On March 26, 2015, the new Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (nouveau Code de déontologie des avocats) for Quebec lawyers came into force. All lawyer members of the Quebec Bar are required to complete a three-hour training session by December 31, 2015.
Those who are in possession of an exemption must complete the mandatory training within six months of the date their exemption ends. The Barreau du Quebec will not accept any requests for extensions. Thus the training (excluding approved exemptions) must be completed by December 31, 2015.
The only training that will be recognized is the one offered by the Barreau du Quebec, “The Code of Ethics of Advocates facelift.” This training is available online at http://www.barreau.qc.ca/fr/avocats/formation-continue/offre/, at a cost of $10 for members. Once completed, the member will receive a certificate of completion by email.
In-class sessions on specific dates are also available at a cost of $113 for members.
The training will be recognized for three hours toward the continuing education requirement.
Law practice in the 21st century
The new Code takes into account the realities of the practice of law in the 21st century, including the increase of lawyers working as in-house counsel, communicating with the media and the public through new technologies and social media, and others related to competency, communication and interactions between lawyers and clients. It does not change how lawyers practice law but clarifies in a clear and obvious way the particular obligations of a lawyer practicing law in Quebec. It also sets out in a preamble, the values and principles that should guide lawyers in all circumstances, such as respect for the rule of law, access to justice, integrity and independence.
One key change is that the previous code indicated that a lawyer had to avoid all methods and attitudes likely to give his profession a commercial or pecuniary character. This has been removed since we all know that a lawyer is practicing his or her profession as a business and to gain a living.
The Bar Association has prepared a useful comparative table that highlights the numerous and substantial differences between the new and old Codes of Ethics and Professional Conduct. However, it is only available in French.
Many lawyers in Quebec, including Jean H. Gagnon believes the code add new onerous obligations on lawyers in regards to clients and competency. According to Gagnon, in section 42, the code states, “Throughout the mandate, the lawyer informs and advises the client on all available means to settle its dispute, including the opportunity to use the methods of preventing and settling disputes. ” To paraphrase, Gagnon believes that although it may seem trivial at first glance, this section has important implications for a lawyer’s practice. In order to meet this obligation, every lawyer must first be familiar with the ways of preventing and settling of disputes (ADRs) and have real skills in this area. In his opinion, how could a lawyer with a reasonable level of competence, inform and advise clients on these mechanisms if he has not learned how these mechanism work, or know if he has or has not the skills to apply those mechanism. What are the remedies available to a client for breach of this obligation?
Will lawyers be measured on the fact that they did not prevent the dispute before the litigation started, or proposed a settlement of a dispute at some point in time in the file before a hearing is scheduled?
Does it require lawyers to implement ADRs within their practice, at the beginning of all the mandates that are given to them?
Does it require lawyers to inform all clients from the beginning of the ADRs available to them? And, does it require lawyers to obtain training on these dispute mechanisms for the purpose of properly advising clients?
Some things to think about.
Do you agree with the changes? Will the new Code affect how you practise law?