Nfld. & Labrador

Law Society of N.L. hosts first ever virtual call to the bar

Five lawyers in this province were called to the bar in an unusual way — thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In-person ceremony was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

This is a screenshot of the virtual call to the bar, a first for the province's law society. (Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador)

A big day for five lawyers in this province almost didn't happen — because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Physical distancing prevented the lawyers, their families and friends from filling a courtroom at Supreme Court in St. John's. 

"This certainly hasn't been done in our law society before, and to our knowledge it's never been done in Canada," said Brenda Grimes, executive director of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.

"It's unique."

The law society and the Supreme Court require that articling lawyers be present when they are called to the bar — an event that happens four times a year. 

Brenda Grimes of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador says this call to the bar was a unique one. (Brenda Grimes)

The problem is that the lawyers were in Conception Bay South, Steady Brook, Corner Brook, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Toronto. 

To make this one work, the law society, like many others trying to stay connected these days, set up a video-conference call. 

"We were fortunate because we already had the technology in place to do this," said Grimes

"We've been using Zoom technology video-conferencing technology for our Continuing Legal Education programs for quite some time and it's working well for us."

Normally, the call to the bar ceremony would be held here, at Supreme Court in St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

While it swayed from tradition, the law society had to ask for a little leniency from the courts.

"We also had to get permission from the Supreme Court to allow the dress to be relaxed for this particular call," Grimes said.

"Normally all of the people being called have to attend in their court uniform."

The law society also has to wait for the five new lawyers to sign the registry. 

"They've provided their verbal undertaking that they will sign the roll because people have been signing the roll of the law society and of the courts since the mid-1800s," said Grimes. 

Space has been left for the five new lawyers to sign their names.

While it wasn't a regular call to the bar it is something that the law society might have to do again.

The next call to the bar is scheduled for June. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador