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Archive for the ‘Legal Ethics’ Columns

What if We Didn’t Wait? Promoting Ethical Infrastructure in Canadian Law Firms

Conventional models of regulating lawyer conduct tend to be largely reactive. In most cases, law society disciplinary regimes respond after a complaint is filed alleging that a lawyer has engaged in some kind of professional misconduct. One obvious shortcoming to this approach is that concerns are addressed only after they become problems. For clients and affected third parties, this type of “after the fact” regulation often provides little solace: lawyer discipline can be a lengthy, time-consuming process that yields little in the way of meaningful relief. Obviously, it would be preferable if the problem never occurred in the first place. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Good Character and Bad Regulation

Introduction
 On May 21, 2013 Matt Maurer posted on SLAW noting that the Law Society of Upper Canada had decided that Ryan Manilla was of sufficiently good character to be admitted as a member, reversing its prior decision that he lacked such character (here).

In this post I place the Manilla decision in the context of the broader application of the good character requirement for Law Society admission and, in particular, in the context of the Federation of Law Societies’ recommendations for reforming that requirement ((National Admissions Standards Phase 1 Report). My comments reflect my . . . [more]

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The Access to Clothing Crisis

Access to Clothing[1] is a complex issue that seems almost impossible to effectively address. Some consider it one of our most pressing issues[2]. The well-off continue to be able to afford appropriate clothing for all occasions. The least fortunate amongst us are able to access free or subsidized clothing to be worn during the most important events in their lives. The middle class cannot afford to purchase clothing at all.

To the great discomfort of businesses, restaurants and hosts and hostesses everywhere, most members of the middle-class have given up wearing purchased clothes entirely. Many people now . . . [more]

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Overseas Adventures: a Quick Look at the Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales

In the Canadian legal press, England and Wales is often presented as something of a regulatory boogieman. We are continually warned that, if we don’t shape up, we will lose the ability to self-regulate, just like those poor English lawyers! An equally strong undercurrent of anxiety percolates around English forays into non-lawyer ownership of law firms. References to “floodgates” and “earthquakes” abound; our calm Canadian sensibilities are aflutter. For a population that so often asserts itself as “not-American”, it seems like a new rallying cry has taken hold for many in the legal profession: anything but England!

Often lost in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

The Curious Case of the Non-Lawyer Attorney General: White Tiger of the Legal System

Must the highest legal officer in the land be a lawyer? Surprisingly, the answer is no.

Recently, the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from a decision of the BC Supreme Court that held that the appointment of a non-lawyer Attorney General (the Honourable Shirley Bond) did not breach that province’s Legal Profession Act. In Askin v. Law Society of British Columbia, 2012 BCSC 895, Madam Justice Stromberg-Stein held that “the Legal Profession Act cannot be read in a manner which limits the Lieutenant Governor’s absolute and unfettered right to appoint members to the Executive . . . [more]

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I Gotta Tell Ya, It’s Complicated! Candour Owed to Clients1

In R. v. Neil, Justice Binnie stated that the duty of candour was an aspect of the duty of loyalty. As Justice Binnie put it, an aspect of the duty of loyalty is

a duty of candour with the client on matters relevant to the retainer

The fiduciary duty of candour was the basis for the earlier decision of the Supreme Court of Canada with respect to physicians in McInerney v. MacDonald,

While not previously said quite so plainly, it has long been clear that fiduciaries owe a duty of candour to their beneficiaries. As the B.C. Court . . . [more]

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The “Human Excellence” of Judging

The decision by Justice O’Donnell in R. v. Duncan (on SLAW here) has gained some notoriety in the legal community ((Katie Daubs, “Legal Decision with literary flourish and dry wit making the round…”, Toronto Star, March 29, 2013) and was the subject of a SLAW post by Simon Fodden (The Judge’s Tale, April 2, 2013). In his post Simon referred to a discussion on the Canadian Legal Ethics Listserv, and to criticisms made of Duncan there. I was one of those critics, and will explain in this column my claim that when a judge writes a . . . [more]

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Beyond the Quid Pro Quo Premise: The Legal Profession and the Public Interest

The Canadian legal profession has never been shy to rationalize and justify its role in society. The public relations campaign launched by the Ontario Bar Association in February is just the latest in a long history of institutional advertising efforts tracing as far back as the 1930s when the Saskatchewan Law Society placed a series of advertisements in a farm weekly.

A new urgency, however, now colours our collective efforts. What it means (and will mean) to be a lawyer has perhaps never been more uncertain. In other jurisdictions, new and disruptive business structures are radically changing once taken-for-granted “rules . . . [more]

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Ronald Dworkin and Canadian Legal Ethics

Legal philosopher and Oxford and NYU Law Professor Ronald Dworkin died last month. Dworkin was arguably the most influential legal mind of his generation. Throughout his many writings, Dworkin argued that there was a moral content to law and to many of the phrases contained in the American Constitution. He strongly influenced legal scholarship and teaching in the United States and around the world, including Canada. Dworkin’s fingerprints can be seen in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, its interpretation by the Supreme Court of Canada and in much academic writing in this country. 

Dworkin has also cast a giant . . . [more]

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The Successor Counsel Problem

The story of Griffiths Energy’s unlawful payments to the Chad ambassador’s wife led last month’s news. Attention focused on the company’s self-disclosure and investigation, and also on the involvement by high profile Canadian lawyers in the original unlawful transaction. Based on the media reports so far, it seems that Griffiths was originally represented by the Heenan Blaikie firm. That firm advised Griffiths that the company “could not make or offer or give an advantage or do anything directly or indirectly with [Chad] Ambassador Bechir”. Griffiths then retained the MacLeod Dixon firm, and had MacLeod Dixon paper the transaction in which . . . [more]

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Lost in Translation? Differing Perspectives on Legal Ethics

As a first post on legal ethics, it seems appropriate to ask “what exactly are we talking about”. The answer isn’t as simple as one might think given the number of different perspectives involved.

Courts set (or reflect) legal ethics in cases involving lawyers. Law Societies set legal ethics in codes of conduct and in discipline cases. Legal scholars posit appropriate legal ethics, either as a matter of formal legal reasoning or from varying philosophical perspectives. Practising lawyers develop their own sense of legal ethics in part from these other sources and in part from their participation in the legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics