By Tina Comeau
When you walk into Phil Star’s office you’re immediately struck by the view through the windows looking over Yarmouth’s waterfront.
Even Star never grows tired of it.
No matter the weather, no matter his mood, he finds it calm and relaxing to gaze out over a part of his community.
It makes him feel good, he says, in much the same way that the volunteer work he does in his community makes him feel.
For these volunteer efforts Star, a lawyer with the firm Pink Star Barro, was recently honoured with a provincial community service award from the Nova Scotia Branch of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA).
The association says the award is a big deal, although Star himself would prefer to shy away from the spotlight. This is because he doesn’t do the volunteer work he does in search of recognition. He does it to give back to his community.
And give back he does, whether it is through the decades of community service work he’s done with the Yarmouth Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, his contributions to YACRO, his work with the Kaye Nickerson Centre or his efforts with the Yarmouth Restorative Justice Society.
He also gives back to his legal community through his volunteer work with the Canadian Bar Association, the pro bono work he does for seniors or people who don't have the same advantages as others, or the mentoring he provides to young lawyers who are embarking on their careers. Star says while he may not be good at a lot of things, one thing he is really good at is returning phone calls.
“They’ve often called me during a break in a trial and I’ll tell them, ‘I’m not saying I’m right, but here’s what I would do in that situation,’” he says about the mentoring he provides.
Law days at the local high school are another thing Star has been involved with over the years. He still gets a kick thinking back to questions that teenagers have asked him over the years – all “hypothetical” questions, of course, he says with a wry smile.
The CBA-Nova Scotia Community Service Award that Star received was established in 2001 and is aimed at honouring, recognizing and celebrating the contributions that a member of the bar association has made to various community and/or charitable causes at the local, provincial or federal level.
In an era where lawyers are often the butt of jokes – jokes about lawyers even have their own websites – or people are suspicious of lawyers, those within the industry say it’s important for the public to know about the work lawyers are doing in their communities, whether they are being paid while on the job, or paid through satisfaction and community pride while off the clock.
Tina Tucker is the executive director of the Nova Scotia Branch of the Canadian Bar Association.
“It’s amazing that the negative lawyer image persists in spite of, I think, positive interactions,” says Tucker, noting that the personal relationship a client has with their lawyer is, by and large, very positive. Although still, she says, it is a service that costs money and people don’t receive the service they feel they’re entitled to they may not be happy.
“But with Phil Star in particular, he reminds all lawyers, he reminds the people in our association, that the people in your community come first,” Tucker says.
Asked what it was about his nomination that stood out from the others, Tucker said it was his willingness to contribute his time, energy and expertise to a wide variety of charitable and not-for-profit organizations that demonstrates his commitment to the needs of the community.
“The nominations committee appreciated the fact that Phil Star contributes in areas where he sees the greatest need, rather than where he may have the greatest interest,” she said.
Star’s concern for his community holds true whether he is in the courtroom or the volunteer boardroom.
Because going back to his office when Star looks out onto the view he sees, it’s his community he’s seeing.
No wonder he’s smiling.