Bruce McIvor

Dr. Bruce McIvor

Fostering empathy, humility, & collaboration to best support Indigenous Peoples

Empathy, humility, and collaboration are key to a successful law practice, according to Dr. Bruce McIvor. Without these characteristics, lawyers can overlook the needs of their clients and fail to best address their issues. Bruce's practice with First Peoples Law LLP embraces these values and many more to ensure his clients' needs are met and Indigenous Peoples' are supported in their ongoing struggle for respect and justice. 

Bruce's Métis ancestors were displaced from the St. Peter’s settlement on the Red River in Manitoba. His family ended up farther north, where they started over again,farming strips of semi-agricultural land between rock ridges and swamps. 

Bruce’s journey to law began after spending many hours as a kid picking rocks on his family farm-he knew he wanted to do something else. 

Before discovering his interest in law, Bruce followed his passion for social justice through an academic career in history. The first member of his family to attend university, Bruce completed a series of history degrees focusing on Aboriginal and environmental history. While finishing his dissertation for his PhD, Bruce analyzed the development of energy systems and the displacement of Indigenous peoples (now characterized as environmental racism). Through this work, he highlighted Indigenous Peoples’ power and attempts to retain control of their land. Bruce’s academic research and writing questioned the status quo of Indigenous Peoples as powerless victims of the state and emphasized the importance of Indigenous agency. 

Bruce’s plan was to become a history professor. However, after being exposed to the possibilities of playing a meaningful role in effecting change through the law, Bruce decided to go back to university for a law degree and become a lawyer.

Today, Bruce practices Aboriginal law and represents First Nations across Canada. Bruce relates to the term “happy lawyer” differently than some. His work is far from being characterized as “happy” as he witnesses Indigenous intergenerational trauma due to the effects of colonization on a regular basis. He sees himself in a privileged position to help those who have been denied their rights. Being a lawyer for Bruce comes with a sense of responsibility. Bruce is energized and inspired by his work and honoured to be able to support his clients and advance Indigenous Peoples' rights.

Playing a part in dismantling Canada’s colonial legal system requires empathy, humility, and collaboration.

To foster empathy, Bruce surrounds himself with people from all walks of life including people who do not practice law. This is because people educated in law often default to speakers as opposed to listeners. Active listening promotes an empathic approach to clients. Bruce’s clients often express themselves through storytelling. When he is being told something there is a purpose to the story that deserves thoughtful attention. 

Collaboration is also essential in Bruce’s practice. Lawyers are too often encouraged to be ultra-competitive. Unfortunately, this is rarely a leading characteristic of successful lawyers. Although lawyers should be self-confident, they must not be ego-centric if they wish to best represent their clients. His firm avoids the traditional hierarchical work environment and instead chooses a flat management structure that promotes collaboration and adds value to the work. 

Bruce also uses various techniques to collaborate with clients. Rather than use legal jargon in an effort to impress, he chooses to collaborate with his clients by genuinely listening and using creative visual cues. When clients prefer visualization, Bruce tries to express his thoughts by   writing and drawing on flip charts. This mode of communication encourages everyone to participate and lightens the mood. When clients see Bruce’s drawings, they can’t help but laugh. Bruce appreciates moments like this and acknowledges the humility necessary to be a good collaborator. 

Humility is his final crucial characteristic to embrace as a successful lawyer. It is important to have a sense of humour about yourself as it puts everyone at ease which facilitates communication. When meeting Bruce, humility beams from his face with laugh lines to his kind smile. These characteristics have enabled Bruce to foster client relationships that are humble, transparent, and respectful. 

In addition to his legal work, Bruce strives to advance Indigenous rights as an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia’s Allard School of Law and as an author. His book Standoff is a powerful collection of essays that explain the failures of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and how to address them. He also supports Indigenous rights advocates including students and community members by ‘sharing the podium’ through his firm’s social media and podcasts.  

Due to the personal nature of his work and his passion to help, Bruce’s work often makes demands on his personal life. He strives to be responsive to his clients while also making time for himself and his family. As an extreme early riser, he carves out time daily to read serious fiction. His reading keeps him intellectually engaged outside the law while taking his mind off his work. He also walks five to eight miles a day, including walking to and from work, to burn off  excess energy and focus his thoughts. 

Bruce makes a point of talking with his family, including his young children, about why he works as hard as he does for his clients. It is never too young to talk about the importance of the work we choose in life, and it helps his children understand why he spends so much time away from home. 

Another way Bruce promotes his mental health is to be involved in communities outside of his work and home. His caring nature and passion for social justice extends into his volunteer work as a member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International Canada and as the VP of Board of Trustees for theUnitarian Church of Vancouver. Bruce jokes that it is ironic he volunteers with the Unitarian Church since he is not religious. However, he supports the work being done to better the community and appreciates surrounding himself with different perspectives.

For those interested in learning more about Bruce’s mindset and practice visit For those looking for a book recommendation, Bruce strongly recommends reading  V. S. Naipaul

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