Surrey Bench and Bar come together to form Inns of Court
In late 2019/early 2020, a group of lawyers and judges in British Columbia’s fastest growing municipality, Surrey, recognized the need to connect the judiciary and senior counsel with the junior bar to provide mentorship and professional development opportunities. From there the development of the Surrey Inns of Court program quickly took off through a partnership with the Surrey Bar Association and the local judiciary. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and in person training events ceased, the formal Inns program went on hiatus. Not being deterred, the group quickly pivoted and successfully managed to deliver online advocacy training sessions to local lawyers with the help of some experienced presenters. These events were well attended and solidified the need for the Inns program in Surrey.
When pandemic restrictions eased, the Inns program was revived with the inaugural meeting in September 2022. From September 2022 to March 2023, a cohort comprised of lawyers under 6 years call from all practice areas met monthly with volunteer mentor Provincial Court judges and senior practitioners for evenings filled with conversation on topics related to legal ethics, practice management, expert witnesses, trial advocacy and professional responsibility. With the support of the Office of the Chief Judge, participants were also given an opportunity to practice their direct and cross-examination skills in a courtroom setting, afterhours, with the benefit of feedback from a judge and senior lawyer. Each monthly meeting was designed to stimulate conversation between the mentor judges, senior lawyers, and the participants over a meal in a relaxed and friendly environment. When the program’s 2022 session ended, it was clear that it was a resounding success and filled a need within the local bar. Feedback was provided by the participants:
“I appreciated the opportunity to practice conducting a cross-examination and direct examination in front of several judges and senior members of the bar. These mentors took the time to provide meaningful feedback tailored to each participant. Although the cross-examination and direct examination were based on a criminal law fact pattern, the practical tips that I learned during this session are equally applicable to the civil context.”
“What I enjoyed most of all was the informal table conversations, where we had opportunities to ask questions and hear from senior counsel and judges, and just get to know them on a more personal level. A lot of the learning for me happened during those table conversations.”
“I believe that the collegiality of the Inns of Court Program is a very useful thing for younger lawyers. A relaxed and friendly environment, and the sharing of a meal with mentors and judges creates an atmosphere that fosters learning on a variety of topics relevant to the practice of law. The fact that a quest speaker/expert presents on a different topic at each dinner also gives insight into how that topic applies in practice.”
“The Surrey Inns of Court program was a phenomenal opportunity to connect with other members of our profession, and to pick the brains of some of Surrey’s senior counsel and members of the Bench. While each session was full of practical information, having an opportunity to practice direct/cross examination (and receive feedback) in front of a Judge was an invaluable experience - we so rarely get a “test run” in our profession!”
“Coming out of COVID, it was such a pleasure to be able to connect in person with colleagues around my year of call. It was also great to have guest judges and speakers attending both to share their knowledge and perspective, but also to make the courtroom a little less intimidating. It was a good and low-stakes environment to ask questions without being worried about being judged or messing something up mid-trial.”
Because of its success, the decision was made to carry on with the Inns program and a call for expressions of interest to the local bar has been made for the 2023-2024 season. Thank you to all who volunteered their time to enrich the learning of the participants and build the collegiality of the bench and bar in Surrey!