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A Fine Balance
Philippe Richer
September 24, 2021
Phillipe And Cheryl standing side by side at the TLR Law office.

I have not written any articles this summer. Between vacation and a busy real estate season, our calendars have been full.

But we’re back with some news. As you know, Cheryl, my spouse, a very accomplished corporate commercial lawyer joined our firm in April of this year. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be working with my best friend. Partnerships are difficult. In fact, I wrote an article about how difficult they can be. But when a partnership does work, the sum of the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. It’s magic. So magical, in fact, that Cheryl has become co-owner of TLR Law and Estate Attorneys of Manitoba.

Some of our friends were apprehensive when we announced that she would be joining our firm. Working together is much different than living together. The pressures of owning a business together, working in the business and then living together could be too much. That may be true. But I prefer to look at life as a series of fine balances rather than a journey to a specific destination. Every now and then, you manage to achieve a delicate balance in your life when everything seems to fall into place. But you must be mindful of that balance. Holding it in place requires effort. That effort can be distracting, preventing us from truly appreciating the moment.  

For example, while I am currently in a fine balance, it is not without hiccups. We have experienced the busiest real estate season in my legal career. We opened more real estate files in the first 5 months of 2021 than we did in all of 2020. And, previously, 2020 had been our busiest year yet. Needless to say, we were not expecting to exceed those numbers so quickly. This large volume of work created a lot of stress. Our real estate staff worked overtime all summer. Large volumes don’t just affect lawyers. Banks are behind as well. This only compounded the problems as banks were slow to get information to us. We spent the entire summer working on very short timelines.

This proved to be frustrating to many of our clients as well. (On that note, and as a short side bar, I would like to thank all of our clients who needed our assistance this summer for their cooperation. If you were one of those who felt frustrated, I sincerely apologize.) The wave of closings took us by surprise. Real estate transactions require very specific skills and knowledge. It takes years to train a good real estate paralegal.  While our internal systems were robust, this year’s market pushed them to their limit, severely testing them. While the flow of new offers continues into September, the volume is becoming more manageable. We now have to deal with all the other matters and tasks that were pushed aside to accommodate our real estate closings.

As you can read, fine balances are not served up on a silver platter. If I weren’t being careful, I would be so focused on the challenges we faced this summer that I wouldn’t appreciate the overall situation.

So back to my current fine balance. In addition to working with my best friend, I have a great relationship with my kids and their spouses. They all live near, and I see them weekly.  We often get together for happy hour and we like to travel together. This summer we did a bicycle trip from Winnipeg to Hecla resort. We each cycled over 330 kms over 4 cycling days. While some in the group experienced low moments from time to time, everyone enjoyed themselves.  

To round out my fine balance, we have a team of dedicated staff who go above and beyond supporting each other and our clients. As an example, we thought we had lost an important client document. We had new staff at reception and somehow the document got sent to the wrong address by mail rather than to the right address by courier. The document was eventually returned to us. While we take our responsibilities seriously, mistakes happen. We are only human. We are also insured for that very reason, so had the document been lost, we would have remedied the problem through our insurance.

But that’s not the point I’m making. 

The young staff member responsible for that document, a legal assistant in her early 20’s, cried when she found out. She was beside herself, practically inconsolable. To be clear, she was not responsible for losing the document, but she shouldered the responsibility anyways. When the document was returned, she personally, on her own time and in her own car, drove across the city to deliver the document to the right address. I told her she should send it by courier. She responded that she was not letting it out of her sight until it was in the right hands.

You can’t teach this type of accountability. This was just an example. Weekly, I am surprised and humbled by the extent our staff go out of their way to help our clients. Often, in silence without clients even aware of the efforts they make.

While this fine balance may not last forever, in fact it won’t, I will savour every moment. When life disrupts the balance, I will struggle through to the next fine balance diligently paying attention to prevent  immediate pre-occupations, or what I like to call noise, from concealing the new fine balance.

While I’d like to claim this idea as original, sadly I can’t. If you are interested in a well written novel on the subject of fine balance, read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

And with Cheryl at the helm with me, here’s to keeping that balance for as long as possible, and righting it quickly when it goes a little skewed.