This fall an estimated 2800 students will begin their three-year journey for a J.D. degree at one of Canada’s 18 Common Law Schools (there are 23 law schools in total in Canada). If they are anything like I was some 23 years ago, these students are excited but apprehensive. The vast majority of new law students have had no contact with the legal system and have not taken any law-related courses. Their knowledge of law comes from popular culture. For me this was L.A. Law, Inherit the Wind, Perry Mason and To Kill a Mockingbird. For today’s law students, . . . [more]
Archive for the ‘Legal Ethics’ Columns
Is the World as We Know it Coming to an End?
Each year, the Law Society of Upper Canada has an awards ceremony at which very worthy lawyers and paralegals are honoured. Hearing about the contributions and professional lives of the award recipients is inspiring and underscores the value of our professions to the society that we serve.
There was a whimsical theme in some of the speeches this year. By way of good-natured self-deprecation, one recipient described receiving the call from the Treasurer telling him that he had been awarded the Law Society Medal. He said that his first . . . [more]
Three recent cases have brought to light bad behaviour by criminal prosecutors.
In R. v. Suarez-Noa, 2015 ONSC 3823 Justice Reid ordered a mistrial after the prosecutor suggested “to the jury that the accused had behaved like an animal rather than a human being,” calling the characterization “highly improper” and incapable of being “erased from the minds of the jurors” (para. 10-11)
According to the CBC, in the Nuttall/Korody bombing trial British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce said the prosecutors “took my breath away” with the “impropriety” of their decision to show a video to the jury . . . [more]
In many ways, Canadian law societies are now more transparent institutions than ever before. The Law Society of Upper Canada, for example, has adopted innovations like live webcasts of Convocation meetings, online Annual Reports and a frequently used Twitter account which allow for easier access and greater insight into what goes on at Osgoode Hall and why. And, of course, for those interested in what happens to lawyers “gone bad”, there is free public access to discipline-related decisions on CanLII.
Disciplinary decisions seem to be, indeed, one of the things that lawyers and the public are most interested in. . . . [more]
I did it. I read a hundred books (#100Books) on my sabbatical. The whole list can be found here. Why did I do it? I set off to read 100 books because I felt I could and I should.
As lawyers, we spend so much of our time reading but so little time reading books. I can remember years when I’m not sure if I read a single book outside of work. Even as a law professor, I would only read two or three books of fiction a year. As a law student, I took a course called “Law . . . [more]
Perhaps because most law firms are partnerships, we don’t pay much attention to the practical implications of the partnership structure. This is understandable as there isn’t much of an alternative in our existing system at least so far as private practice is concerned.
A law firm partnership is very different than most ordinary businesses. In most businesses, the owners of the business are not involved in the business whether as workers or as managers. In contrast, law firms are owned and managed by people who provide services to customers (often with the assistance of others). In a law firm, the . . . [more]
Prior to the election of Law Society of Upper Canada benchers on April 30, 2015, the Ontario Trial Lawyers’ Association posted on its website a list of benchers who opposed the introduction of Alternative Business Structures. The website stated: “OTLA urges all association members and other eligible licensed lawyer to vote for the following candidates opposed to ABS” (OTLA Bencher Election Voting Guide). At the time some commentators, including me, were quite critical of the OTLA for this approach (“ABS issue dominating bencher vote”)
In this column I want to expand on those criticisms. Not because . . . [more]
It takes a big person to admit they have made a mistake; it takes an even bigger judge. Justice Shaun Nakatsuru of the Ontario Court of Justice is such a judge.
In a remarkable judgment that has attracted significant media attention from the likes of the Toronto Star, the CBC and CTV, Judge Nakatsuru issued a personal and collective judicial mea culpa. While Justice Nakatsuru did not actually make a mistake per se, he admitted that as a judge he had “sinned” in terms of writing less than user-friendly judgments over the course of his ten years on . . . [more]
For roughly 30 years, some Canadian lawyers have been engaging in a practice that other Canadian lawyers have vociferously criticized as “extortion with letterhead,” “bullying and intimidation”, a “predatory practice” and “an example of legal strong-arming.” Members of the public have also chimed in, characterizing the practice as “morally wrong” and “like being stabbed in the back”.
The practice at issue is the sending of shoplifting demand letters. In short, this involves lawyers acting for retailers sending letters to alleged shoplifters and/or their parents demanding the payment of money.
What makes a law school great? What should a law school curriculum seek to accomplish in light of the school’s obligations to its students, its university, the pursuit of knowledge, the profession, and society as a whole? What should a law school strive to be?
Every law school has to answer these questions one way or another, and events of the last few years – the crises of American legal education and Canadian articling, and global and technological shifts in the legal services market – have given them greater urgency.
In this column I want to share my own law . . . [more]
“Lawyers must keep their clients’ confidences and act with commitment to serving and protecting their clients’ legitimate interests. Both of these duties are essential to the due administration of justice.”
Canada (Attorney General) v. Federation of Law Societies of Canada, 2015 SCC 7 at para. 1
This recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada resolves nearly fifteen years of litigation regarding the lawyer’s role in protecting against anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing. This decision is significant to those interested in legal ethics on several points.
The Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (the . . . [more]
The time has come to begin seriously considering whether to separate the long-fused offices of Attorney General and Minister of Justice. The Attorney General is responsible for providing legal advice to the executive branch of government and for representing the government in all legal proceedings. In certain matters, the Attorney General is supposed to act completely independently in the public interest without reference to partisan politics. The Attorney General is known as the “defender of the Rule of Law” and indeed, under federal and provincial legislation, the AG is charged with seeing “that the administration of public affairs is in . . . [more]