A Tribute to Ben
Ben Marcus was a lawyer in Ottawa for nearly fifty-nine years, a force of nature. He was quite deaf, or at least pretended to be when it was to his advantage. Extremely crusty because he could afford to be, he was frighteningly capable. He was also a man of impeccable ethics.
My favourite memory of Ben was at a conference about two decades ago. There were perhaps three hundred of us in the room listening to a learned paper on some or other rule of evidence. It was probably important enough.
Unfortunately, it was also the last presentation of a long day-- the suicide slot. As might be expected, the audience began to turn its attention to the hospitality suite. The paper could be read later.
First one, then two, then ten slipped out. And then more. It was pretty clear that the room was clearing, and the speaker was clearly at a loss.
And then Ben rose to his feet.
Ben excused himself to the speaker then turned to the audience. “This young man,” he said, “has spent weeks preparing this paper for your benefit. It’s a good paper, and he is delivering it well. In leaving, you embarrass our profession. Please give him the honour of your attention.” And then Ben sat down as if nothing had happened.
The room fell silent. Then applause broke out, and we all stayed.
The paper was in fact a good paper, but it's Ben’s lesson that I have kept for a lifetime.
Norman Bowley is a communicator by passion, a lawyer and educator by profession. Thirty-six years of legal practice after ten years as an educator have equipped Norm to teach professionals how to communicate effectively and with power.