108 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 79 PART 1 JANUARY 2021
Tom was fair and reasonable, but he could not be pushed around. Once
he took a principled position, he would stick to it. He almost always
Tom looked upon the practice of law as a profession and not a business.
To him it was a calling. He had difficulty with the concept of charging by
the hour. He thought legal fees should be based more on the client’s needs
and their ability to pay. He did more than his share of pro bono legal work.
He was not afraid to charge significantly reduced fees to those who truly
needed his help.
Tom was born and raised in Vernon. His father was a farmer, orchardist
and school bus supervisor. His mother was a homemaker. He was the oldest
of three children and the only member of his family to go to university. He
was the first member of his family to become a lawyer. Yet his route to the
bar was a circuitous one. After high school he joined the RCMP, training in
Regina, Saskatchewan. He hoped to see more of Canada after training but
was posted to a suburb of Regina. He left the RCMP after two years and got
married. He got a job as a town constable in Grenfell, Saskatchewan.
Tom occasionally shared with me stories of his life as a cop. One day
while on patrol, he pulled over a young man who was driving over the
speed limit. In the passenger seat sat the driver’s wife. In the back sat his
daughter. As Tom approached the vehicle, he could hear the driver being
screamed at simultaneously by his wife and daughter. The driver was cowering.
Tom looked at the driver, then the wife, then the daughter, then
turned back to the driver and said, “You’ve got enough troubles. Next time
drive more carefully” and let him go—without a ticket.
Wanting something more, Tom applied to the University of British
Columbia. With a wife, a child and another on the way, he left
Saskatchewan, not even sure if he had been accepted, and headed back to
British Columbia. He entered the Faculty of Arts and received his B.A. in
three years with majors in English and history. During these student years,
he also worked full-time at the Liquor Control Board to feed and house his
family. He did not get much sleep.
Thereafter, Tom applied and was accepted to UBC law school, graduating
Tom articled in Dawson Creek with the law firm Lewin, Hunter and Norton.
Thereafter, he was hired by Pat Walsh, who was a sole practitioner in
Fort St. John. Immediately after Tom joined the firm, Pat went on a monthlong
vacation, leaving Tom alone to handle the practice. In those years,
there were only two law firms in Fort St. John. Tom told me the story of one
of his first clients acquired while his principal was on vacation. Tom was