Legal ethics and professionalism

July 5, 2011

A personal post – thanks for indulging me.

My father passed away on September 23rd, 2010.

I was very close to him – he was my friend, my mentor, my advisor and, most importantly, he was my dad.

At every juncture in my life he was right there with me assisting with both personal and professional matters.   In fact, even from his hospital bed he was right there with me providing advice.  He was able to be a great dad while also being successful professionally.

A number of years ago I wanted to do something to thank him for all that he has done for me.  The result of that is the J. Donald Mawhinney QC Lectureship in Legal Ethics and Professionalism at UBC’s Faculty of Law.  This was created not “by” my father but “for” my father by his friends, family, law partners and clients.

He didn’t know we were doing this for him until most of the money was raised and we were ready to launch.  In fact, when we told him what we were doing he insisted that we stop it in its tracks.  He explained that his generation of lawyers viewed their role as simply providing the best advice for their clients. They did not look for big paydays or for their name in lights.

Fortunately, I was able to convince him how important it was to me to do this as a thanks.

I had the privilege of attending the fifth annual lecture last November with Mr. Justice Pope of Ontario’s Superior court.  I think this was one of the best lectures so far.  Mr. Justice Pope tied together the trend toward mega-trials in the Canadian court system to the ethical and professional conduct of both defense and crown counsel. Even interesting for a non-lawyer like me.

This post is not only about my appreciation for all that my dad did for me. It is also about catharsis because it’s good to talk (and write) about one’s sadness. Finally it is about about the importance of legacies.

What I didn’t understand when I was forming this lecture series was that it would not only memorialize my father but it would also give me an opportunity to celebrate him at least once annually.  It’s odd, but I felt like he was there with me and with all of us during the last lecture.

The natural course of life is to lose one’s parents.  This fact doesn’t make it any easier.

My advice is that as you go through your life be sure to do things that will help you remember your parents when they are gone.  Do things that help you remember their voice, their mannerisms, their smile, their laugh and their supportive touch.  Celebrate their successes when they are alive and be sure to have things that help you remember them when they’re gone.

I miss him, but he’ll always be with me.

Thanks Dad.


2 Responses to “Legal ethics and professionalism”

  1. Michael Onstad Says:

    Hello Mark,

    Your name came up on my linkedin network as we have a few common connections there. Some I even know!

    I suspected that there were not a lot of Mawhinney’s around and I recalled a story from my late father who passed away April 2009 at 92. He used to tell me of his early business experiences and told a tale that involved your father.

    I hope we may have coffee sometime and compare note. I will tell you his story as the best I can recollect it.

    My email is loc.consultants@gmail.com. I hope to hear from you soon.


    Michael Onstad

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