As winds of change blow across the legal landscape, wide-ranging issues continue to make a major impact on the practice of law, including technology, mental health, diversity and access to justice, says Vivene Salmon, incoming Vice-President of the Canadian Bar Association for 2018‒2019. “I think the legal profession has changed drastically over the past couple of years,” she says, and in response, the CBA must change as well.
Salmon hopes to inspire other lawyers to become involved with the CBA and have their voices heard. “I would like Canadian lawyers to renew their relationship with the CBA - to see the CBA as their legal home base, where they can connect with other lawyers across the country and engage in cutting edge professional development for the 21st century.”
Access to justice is one big issue facing the legal profession, Salmon says. “I think the CBA has and can do a lot of work in that regard.” As well, she believes it’s important for legal practitioners to prepare for the changes technology continues to bring to the profession and says it will be increasingly important for lawyers to innovate in their practices and use technology more efficiently.
“I think the legal profession has changed drastically over the past couple of years...”
Salmon also points to the difficulty faced by many “younger lawyers to find articling positions, to find meaningful work, and to establish their careers doing legal work they want to be doing.”
She adds that women, visible minorities and those from the LGBTQ community still face challenges to being promoted and recognized for their achievements. “I think the legal profession must become increasingly inclusive. It is simply not right to have a profession that is serving the public but does not reflect the make-up of the public at all.” She’s optimistic “that the CBA is engaging a new generation of young lawyers and working hard to become more inclusive.”
A major influence in Salmon’s life came from her parents, who emigrated from the Caribbean and hadn’t been given the same opportunities she had growing up. “They valued education extremely highly and they always fostered my social and academic development,” as well as her interest in politics, history and English literature. “They never once told me I should have a certain kind of career. It was just expected that I would try my best and do well.”
Growing up in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., her parents chose not to have a TV in the house, which helped to cultivate her love of reading. She also has a wide range of interests outside of law, including her five nieces and nephews, sewing, salsa dancing, aqua fit, interior decorating, attending cultural events and taking college courses about beer and wine.
“They never once told me I should have a certain kind of career. It was just expected that I would try my best and do well.”
From the time she was in public school, Salmon wanted to be either a lawyer or a journalist. After studying political science with a minor in English at Wilfrid Laurier University, she was accepted to a Government of Ontario program that offered rotations throughout various Ministries. “I cut my teeth there in a lot of ways, learning a lot about people, policy and governance,” she says, and ended up working in communications for the government for the next few years before applying to law school.
In 2009, she graduated from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law and articled at a major Toronto firm before joining the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada. She’s been at Bank of America Merrill Lynch for more than five years, doing compliance and privacy work as well as special projects. As Vice-President, Compliance, her practice areas include financial services, securities, corporate and privacy law.
Volunteering has played a big role in Salmon’s life, starting when she was quite young. “I think it’s important if you have the time and the passion, to do something for the community, whether that’s the legal community or the broader community,” she says. Volunteering “was something my parents thought it was important for me and my brothers to do,” she says. “It’s just something that I’ve always done,” including acting as a candy striper at the local hospital when she was in high school. She is now on the boards of the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) and Food for the Poor Canada.
That commitment to giving back led her to join the Ontario Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. She subsequently participated in other OBA sections and in the mentorship program. She became increasingly involved with the CBA and was elected to its Board of Directors in 2017, sitting on its Finance Committee. Salmon was also an active volunteer in the Advocacy and Professional Development Committees with the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA).
“I think it’s important if you have the time and the passion, to do something for the community, whether that’s the legal community or the broader community...”
Salmon credits her mentor for inspiring her. “Nick Slonosky, past Chair of the CCCA has always stood behind young women in the legal profession, helping women to have more confidence in themselves, to not be afraid to take on leadership roles and to do things that young women are perfectly capable of.” His encouragement gave her the confidence to take on various positions in the CBA and to realize that she has something unique to offer to the CBA. “I believe with the help of other lawyers across the country I can make an impact, no matter how small.”
Having attended and chaired panels on various CBA and OBA sections for several years, Salmon emphasizes their importance for professional development. “I think for most lawyers it’s their window into the CBA,” she says. The CBA and OBA gave her the opportunity to take on leadership roles slowly over time, something she might not have been exposed to otherwise. In law school, Salmon was unaware of either organization, and she says “I think that is very typical of young lawyers across the country.” She’s hoping to change that.
With her desire to create renewed interest in the CBA, Salmon hopes younger lawyers and those from visible minorities will become more aware of the many opportunities the CBA offers, including leadership and mentorship.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a role model in any way,” she says, but she expresses the desire to do a good job as Vice-President. “Hopefully that will inspire others to become involved with the CBA.”