About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

A Letter to Marie Henein on Life in the Law

Ms. Henein in a firm photo
Dear Marie,

I have just finished reading Nothing But the Truth and enjoyed the book. I posted a review on my blog, Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan. (A link is  below.)

Our youths were far different. A farm in rural Saskatchewan is the opposite of life in Toronto. My father was a quiet beekeeper / farmer / trapper and my mother a nurse who had never lived outside an urban setting before she came to the farm in 1950. I did visit Toronto as most of my mother’s family resided in Etobicoke and Mississauga.

What was most striking to me about your career choice was your determination to be a criminal law lawyer from the day you entered law school. I certainly did not know what I wanted to do in law during law school and have never known as I have worked in a general practice involving a broad spectrum of legal work as a barrister and a solicitor.

You aptly describe criminal law:

It is a crisis management job. 

I would extend the definition to family law and estate litigation. All three areas have clients in highly emotional states dealing with difficult personal matters.

You wrote of being a criminal defence lawyer except for abit of regulatory prosecution.  My prosecutorial experience has been just as limited.  You said you were “confident that I’m the only prosecutor to have received a thank you card from the person she is prosecuting”. I never received a card as a prosecutor but, after successfully arguing to a judge, intent on being tough on drugs, that a young woman who pled guilty to possession of marijuana for holding her boyfriend’s joint should not go to jail, she told me - “Thank you for everything you did for me”.

You come from an immigrant family. Your articling principal, Eddie Greenspan, was a Jewish man from a small town. Both of you were driven by being outsiders. I can relate. My principal, Ajit Kapoor, was from India. I was from the country and did not know a single lawyer outside law school until I stepped into the office of Eisner, Kapoor and Saretzky to article in 1975.

Where the early years of our careers differed was in the intense, all consuming nature of practice at the Greenspan firm. I had long hours but not the 7 day and 7 night work weeks you experienced. I was encouraged to participate in the community and spend time with my family. Even as a young lawyer I played baseball, had a Saskatchewan Roughrider press pass as I was writing a sports column and learned judo eventually achieving a black belt.

Your respect for Eddie and his partner, Marc Rosenberg, is immense. You said Eddie showed you “how to be a lawyer”. I think the same of Ajit.

After 11 years you left the firm. As I expected there were monetary issues. Most importantly you wanted to be the first name on the letterhead and see if you could make it on her own. I never left on my own. Ajit and I separated and set up our own firm. Over the past 48 years associates and partners have departed while I stayed.

I appreciated your spirited defence of the role defence lawyers play in society, not just the judicial system. 

You set out clearly the structure of the legal system in Canada and express justifiable concern that our system which balances rights and obligations is at risk amidst a social media world and populist politics. I agree that the hard won principle of presumption of innocence is threatened.

In exploring legal principles you did not use cases, especially cases in which you were involved, to illustrate them. I find clients better understand principles when I provide examples. To me principles feel abstract until you see how they are applied.

I wish you had discussed some of your cases. I understand your statement that it is for the clients to tell if they want to tell them. I know a lawyer is very limited in discussing a case with regard to what happens outside the courtroom but trials and decisions are public for sound reasons. I have gained insights into lawyers, judges and our legal system from the discussions set out by lawyers in books such as Tough Cases and More Tough Cases.(Links to reviews and a two additional posts related to the books are below.) A series of Canadian lawyers in those books each discussed a case that was important to them.

Over 70 years ago retired English barrister, Patrick Hastings, wrote The Autobiography of Sir Patrick Hastings. His life was interesting. In addition to being a lawyer, he was passionate about the theatre including being a playwright. He followed with a second book, Cases in Court, in which he explored legal principles and courtroom actions through cases in which he had appeared as counsel. (A link to my reviews is below.) I was fascinated by his focus and confidence. I hope you will consider a second book in which you discuss your cases. 

In your chapter on the numbers of women leaving the practice of law and the challenges facing women in the profession you provided idiotic form letters from managing partners to pregnant lawyers. You show how women in law face direct and subtle indignities. You did not discuss how you as the leader of your firm and the women in your firm deal with the issues set out in the chapter. Have you written about your firm’s approach?

I admire your approach to clothes for a lawyer. I enjoy colour in my personal and professional clothing. I am planning a post on lawyer attire.

I am not sure if you read mystery fiction. Saskatchewan author, Gail Bowen, has a long running series featuring a now retired university professor, Joanne Kilbourn. In her latest book, What’s Past is Prologue, a prominent Toronto woman defence counsel, who has successfully defended a media personality accused of sexual assault by three women, is back in Saskatchewan where she grew up. One of the reasons for her return is to start preparations for a major trial. It is ironic you are now involved in a high profile case in Saskatchewan.

I have been proud to be a defence lawyer. From my first trial 48 years ago representing a young man charged with theft to later this month seeking a just punishment for a young man being sentenced for domestic assault I am reminded of the great responsibility of a defence lawyer. I have always believed our criminal justice system requires strong advocacy for the accused.

Never sure if email gets through I will send this letter by email and regular mail. I will be posting it tonight. If you are able to reply and are willing I would post your response.


Bill Selnes


Nothing But the Truth by Marie Henein

Tough Crimes edited by C.D. Evans and Lorene Shyba and Saskatchewan Cases Involving Wrongful Conviction and Jury Nullification

More Tough Crimes edited by Lorene Shyba and William Trudell and and Intervening and Not Intervening with Ashley Smith Choking Herself

Cases in Court by Patrick Hastings -Begun and Finished


  1. Thanks, Bill, for sharing this letter. I found it fascinating to read about the differences in your backgrounds, and to get your views on some of what's happening in Canadian law. I especially enjoyed your story about your client who thanked you after you defended her. So often, people don't think about how much work it can be to defend them in court (or teach them, or see to their medical needs, etc.). And you're right about how important it is for the justice system that there be lawyers who work hard at defending their clients. It's crucial. I'll be really interested if you get a response to your letter.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I was not clear enough in the letter as I was the prosecutor when the young woman thanked me. Her defence counsel said at the hearing that he agreed with my submissions. I did not want to be the prosecutor explaining how this young woman went to jail for such a minor criminal offence. Her gratitude was genuine while ironic at the same time. Until the day you need a defence lawyer few people appreciate the time spent and the skill of defence counsel.