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Best Lawyer 

Anne Derrick

Editor's note: After racking up a string of Best Lawyer victories, Anne Derrick got a promotion in September 2005 to become a judge. Two months later she got a second promotion, becoming the first inductee into the Best of Halifax Hall of Fame. In honour of her ascension (to the Hall, not the bench) the Best Lawyer category is henceforth retired.

One of the more noticeable differences between hockey players and lawyers is that hockey players have better gear. The goalie masks, team logos, helmets and colourful numbered jerseys really kick the tar out of the black robes, briefcases and reading glasses sported by most counsel. Then there's the difference in the rewards for good performance. Sure, at the top, both careers pay extremely well, but great hockey players get hard evidence when they are rated the best at what they do. They win MVP trophies. They see themselves on the cover of flash magazines. They kiss “The Cup.” There is no internationally broadcast victory lap for lawyers, but if there were, you can bet Canadians would have watched Anne Derrick take hers several times over.

Until this September, Derrick was one of Nova Scotia’s highest-profile defence lawyers. She made a name for herself by taking on widely publicized cases involving socially contentious issues and notorious clients. Her 25 years in the business were spent largely on public interest and equality litigation, which worked nicely with her other passion---social advocacy. She fought for the acknowledgment of the wrongly convicted when she (twice) represented Donald Marshall Jr. She threw her weight behind the pro-choice platform by representing Dr. Henry Morgentaler and she became a target, with Rocky Jones, of a potentially expensive lawsuit by announcing at a press conference that yes indeed, there was systemic racism within the Halifax Regional Police force. Her fame---as much local lawyers can be famous---extended beyond the justice system. In fact, this is her third victory in The Coast’s readers’ poll for Best Lawyer, and she won once for Best Advocate.

But on Friday, September 16, 2005, Anne Derrick, QC, gave up her career as a lawyer to become Judge Anne Derrick of the Provincial and Family Court of Nova Scotia. “I didn't go to law school to be a judge,” she admits over the phone. “I did the kind of law that I that I had wanted to, and I started to think about what else I could do.” The decision wasn't easy, she says. She thought long and hard about making the application (a lawyer must apply to be considered for the bench). She decided it was a challenge she wanted to take on.

For Susan Murphy, Derrick's legal assistant, the appointment to the bench is bittersweet. “She is a phenomenal lady. Her spirit, her humour, her passion, her compassion… I was heartbroken but happy for her.” Murphy's sentiments are near identical to those of Phoenix Coyotes’ general manager Michael Barnett, as he comments on the recent retirement of hockey legend Brett Hull: “While we respect the decision that Brett has made today, we regret seeing him go. He brought skill, passion and spirit to our hockey club for the too-brief period he was here.”

Maybe it's post-season where lawyers get to take their revenge. Sure, Hull gets his jersey retired, while Derrick says the only thing she can retire is part of her heart (“I know it, it sounds maudlin,” she says). But Hull will take his reputation and his millions, pop up somewhere as a hockey commentator or, worse, owner of a Hooters restaurant in Middle-of-nowhere, Arizona. Derrick, on the other hand, will take her many victories (her Best of Halifax awards included---“my crowning glory!”) and continue to contribute to the legal fabric of the province, making decisions that will affect Nova Scotians for decades to come.

First runner-up Joel E. Pink, 1583 Hollis Street, 492-0550
Second runner-upSean Foreman, 2100-1801 Hollis Street, 482-7020

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