Rod Snow, a partner at Davis LLP in Whitehorse, practises aboriginal, mining, and environmental law. He was born and raised in Nova Scotia, but found himself in Vancouver after completing his LLM at the University of Washington. In 1993, he moved to the Yukon to help Davis open its first office in the North and stayed ever since. As the first president of the Canadian Bar Association from the North, he plans to focus on several issues affecting Northern Canada.
Q: What are your priorities for the CBA?
A: [W]e’re going to continue to do the advocacy work that we do on behalf of the profession and on behalf of the rule of law. . . . The access to justice issues we can be a little bit more proactive on. I think it’s acknowledged that there’s a bit of a justice gap in the country and some of that is the challenge for people who can’t afford legal service. . . . The other main area is providing services to members. Increasingly with mandatory professional development. . . . We have a new program that we’re going to roll out in the fall, that for want of a better term we’re calling the skilled-lawyer curriculum. There’ll be a transactions stream and a litigation stream, skill-based, [and] available online. Online is really quite exciting. . . . We are — I don’t know whether we’re quite there — but we’re almost there in terms of the ability to allow members everywhere in the country to access provincial online programs.
Q: As the first CBA president from the North, what issues do you plan to address?
A: We have, in parts of the North, serious difficulties recruiting and retaining lawyers just to staff the legal aid offices. Particularly in Nunavut we have a group of young lawyers who are overworked and under-mentored, and at risk of burnout. . . . The other area that we may be able to focus some attention on is the challenge of individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder who are too frequently in the justice system and the tools available to our criminal courts are really not solving the problems.
Q: What role does the CBA play for lawyers?
A: We speak out for lawyers, on behalf of lawyers. We’ve intervened in some of the major cases on conflicts. A conflicts task force is a project that’s been going on for a couple years now. . . . And increasingly people are turning to us for help with their professional development programming.
Q: What should lawyers be thinking about?
A: I think we’re all challenged by change and it’s all around us. . . . The world isn’t getting any simpler, technology is speeding things up. We’re coming out of a recession. I think some business practices are going to be different. . . . If anything, clients are going to be asking us to do more for less. So the challenge, particularly in the private bar, is how we do that. . . . How do we get more efficient? How do we deliver services in the most cost-effective way? How do we do more for less? . . . We also need to continue to be vigilant with respect to the erosion of the independence of the judiciary [and] the independence of the bar. I see those two things as being inextricably linked. No sense having an independent judiciary if lawyers are afraid to take cases and argue them in front of the independent judiciary. You have to have an independent bar too.
Q: As former president of both the Rotary Club and chamber of commerce, do you think it’s important for lawyers to get involved with their community?
A: I think that lawyers are looked up to in the community and when we can, we should give back. Some people are more joiners than others I guess, but I grew up in a family where being part of the community and serving the community was kind of the ethos. . . . I think it’s important for lawyers to participate in the life of the community and to be contributors. So that’s what I’ve chosen to do.
Q: What do you like about Whitehorse?
A: I like the mix of a smaller community with some sophisticated work. . . . I’ve been fortunate to get involved in some very interesting things. . . . I’ve been able to assist some of the First Nations in doing things that, as far as I know, hadn’t been done before. Being on the cutting edge of anything as a lawyer is always interesting. . . . But to be able to go into the community, I realize that quite often the lawyer represents hope. . . . And when you can make a difference, that’s rewarding.
This interview has been condensed and edited.