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Archive for the ‘Legal Ethics’ Columns

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Either limit the regulatory monopoly or provide for the efficient and effective delivery of legal services for all legal problems

Access to justice and legal services is a central challenge both for society and for the legal profession. The extent to which members of the public are unserved, under-served or inefficiently served is a difficult issue for lawyers being both a challenge to existing practice and an opportunity for innovation.

As suggested in earlier columns, it seems to me that this access question raises central ethical questions. If there are some legal services which are not provided by lawyers[i] . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Don’t Gossip About Your Client to the Press… Some (Mildly) Complicating Thoughts on Robidoux

On June 9 2014 the Law Society of Alberta suspended Kristine Robidoux for four months after she admitted to violating her duties of confidentiality and candour to her client, provincial Conservative party candidate and former journalist Arthur Kent. Robidoux was legal counsel to Kent’s election team in the 2008 Alberta provincial election. She was also Kent’s agent and the Conservative party’s quadrant chair for five of the electoral constituencies in Calgary. During that time Robidoux had e-mail correspondence with Don Martin, a journalist, in which she gave Martin information about problems with the Kent campaign and, in part based on . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Getting Ready: The Continuing Case for Technological Competence

Canada’s law societies have long had a reputation for being slow, if not resistant, to change. I’ll leave it to others to argue the extent to which this has been, in the past, a fair characterization. Looking at current initiatives like the Nova Scotia’s Barristers’ Society’s Transforming Regulation consultation and the work of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Working Group on Alternative Business structures, it is apparent that right now there is significant “big picture” thinking going on at Canadian law societies about how to innovate and modernize lawyer regulation.

It remains to be seen, of course, if . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

#Yesallwomen/#Notallmen: Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession

How do we understand bad things done to women by men? Through the few men who do them (#Notallmen)? Through misogyny in our culture as a whole? Through the experience of all women living with the risk that such bad things can happen (#Yesallwomen)? The ferocity of recent internet debate on this topic clouds the possibility that harm done by men to women should be understood as about all these things: the men who inflict it, the society in which it occurs and the lives of the women who live with the possibility of that threat.

In this column I . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

Rationing Civil Justice

We all know we have an access to justice problem in this country. Actually doing something about it is more of a challenge.

In 1999, Justice Rosalie Abella – then a Justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario – gave a speech which should be required reading for every lawyer, every judge, every ministry of justice official, every law professor and every law student; in short, for everyone involved in whatever way in the legal profession. Clients don’t need to read the speech because they experience its bitter truths.

Sadly, Justice Abella’s speech is timeless. The only thing that . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Ethical Lawyers Are Made Not Born

Prospective employers and recent law grads identify ethics and professionalism as crucial competencies for new lawyers. In a recent article Professor Neil Hamilton summarized various empirical studies showing that legal employers rank “integrity, honesty and trustworthiness” as a crucial quality in a prospective lawyer hire, regardless of the type of legal work for which the lawyer is being hired. Similarly, new graduates view professionalism as one of the most important skills for the new lawyer. In his article Hamilton notes a survey by Canada’s own Federation of Law Societies in which lawyers who graduated between 2007 and 2012 indicated that . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Professionalism and the “Fear of Walmart”: Would You Like Some Bananas With That Tort?

In 1983, the American Bar Association adopted the ABA Model Rules that are the basis for most of the current codes of conduct in the United States. The drafting body was known as the Kutak Commission. The Kutak Commission proposed a rule permitting, but regulating, non-lawyer ownership of law practice entities. Proposed Model Rule 5.4 would have permitted a lawyer to be “employed by an organization in which a financial interest is held or managerial authority is exercised by a non-lawyer . . . but only if the terms of the relationship provide in writing that”:

(a) There is no . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

“Why Is the Law Society Donating to Political Parties?”: Some Answers and Questions

“Why is the ‪@LawsocietyLSUC donating to political parties? Why is my membership fee used to support the Conservatives.” This tweet by Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Michael Spratt caught my eye on an otherwise slow Tuesday in February. It had never crossed my mind that the Law Society might be in business of making political donations. The concept seemed strange, if not a bit troubling.

The tweet linked to an article published in the Law Times just over a week earlier on February 10, 2014. Although mostly detailing Elections Ontario data about donations made by law firms to political parties, the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

One Shared Legal Future, Too Many Solitudes

We often talk about the “Two Solitudes” within the legal profession: the silos between the academy and the profession. However, a recent talk by the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada Thomas Conway made me realize that this dichotomy is wrong. There are not two solitudes within the legal profession, there are many more. 

As the Director of the Cavanagh LLP Professionalism Speaker Series at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, I invited the Treasurer to speak about “The Law Society of Upper Canada: Promoting the Public Interest and Facing the Challenges of a Changing Legal World”. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Being in Favour of Reform, Just Not Change

To a hammer, everything is a nail

There is an old aphorism that “To a hammer, everything is a nail”. The aphorism reflects the centrality of perspective. Where you stand very much affects what you can (or want to) see.

I think that Professor Julie Macfarlane makes this point in the context of discussions about access to justice. Professor Macfarlane has carefully researched and thoughtfully written about the reality that most family law litigants don’t use lawyers. She speaks about this issue with lawyers yet, as she seems to say, the discussions with lawyers about this topic are, at best, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Approval of Trinity Western University’s Law School? It’s Complicated

Trinity Western University views sexual relations outside of a marriage between one man and one woman as inconsistent with “biblical and TWU ideals”, and requires its students and faculty to agree to abstain from such activities. In short, TWU discriminates against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

My wish for Canada is that that sort of discrimination becomes so contrary to the social and public mainstream that, regardless of whether it is legally permitted, only the most marginal and outsider groups will engage in it. That to require students to sign a community covenant eschewing same-sex expressions of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

The Most Dangerous Client? Rob Ford and Legal Ethics

In The Lincoln Lawyer, lawyer-hero Mickey Haller learns from his father that “there is no client as scary as an innocent man”. In an interview, author Michael Connelly explained that for the lawyer defending an innocent man there can only be one acceptable outcome: Not guilty. “There can be no middle ground. No deal. No plea bargain.” According to Connelly, this places enormous pressure on the lawyer because if the lawyer fails and the client is convicted and goes to prison, the lawyer “has to live with their own guilt in knowing that an innocent man is in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics