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t’s just a simple thing, can you just tell me what to do on the phone? Often I will get a phone call saying that “it’s just a simple question, I don’t need to come in, just tell me what the law is over the phone”. I never give legal advice to someone I have never met over the phone except in exceptional circumstances. Unless distance is a big factor, I always insist on someone meeting me in the office for a consult. Now, do I do this because I need the hundred bucks for the consult? Not really, if, after a consult someone retains me and becomes a client, I usually waive the consult fee.

Firstly I insist on meeting with someone as a screening device. I mean, if they can’t be bothered to take the time to meet me, how serious can they be about whatever their case is? Also, I have many times received calls from someone who obviously doesn’t want real legal advice, they have some argument or dispute they want to win, they are giving me a very limited set of facts, and they are looking for me to give them

the answer they want to hear.

I am professionally responsible BUSINESS for all the legal advice I give, be it at my office, in a social setting, or over the phone without getting all the background information. So for both the client’s protection and my own, I want the opportunity to ask questions and get the facts I need before I just start telling someone what the law is. As well, I need the opportunity to be sure that person on the phone is not on the other side of a case that I may have started, and by taking information down and booking an appointment, I have time to do a conflict check, to be sure I am not accidentally advising both sides of a dispute. I can’t do that while someone is actually on the phone with me.

And lastly, and this may be a shocker, I simply might not know the answer, and I can’t give a satisfactory reply off the top of my head during a telephone conversation. The law is becoming more complex all the time, and I’m only a lawyer, I’m not God. In areas that I deal with every day, like divorce, family law, and other litigation matters, I can just give advice from off the top of my head. But sometimes there is a new or strange wrinkle in a case, or some situation that I haven’t had come across my desk for a few years, and I want the opportunity to meet with someone, get all the facts, and then do some research and get back to them.

Scott Stenbeck

Local divorce litigation lawyer




veryone becomes a critic after watching the latest movie or listening to a new album, especially if we don’t like it. Usually our comments are based only on our own personal taste and judgement. A critic is defined as someone who evaluates, judges and criticizes. It sounds very negative. But in my experience, being part of a critique is in fact the opposite. What is a critique? Critiques take place in a variety of arts related fields. At their best they are constructive and detailed evaluations of artwork. The point is to support and encourage growth in the artist, to open their mind to additional ideas and approaches. All of us can open our minds in order to better understand and enjoy art. We have our own experience and bias, this is simply a human trait. But I encourage you to visit our local art venues and fully address each work you are presented with. Begin by recognizing and setting aside your personal bias, then give the artwork some real attention. The heart and mind should work together. Consider the medium, the message, the expression, and the elements and principles of design. Elements are the building blocks of art; line, shape, texture, colour, and form. Elements create principles; focal point, balance, and unity are a few. Note which pieces are creating strong communication. The truth is, art is not entertainment. Art is communication, a visual language. It doesn’t have to be pretty or magical. It is often best when thought provoking, awkward, edgy. When we give it more time and contemplation, we become part of a deeper dialogue. For artists, the critique provides input and feedback from others in order to grow and evolve our approaches, our process and execution. We learn from each other by asking questions and posing possibilities. Here in Medicine Hat, the Open Studio Program was developed to provide a nurturing community for emerging artists at all levels of art practice who want to make art but who may not have opportunities for further education, peer support or critical feedback. Open Studios provide moral support, technical help, and honest, professional critique so artists can develop or continue developing their ideas, methods and materials. Open Studios are not structured art classes, instead, participants work on their own projects and have the advantage of experienced instructors who will encourage members to critique each other and themselves. Art is not only a product, but a process. We can all become part of the art dialogue in Medicine Hat. Gather some friends and take the Downtown Artwalk. Brochures and maps can be found at The Esplanade, The Hive, The Clay Trade, Inspire Gallery, and Remenda Designs. Contact Wendy Struck, at 488-6386, for more information about the Open Studio Program. P. 5