Pitblado Lectures

Recently, Slaw introduced Talklaw, a calendar of legal conferences and events. This reminded me of an annual legal conference that doesn’t get talked about much outside of Manitoba, the Isaac Pitblado Lectures.

Non-Manitobans are not likely to be familiar with Isaac Pitblado. As stated in the biography from the Pitblado Lectures published papers:

At the time of Isaac Pitblado’s death, the Hon. Richard S. Bowles, the President of the Law Society of Manitoba, said about him:

The Law Society has lost its most respected and beloved member. Canada has lost one of its most able and distinguished sons.

 Mr. Pitblado made a name for himself in the law through the issues of freight rates and grain marketing.

Isaac Pitblado’s reputation as a great legal mind grew partly from his deep involvement with the important issues of freight rates and grain marketing. He was first retained on a freight rates matter by the City of Winnipeg in 1912. Thirty-five years later, Mr. Pitblado appeared as senior counsel for the C.N.R. and the C.P.R., who were applying to the Board of Railway Commissioners for a freight rate increase. He was 80 years old at the time. Grand as his performance was in that hearing, it was by no means his last hurrah. In 1951, at the age of 84, he represented the Winnipeg Electric Company at legislative hearings to fight the Company’s planned takeover by the Manitoba Government. Despite an eloquent and impassioned four and one half-hour submission by Mr. Pitblado, the takeover was ultimately enacted.

When he died at 97 in 1976, he had been a member of the Manitoba Bar for 74 years.

The Pitblado lectures were created in 1960, on the 70th anniversary of Isaac Pitblado’s call to the Manitoba Bar. They pull together experts from across Canada and internationally. This year’s lecture, “Back from the Brink”, dealt with bankruptcy, and included presentations from Frank Bennett and Janis Sarra, as well as many local bankruptcy experts. While aimed at practicing members, this year’s lecture was also opened to others who work in bankruptcy and insolvency.

I attended the lecture of a couple of years ago, “Practising Law in the 21st Century: Evolution or Revolution”. Richard Susskind and Jordan Furlong were two of the speakers that year. Presentations were on the future of the practice of law, as well as the changing expectations of different generations of lawyers. I came away understanding more about the intricacies of managing a law firm, and what a challenge it must be to be the managing partner.

It seems to me that these lectures are on par with special lectures put on by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Each year is focussed on a single topic. The Lectures are organized by a committee of the Law Society of Manitoba, Manitoba Bar Association and the University of Manitoba law school, and count for CPD credit. The quality of the papers produced for these lectures is very high. I have had requests for copies of articles from the 1960s series of lectures. Running through the titles from 1960 on, you can watch the development of the law: from Estate Planning and Income Tax in the beginning, to The Law and the Minor and Commercial and Competition Law in the 1970s, to Practising Law in an Aboriginal Reality and Elder Law in the beginning of this century.

Additional information about Isaac Pitblado:

Manitoba Historical Society biography

Biography of Isaac Pitblado, Pitblado Lecture series [PDF]

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