We are Justice
Bill Basran was interested in litigation and wanted to be in court.
After graduating from law school in 1994, he articled with a large firm in downtown Vancouver. It quickly became clear to him, however, that junior counsel in large law firms were usually limited to carrying out research and providing support to the firm’s litigators. Rarely did new lawyers conduct a trial on their own.
When an opening became available in the Tax Law section of the Department of Justice Canada in the British Columbia Regional Office (BCRO), Bill seized the opportunity and joined as a junior counsel.
He hoped that he could gain a lot of experience quickly and, even though it was still early in his career, perhaps appear in court on his own.
“For a relatively new lawyer, it was a dream come true,” explains Bill.
“During my second week at Justice, I was litigating my first case. It was quite an extraordinary opportunity and an experience that stays with me to this day.”
In 2001, Bill accepted a position in the region’s then-Senior Regional Director’s Office (SRDO), focusing his energies on a completely different side of Justice.
“One of the most interesting things about my work is that, on any given day, an incredibly impressive list of issues comes across my desk – in terms of their complexity and importance to Canadians.”
He helped launch the region’s extremely successful university outreach and recruitment program, and was responsible for the coordination and delivery of professional training to legal practitioners and for providing orientation to new counsel.
Of his experience in the SRDO, Bill says,
“it gave me the kind of exposure I needed to see at first hand what a career in management would look like.” The 18 months there led not only to an appreciation of the extraordinary range of legal issues in the region, but also to
“a better understanding of the organization itself, nationally.”
“I was able to work with colleagues from Headquarters and across the country on national orientation and recruiting objectives. This gave me a real appreciation for regional differences and the challenges involved in Department-wide initiatives.”
In 2002, Bill returned to the Tax Law Section. Six months later, he again jumped at an opportunity to expand his skills and accepted responsibility for supervising and mentoring a group of eight to ten new junior counsel, while still maintaining a full litigation practice.
As busy as it all was, this was one of the best jobs he ever had.
“The experience prepared me for acting, at various times, as the Section’s Director.”
In 2004, Bill became the Director of the Tax Section. Three years later, he was appointed Regional Director General of the nearly 500-employee BCRO, responsible for the delivery of all legal services for the federal Department of Justice in British Columbia.
In the top job, Bill’s work on national committees and initiatives has also expanded. He is the national Employment Equity Champion for Visible Minorities, co-chair of the national Mentoring Program, co-chair of the Department’s Pro Bono Working Group, and co-chair of HR Com, the human resources committee.
“One of the most interesting things about my work is that, on any given day, an incredibly impressive list of issues comes across my desk – in terms of their complexity and importance to Canadians,” says Bill.
“I have the privilege of working with extremely bright, motivated, and principled people who provide legal services on behalf of the Department of Justice and for the benefit of all Canadians.”
On the international front, Bill was recently selected to participate in Leadership Across Borders, a program involving 40 senior civil servants from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. The participants are working on live case studies that focus on 21st-century global issues, while acquiring the skills and approaches critical to solving the kinds of complex problems and public policy issues that governments face.
“The first set of meetings in Australia focused on homelessness and climate change,” says Bill.
“It was very interesting to work with colleagues from other Commonwealth countries, not only in terms of what tools we use when addressing some of these complex problems, but also for the sort of human and cultural dynamics that shape these decisions.”
The group next meets in the UK in June, and then in Ottawa in September 2010.
“It’s been an interesting journey on so many fronts,” says Bill.
“I take a great deal of pride in working for the Department of Justice and the Government of Canada. I think of it as quite an honour to be able to do this work.”
Bill recalls a conversation he once had with a former judge of the Supreme Court of Canada.
“He told me that the message I ought to convey to people considering a career at the Department of Justice is that there is no greater privilege than having the people of Canada as your client.”
It is clear from his choices and his career – Bill embodies the philosophy behind those words in all the work he does.
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