University of British Columbia Chancellor Lindsay Gordon

University of British Columbia Chancellor Lindsay Gordon

95-year-old practising lawyer honoured by UBC

University gives 95-year-old practising lawyer honorary doctorate

  • May. 20, 2015 8:00 p.m.

By Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – At 95 years old, Constance Isherwood is used to people asking when she’s going to give up practising law.

“I tell them ‘well, if you keep practising, eventually you’ll get the hang of it,” she told a laughing crowd that had gathered for a graduation ceremony at the University of British Columbia on Wednesday.

Isherwood, the most senior female lawyer still practising with the B.C. bar, received an honorary doctorate of laws degree at the ceremony, recognizing her decades of legal work and service to her community.

The Victoria lawyer still runs Holmes and Isherwood, the firm she and her husband opened in 1964.

Her honorary degree comes 64 years after Isherwood walked across the stage at the very same university to receive her law degree.

There were eight women and 200 men in her 1951 graduation class, and she was the first woman to receive the B.C. Law Society’s gold medal for top marks.

The senior lawyer was happy to see a more gender-balanced class walk the stage Wednesday.

“Though I must admit, some of them really did look like teenagers,” she said in an interview.

Isherwood practises general law, including everything from arranging mortgages and wills to adoptions and separations. But she has always stayed away from criminal cases.

“I left all the criminal stuff to the boys,” she said with a laugh.

Some of her most memorable work has been as a legal adviser with the Anglican Diocese of B.C., helping to determine a way forward on issues such as residential schools, female priests and gay marriage.

Law wasn’t always Isherwood’s chosen path. As a young woman, she was the drummer in an all-girl orchestra, and travelled playing big band music.

Reminiscing about her dreams of being in show business, the nonagenarian shook her perfectly coifed strawberry blonde hair and smiled.

“We thought we were quite good,” she said.

Today, Isherwood has a deep passion for the law, and loves the variety it brings.

“No two clients are alike, no two cases are alike,” she said. “And the clients themselves are the greatest variety of them all.”

Many things have changed over Isherwood’s decades in law, but there’s one thing she has not fully embraced: she still uses a typewriter instead of a computer.

“Clients are a bit confused when they first come in and see it,” she said. “But then they say ‘I really missed that clickety-clack sound.'”

Isherwood has also been a role model to budding lawyers. Her nephew, Robert Holmes, remembers wanting to follow his aunt when he was a boy.

Holmes is now a partner at the Vancouver law firm Holmes and King, and still holds his aunt in the highest regard, particularly for her ability to connect with others.

“It’s really quite a remarkable feat, to be able to relate and empathize with other people, and to relate and listen, and to build them up,” he said.

Standing before the crowd Wednesday in a bright red and blue gown, Isherwood offered similar advice to the graduates, encouraging them to be approachable with their clients.

She also offered the crowd some words of wisdom on aging.

“There’s really nothing wrong with getting old,” she said. “You just have to keep going and keep breathing.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
Pacheedaht Nation says activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Pacheedaht is concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Driver who crashed into Uptown Walmart likely suffering mental health crisis, police say

Man in his early 20s drove through a parkade wall, no serious injuries reported

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. and Victoria’s overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Additional COVID-19 exposures have been reported at Arbutus Global Middle School and Mount Doug Secondary School. (Google Streetview)
Additional COVID-19 exposures reported at two Saanich schools

New dates of exposure added to Arbutus Global Middle School and Mount Doug Secondary School

Jacques Sirois of the Community Association of Oak Bay works to remove decades worth of English ivy from a stand of native Scouler’s Willows in the Kitty Islet end of McNeill Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Jacques Sirois of the Community Association of Oak Bay works to remove decades worth of English ivy from a stand of native Scouler’s Willows in the Kitty islet end of McNeill Bay. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay declares a decade of ecological restoration

The UN initiative aligns with what district is already doing, mayor says

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Organ donation form from BC Transplant. (BC Transplant)
POLL: Have you registered as an organ donor?

They number 1.5 million strong and growing. But their numbers still fall… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of April 6

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A plane is seen through the window on the tarmac of Vancouver International Airport as the waiting room is empty. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
100+ international travellers who landed in B.C. refused to quarantine

The Public Health Agency of Canada says it issued $3,000 violation tickets to each

A health-care worker holds up a vial of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, March 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PHAC receives first report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

The federal agency says the person is now recovering at home

The Campbell River Gun Club outdoor range is located on Argonaut Road west of Campbell River. CRGC/Facebook photo
Campbell River Gun Club range shut down after complaints of stray bullets

Neighbour says bullets hit caretaker’s RV and shattered a glass panel on his deck

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Green Point Campground saw an unprecedented flurry of reservations last week. (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve campground sees ‘unprecedented’ interest

Reservations being accepted as Green Point Campground scheduled to open May 1

Restaurant owners Oura and Kymon Giakoumakis visit the PQB News/VI Free Daily studio. (Peter McCully photo)
PODCAST: COVID-19 pandemic hits Island’s food service industry hard

Pair of Vancouver Island restaurant owners share thoughts and advice

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
1 in 3 young Canadians have given up on owning a home: poll

Data released Monday says 36% of adults younger than 40 have given up on home ownership entirely

Most Read