Dealing With Conflicts of Interest

Presumably all Canadian Bar Association members received an email early this morning updating members on the work of the Task Force on Conflicts of Interest (Simon Chester is a consultant to the Task Force), which has just published a consultation paper “Practical Difficulties with Today’s Conflict of Interest Rules”. As the website notes, the paper “describes the current state of the conflicts requirements, reviews areas of particular concern, and asks a series of questions to find out what changes members of the legal profession feel may be necessary.”

Conflicts are an issue of growing importance. While large law firms are spending considerable time and resources addressing this issue, this is not just a large firm issue (yesterday, I tried to explain to a neighbour the circumstances under which a single lawyer could prepare a simple business agreement for both sides to the contract and when separate lawyers would be required).

The format of the consultation paper was new to me – it’s a rather lengthy document, which is not being “offered” in print format (of course the web pages themselves can be printed). Fifteen questions are embedded in the text – the authors hope that readers will take the time to read the paper online and provide answers to the questions as they read. The questions themselves can also be printed and answered the old fashioned way.

Will the Task Force publish details on what percentage of the responses were submitted electronically when they provide the actual results of the consultation paper? That information would be of interest to those of us who are always trying to figure out how to get the attention of lawyers.

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