Work to reform the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct of Quebec lawyers is underway. A preliminary draft is currently being distributed to members of the Quebec Bar Association for comments by October 27, 2012. The final document is expected in a year and a half.
The Chairman of the Working Group to reform the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct is Gerald R. Tremblay. In an online presentation he recently stated that the text of the Code is outdated and does not meet the high standard a self-regulatory body such as ours should adhere to today.
Intending the process to involve more than theoretical components, the goal of the review process is to obtain practical input from lawyers who currently have to abide by this Code. The lawyers will weigh in on what works and what does not, as they interact with the text and apply its rules in their daily practice, with colleagues and before the courts. The Working Group also wants to have input from judges on the issues they have observed on the conduct of lawyers presenting themselves in their courts, and how the Code may need fine-tuning.
The topic of ethics and professional conduct is at the center of preoccupations right now in other Bar Associations in other countries, as well as within the realms of other professions. This is due in part to new information technologies, to the globalized practice of a variety of professions, and increased mobility between jurisdictions. There seems to be a universal need to create standards/values for ethical and professional conduct that are binding and engaging. These standards/values need to be identified so that lawyers fulfill their professional responsibilities more than adequately in the public eye, and in whatever jurisdiction they choose to fulfill their legal profession.
For example, for Quebec, one of the issues central to this reform is to ensure that lawyers only practice the field of law in which they have experience and knowledge, regardless of where they practice geographically. The need for this standard arises out of lawyer mobility. The Quebec Bar Association presently has an understanding with the Bar Association in France, where French lawyers can come to practice law in Quebec and Quebec lawyers can practice law in France. The only exam a lawyer from France intending to practice in Quebec must submit to is the one on the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and vice a versa. Their right to practice in either country is completely based on the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and any breach of said Code.
Thus, the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct becomes more and more significant and needs to address in the most comprehensive way the realities and the way we practice our profession in today's society. Hopefully, the changes made to update the Code will benefit the clients of the lawyers, the judges, and also provide clear, practical, timely, current and helpful working guidelines for those practicing law themselves.