychological Services

Psychological First-Aid (PFA) is an evidence-based intervention designed to reduce an individual’s level of stress or distress and to foster short and long-term adaptive functioning and coping. It is a supportive intervention designed to help the individual help themselves.

In providing PFA, you want to create a sense of safety, create calm (speak and act calmly), help them overcome the feeling of helplessness, help the person help themselves and create hope. To this end, PFA is comprised of a number of care-helping activities including contact and engagement, safety and comfort, stabilization, information gathering, practical assistance, providing links to social supports and links to counselling services.

The three action principles of PFA are look, listen and link. PFA is a way to approach someone in distress, assess what they need, and help the person to obtain that help. Help is available through the Lawyers’ Assist Professional Counselling Services at 1.877.498.6898 or the Lawyers’ Assist Peer Support program at 1.877.737.5508.

PFA is particularly relevant in June, Canadian Men’s Mental Health Month.

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) refers to men’s mental health as the “silent crisis”. Even though mental health problems are common – affecting 20 per cent of the population every year and 50 per cent of people by the age of 40 – research has shown that about 70 per cent of distressed individuals do not seek help, particularly men. This raises the question as to why? Several factors appear to play a role in preventing men from seeking help for mental health issues including societal expectations, stigma and discrimination. Men are raised to be stoic, rather than to talk about their feelings or show vulnerability. As a result, they are less likely to seek help, and suffer in silence or turn to destructive coping strategies such as substance abuse.

Ethically Speaking
Competence and Wellness
In Ethically Speaking, our Practice Advisors tackle frequently asked wellness-related inquiries from Alberta lawyers and students.

Question: When does a lawyer’s physical or mental condition require their withdrawal from a client? 

Answer: “Competence” is the core of legal practice. It is a fundamental tenet that lawyers have and apply relevant knowledge, skills and attributes in a manner appropriate to each matter (Code of Conduct Rule 3.1-1). To be an excellent and high-achieving lawyer, one requires broadly-based competence. In Alberta, we have recently expanded that base to incorporate technological competence.

But, if competence means doing something successfully or efficiently, a lawyer’s competence includes additional esoteric components. Competence also exists in the cracks of the rule, where, for example, lawyer wellness intersects with practice. Rule 3.3-1 itself stipulates that lawyers have and apply “attributes” to practice. For example, we must “recognize limitations to our ability” to handle a matter or an aspect of a matter, and “take appropriate steps” to ensure our client is appropriately served (Rule 3.1-1(h)). Doing something (i.e. legal practise) well requires nothing less.

A Word on Wellness
Dear Advy: Well Meaning, Well-Being Advice
Dear Advy is an advice column by the Canadian Bar Association. Members of the legal community can submit questions anonymously on anything and everything related to well-being, dealing with stress and succeeding under pressure. If a question is chosen, Advy will respond with advice and helpful resources.

A recent submission to Dear Advy, titled Really Concerned, asks Advy to provide advice on how to check-in on the mental health of a senior colleague while being sensitive and discreet.

“The first question to ask yourself is: How would you want a friend and colleague to broach this with you if the roles were reversed? You would probably want them to ask you, first of all. Your colleague deserves to hear your frank observations of what has been going wrong. Have the conversation, even if a big part of you wants to avoid it...” Read the submission and Advy’s full response.

Other topics Advy provides advice on include: 

Advice provided by Advy is not intended to replace or substitute for any financial, medical, legal or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist.

Brain Break
Reset: Decompress Your Body and Mind
Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is nothing. In a world that's constantly moving, it's important to take a much-needed break.

This 10-minute meditation is an opportunity to pause and reset between tasks, helping you feel more present and better able to enjoy whatever comes next.
Upcoming Days of Recognition
Looking for a list of wellness days you and your firm/workplace can recognize? Check out the list below. Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. Be sure to check future editions of the Wellness eBulletin for more recognition days.