“Keeping Them Honest”

I have a habit of kicking the hornets’ nest when it comes to airing my views on legal services and the legal profession.

So let me give it another go.

I believe that legal services can be delivered in a more efficient, convenient and cost-effective manner than they’re currently being delivered; not only for the benefit of the public but also for the benefit of lawyers.

I’m a practicing member of the legal profession and I know the profession can do much better. So, if my passion to reform the profession offends people, so be it.

The Rules of Professional Conduct in Ontario require lawyers in this province to deliver services in a cost-efficient, efficient and convenient manner; see Rules 3.01(1) and 2.01(1)(e). Unfortunately many lawyers in this province and in this country believe that since they’re lawyers, they’re smarter than everyone else and if there was a better way to deliver legal services they would’ve already figured it out. Therefore, the current system is already the most cost-effective, efficient and convenient way to deliver legal services – there is no need to change anything.

To many lawyers, anyone who is critical of current legal practice doesn’t know what they are talking about – but more importantly, how dare any commentators suggest that lawyers are not living up to the Rules! Afterall lawyers have taken an oath to follow the Rules, so therefore they always do.

The same logic is applied to commentators who are critical of law societies, bar associations and benchers. Law societies, bar associations and benchers are a special breed – they always do the right thing. How dare anyone be critical of them!

I think we’ve all seen enough bad decisions and wrongdoing by lawyers to understand that lawyers are just like everyone else; we have the same temptations, the same bad judgment and same self-interest to be protected. As lawyers we’re expected to protect the public against the tyranny of over-reaching government, yet too many believe that we and our institutions are beyond criticism.

If we fail to be critically challenge our institutions and ourselves then, to paraphrase Anderson Cooper, who is keeping lawyers and our institutions “honest?”

This lack of criticism has left the profession stale, complacent and unable to manage change – this is bad for the profession and bad for the public.

I told my class at University of Ottawa Law School this past January to always challenge what they are doing, how they are doing it and why they are doing it – and to continually challenge our governing institutions to ensure that the profession remains current and relevant.

Hopefully a new generation of lawyers will undertake and complete the necessary reforms that the current generation has refused to undertake.

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