J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Historic Attendance at Third Annual Canadian Conference

Once again, those who attended the 2014 J. Reuben Clark Law Society Canadian Conference were treated to a wonderful and thought-provoking event. The Conference was held at the Banff Springs Hotel in the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains took place from Friday 17 October 2014 to Saturday 18 October 2014. The Conference was well attended, with total registration nearly doubling that of prior conferences.

The Conference took on a slightly modified format with a short reception on Friday evening to allow people to mingle and network. The reception was followed by dinner. Jeremiah Morgan, Chair of the International Board of the JRCLS, began the Friday evening program. He reminded us that “we should all be about service.”

Following Jeremiah, Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered a keynote address about freedom of religion by exploring the concerns the Church has had with religious freedom. Of note was the Church’s involvement as an Intervener in the Supreme Court of Canada Reference Case on Same-Sex Marriage (2004 SCC 79). As a result of the Church’s efforts, the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed essential principles of freedom of religion. Elder Christofferson concluded his remarks by urging members of the JRCLS to do three things: (1) become informed about existing and potential threats to religious freedom, (2) keep Church leaders informed (and then be patient as to their response), and (3) be examples of the believers in word and deed.  He encouraged us to strive for excellence in all we do so we will be ready when the Lord calls us.

Dean James Rasband, Dean of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU, was the first speaker on Saturday, October 18. He reminded us of what it means to be “called to the bar” and how we really are a “healing profession” because we have the opportunity to heal people as we work with them to solve problems. He encouraged participants to use the leadership skills developed in the practice of law in all aspects of their lives.

Dr. Susan Champion Sommerfeldt, PhD, RN., explored how some of the skills lawyers develop can lead to challenges in other parts of their lives in her presentation titled “Misplaced Modifiers, Marshmallows, and Materiality.” She referenced Dr. John Gottman’s theories on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in marriage: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.  Drawing on her personal connections to lawyers—as wife, mother, and sister of lawyers—Sommerfeldt reminded the delegates that communication is a collection of purposes and we need to work with our spouses and others to understand one another through authentic and shared communication.

Conference goers were honoured to have in attendance the Honourable Madame Justice Carolyn Phillips of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and her husband, John Cordeau, Q.C. Justice Phillips spoke of the challenges she faced as a young lawyer, wife and mother, the challenges that existed in her career because she is a woman, and the challenges that judges face now in dealing with social components that were traditionally within the purview of parliament but are now so evident in the court system. She talked about the need to give back to others while looking to our faith and our families for grounding.

John Cordeau, a practicing Catholic, spoke about law and faith.  He found the JRCLS Mission Statement to be “very powerful.” He reflected on his over 38 years of practice, including 18 years in senior management of a major Canadian-International law firm, noting that faith and personal religious convictions had always been a part of his legal career. Mister Cordeau reminded us that all people are created in the image of God.  Leaders especially need to remember this because “leadership is always about service to others.” We need to make sure we give all people a chance and put faith in God. In the words of Mr. Cordeau’s father, “God is always right, on time, and never makes mistakes.”

William F. (Bill) Atkin, Associate General Counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the concluding speaker. He spoke of religious liberty and what individuals can do to promote that liberty. Atkin considered the manner in which Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and others faced religious liberty issues. He examined the responsibilities of members of the JRCLS with respect to religious liberty issues, posing the question that Mordecai asked of Queen Esther: “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Lastly, he invited Conference delegates to do three things: (1) learn about religious freedom, (2) practice religious freedom, and (3) join with others in promoting religious freedom.

The Conference truly was remarkable and a wonderful opportunity for those in attendance. On behalf of all of the Conference organizers, a heartfelt appreciation goes out to the speakers for giving of their time and talents to enrich us and provide an opportunity for personal reflection and action, and to those who supported and attended the Conference. With this Conference barely concluded, planning for next year’s conference is already getting underway.
By Matt Sommerfeldt, former Chair of the Canada Lethbridge Chapter

Posted: November 10, 2014