The Honourable Madam Justice Southin was a woman of “firsts”: she was the first woman to article at Bull Housser, the first woman appointed Queen’s Counsel, and the first woman Treasurer of the Law Society of British Columbia. Looking back on her career, she confesses that she never felt that the profession ever once stood in her way. Rather, she credits her success to the help she received from others. “I couldn’t have done what I did,” she admits, “without tremendous help.”
Justice Southin was born in 1931 and grew up in Vancouver at 42nd and Maple.
“I always wanted to be a lawyer,” she says, “but I have no idea why.”
She was an exemplary student and she entered UBC in 1948, after only two years of undergraduate study.
At law school in the early 1950s, there were fewer courses to choose from, and the material was more challenging. One of the most important lessons she would learn at law school came from Professor Malcolm MacIntyre, who said: “you have to ask the right questions to solve any legal problem.”
After finishing second in the class of 1952, Justice Southin was offered a job by David Tupper at Bull Housser, a relatively large firm for its day. She stayed with the firm until 1958, when she left to partner with Graham Ladner, and she practicec both on her own or semi-connected to her old firm until 1983. She was named Queen’s Counsel in 1969, was elected a Bencher in 1971 and became Treasurer of the Law Society in 1977.
Outside her involvement with the law, Justice Southin twice ran for Parliament as a Progressive-Conservative candidate. Although she did not win, the political connections that she developed helped her earn a nomination to the bench.
Justice Southin was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1985 and the British Columbia Court of Appeal in 1988.
Justice Southin’s advice to judges is simple: “just sit down with a pen and start,” she says. “Do not worry about the court of appeal’s opinion.” In her opinion, the most invaluable skill for lawyers and judges to develop is “lucid writing.”