Steven Covey RIP- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

It may be slightly off the mark for an estate litigation blog to write about the passing of Steven Covey, but it remains that his thought provoking ideas about how one ought to approach work ,and life in general, to become a highly effective person, are something we can all benefit from.

This may especially be the case for those going through the stress of estate litigation.


A summary of the 7 principles are as follows, which of course trivialize what Covey put into three books, but it is simply a tribute of his great work:


The following was copied from Wikpedia:

Independence or Self-Mastery

The First Three Habits surround moving from dinosaurs to independence day (i.e., self mastery):

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive

Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life’s principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.

  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life. Create a mission statement.

  • Habit 3: Put First Things First

Prioritise, plan, and execute your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.



The next three have to do with Interdependence (i.e., working with others):

  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a “win” for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.

  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood

Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.

  • Habit 6: Synergize

Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. Get the best performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.


Self Renewal

The Last habit relates to self-rejuvenation:

  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Balance and renew your resources, energy, and health to create a sustainable, long-term, effective lifestyle. It primarily emphasizes on exercise for physical renewal, prayer (meditation, yoga, etc.) and good reading for mental renewal. It also mentions service to the society for spiritual renewal.

Battered Person Syndrome

Battered Person

The United Nations Development Fund for Women estimates that at least one of every three women globally will be beaten, raped or otherwise abused during her lifetime. In most cases, the abuser is a member of her own family.


Today’s purpose is not to set out the incredible statistics with respect to incidents of global domestic violence, but instead to present the psychological disorder known as “Battered Person Syndrome” that has been recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in the decision of  R.v. Oavallee (1990) SC  R 852.

When Battered Person Syndrome (BPS) manifests as PTSD, it consists of the following symptoms:

(a) re-experiencing the battering as if it were reoccurring even when it is not,

(b) attempts to avoid the psychological impact of battering by avoiding activities, people, and emotions,

(c) hyperarousal or hypervigilance,

(d) disrupted interpersonal relationships,

(e) body image distortion or other somatic concerns, and

(f) sexuality and intimacy issues.[5]

Additionally, repeated cycles of violence and reconciliation can result in the following beliefs and attitudes:[6]

  • The abused believes that the violence was his or her fault.
  • The abused has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
  • The abused fears for his/her life and/or the lives of his/her children (if present).
  • The abused has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.

The repetition of the violence despite the abuser’s attempts to “make nice” results in the abused partner feeling at fault for not preventing a repeat cycle of violence. However, since the victim is not at fault and the violence is internally driven by the abuser’s need to control, this self-blame results in feelings of helplessness rather than empowerment. The feeling of being both responsible for and helpless to stop the violence leads in turn to depression and passivity. This learned depression and passivity makes it difficult for the abused partner to marshal the resources and support system needed to leave.[7]

It must be stated that most of the absued people in the world are woman, but not exclusively.

R. V. Lavallee involved a battered woman and attempts to explain the syndrome to the “ordinary man”.


In R. v. Lavallee, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 852 [Lavallee], the SCC recognized  “battered woman syndrome”, and stated at para. 43 that:

If it strains credulity to imagine what the “ordinary man” would do in the position of a battered spouse, it is probably because men do not typically find themselves in that situation. Some women do, however. The definition of what is reasonable must be adapted to circumstances which are, by and large, foreign to the world inhabited by the hypothetical “reasonable man”.


According to the expert testimony presented in Lavallee, many battered people are incapable of leaving abusive relationships because of an “affective” or “traumatic” bond that they develop with their abusive spouses.

This bond is based on a power imbalance, in which the less powerful person (i.e. the battered woman for example) becomes extremely dependent upon the more powerful person (i.e. her abusive spouse).

The battered person’s dependency on his or her abuser manifests itself in a vicious cycle:

First, he or she develops low self-esteem as a result of being abused. Then, after abusing him or her, the abuser will beg for forgiveness and promise to love the victim  more if he or she forgives the abuser.

This effectively boosts the battered person’s self-esteem and causes him or her to feel needed and loved again.

Consequently, the “affective bond” is strengthened, he will eventually abuse her again, and the cycle will repeat itself.

As a result this dependency cycle, the battered person is ultimately rendered helpless and trapped in the relationship with his or her abuser. Lavallee, paras. 59-60 believes that it is very important for judges for judges, lawyers, the please, the medical profession, and the public at large, to understand this powerful battered persons dependency that too many is often on the face of it inexplicable for all perons, especially those in posiotn so trust and authority, to udnerstand the devestating efects of this synddrome and the sometimes seemingly inexplicable acts that are carried out by the parties.

Estate litigators often see the after effects of such realtrionships, and it is important for them to understand what went on in the relationship while the abused person was still alive.



In brief, equity is the conscience of our common law system.

It is a series of rules and remedies developed by the English Courts of Chancery (aka  Courts of Equity) which historically grew up parallel to the English Courts of Law.

Even after the merger of the two court systems, both legal and equitable rules and remedies continue to exist.   Modern courts are said to have two jurisdictions, i.e. legal and equitable, and our courts are now responsible for administering both sets of rules and remedies.

                      Historical Perspective of Equity

Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, our common law was developed based on precedents established in the King’s courts (the Courts of Law) set up by William the Conquerer.  Nevertheless, access to justice remained limited.  An aspiring litigant had few options as only a few, narrowly framed legal actions could be brought .  For example, for centuries there was no action for tort.  Even for the successful litigant, legal remedies were basically limited to financial awards and judgments were difficult to enforce   With decisions based on past precedents, the  system was relatively fixed and inflexible.


As a result, many meritorious claims fell through the cracks and disappointed parties began to petition the monarch (usually a King) for relief.  As the numbers grew, the King began to refer these petitions to the Chancellor –the cleric who was historically the keeper of the King’s conscience.


In time the Chancellor delegated these petitions to his vice-Chancellors, Roman Catholic clergy who became  the first judges of equity.  By the fifteenth century this system had developed into an independent court system known as the Courts of Equity or the Courts of Chancery.


Canon law played an important role in the development of equity because of the influence of the clergy whose perspective was rooted in canon law and the ecclesiastical  courts. They were largely trained on the continent and thus they borrowed ideas from the continental civil law and transplanted them into the Courts of Equity.  Trusts are one example of this borrowing and another example is the remedy of an order for specific performance.


The chief focus of the Courts of Equity was not legal technicalities but rather matters of individual conscience.  Above all, its judges were concerned with the laudable task of saving souls from eternal perdition.  Equity was concerned with the person and would grant orders that would bind individuals.   If a defendant disobeyed the court’s direction, in an effort to save his soul, the court would likely imprison him for contempt of court — a particularly effective incentive to enforce judgments of the court.


The Courts of Equity were concerned to see that individuals kept their promises and that justice was done between the parties.   As a result, the equitable principles developed by the courts have a distinctive ethical quality. For example, defences such as unfair delay or sharp practice could be used to defeat an equitable claim (but not a legal claim).


The rules and remedies of equity were developed to alleviate the hardships wrought by decisions of the relative inflexibilty of the common law.   The Courts of Equity developed the maxim “equity follows the law”.  This meant that their decisions would not directly contradict the common law courts. Instead if they felt the legal result was unconscionable , they would exercise their discretion to circumvent   the law by granting equitable relief . Even today, if there is an adequate remedy at common law, the courts will refuse to grant a remedy in equity.


A key distinction between the legal remedies and equitable remedies remains the discretionary nature of equitable remedies.  In equity, the paramount consideration is seeking justice in the circumstances of the particular case.


Eventually the English courts of law and equity were merged into one joint system by the English Judicature Act of 1875.  Since then, law and equity courts have been merged by similar statutes in most common law jurisdictions.   Nonetheless modern day courts continue to consider and apply both different sets of rules and remedies.


The previous blog re the Merchant Law Group is an excellent example of how the common law approach is different from that of equity, and that under the rules of equity, the law firm was denied the equitable right of quantum meruit, a reasonable fee for services delivered, by reason of  it coming to court with “unclean hands”.