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Archive for the ‘Legal Ethics’ Columns

The Legal Ethics of Delay

Canada has one of the world’s better justice systems, according to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index. We are ranked 12th out of 140 world countries by the WJP. Delay, however, is a major Achilles’ Heel. (1)  

  • When it comes to providing timely justice in civil matters, Canada ranks only 56th worldwide according to the WJP Index. We received a failing grade of 47% for this, the lowest among 44 sub-factor scores for Canada. In Ontario, for example, the average civil trial occurs over five years after the Statement of Claim was delivered. 
  • Some administrative tribunals provide
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Posted in: Legal Ethics

AI and Legal Ethics 2.0: Continuing the Conversation in a Post-ChatGPT World

Six months ago, I wrote a column about ChatGPT and other tools using large language models (“LLMs”). My aim there was to introduce this technology to readers and briefly outline intersections with legal ethics and access to justice issues. This column provides an update on this topic, including a deeper dive into legal ethics considerations.

I. What are we talking about?

My previous column included a basic overview about how ChatGPT and other tools built on LLMs work. I reshare the following two quotes as a starting point here:

A basic explanation of how ChatGPT works:

“It is trained on

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Ethics, Legal Technology

Five Legal Ethics and Regulation Considerations When Starting a New Practice

I recently started my own practice. There’s a lot to do and a lot to think about—but seeing as I practice in the area of professional responsibility, one of my foremost concerns was ensuring my new firm would comply with Law Society requirements.

From my recent experience, here are five things to think about from an ethics and professionalism perspective if you are opening your own firm or solo practice:

  1. Transferring clients: If you are leaving a firm, discuss which (if any) clients you wish to bring with you as soon as possible. Importantly, you cannot unilaterally decide that
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Posted in: Legal Ethics

Torts and Family Violence: Ahluwalia v Ahluwalia

By: Jennifer Koshan and Deanne Sowter, cross-posted to

Case Commented On: Ahluwalia v Ahluwalia, 2022 ONSC 1303 (Can LII); 2023 ONCA 476 (CanLII)

Intimate partner violence (IPV) takes many forms, all of which cause harm to survivors (who are disproportionately women and children). In August, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada declared that gender-based violence is an epidemic. However, only certain forms of IPV were subject to legal sanction historically – primarily physical and sexual abuse, although sexual assault against a spouse was only criminalized in 1983 (see Criminal Code, RSC 1985, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

The Return of KCs in Ontario: Turning Lemonade Into Lemons

By reviving the long-defunct “King’s Counsel” designation in his province, Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey has succeeded in taking what should have been a good news story and turning it into a scandal.  

The first hint of a possible issue was the making of the announcement by press release on Friday, June 30th just prior to the Canada Day long weekend. This is a time to bury news, not to make news. In the parlance of the much-beloved political classic The West Wing, this practice is referred to as “take out the trash day”.

In the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

The Cream of the Crop? King’s Counsel and Certified Specialists in Ontario

So, you need a lawyer. Who are you going to call? There are more than 50,000 to choose from in Ontario. Each one is officially licensed to handle any and all legal needs, but most are not competent to help with your particular need, and an even smaller number would be ideal for you. It can be very difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, especially if you haven’t worked with lawyers in the past.

If a would-be client is confused by the options, and doesn’t have someone knowledgeable they can ask, it would be sensible to look at . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

The King’s Counsel Title and the Need for a “Reasonable Evaluative Process”

The controversy over the Ontario government’s resurrection of the King’s Counsel designation is now in its third week. And interest in the controversy is not limited to the legal community alone; yesterday, the Toronto Star reported (at the top of its website): “Advertising ‘King’s Counsel’ titles may violate Ontario lawyers’ rules on misleading marketing, experts caution”.

Let’s explore that further.

The Star article quoted four experts: a law professor (Slaw legal ethics columnist Amy Salyzyn); two former Treasurers of the Law Society of Ontario (“LSO”); and the current Treasurer, Jacqueline Horvat, who, according to the article, had . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Time for Campaign Finance Reform for LSO Elections?


The recent Bencher election for the Law Society of Ontario (the “LSO”) was a heated and political affair. Candidates presented themselves for election, publicized platform commitments, communicated with electors by email and pamphlet, and even, controversially, organized themselves into competing slates. It had the look and feel of the kind of election we are all familiar with for federal, provincial, or municipal office. One of the differences, however, is that those other elections all have meaningful campaign finance legislation that regulates money in politics. While By-Law 3 sets out in detail some aspects of LSO elections, it is silent . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Wrongful Convictions and Wrongful Exonerations

My wife was assaulted by a stranger in downtown Toronto, in January of 2020. She was walking through the underground passage from the Eaton Centre into the Queen TTC station. A man suddenly ran up and kicked her in the leg. She was rattled, and her leg was bruised, but she got over it within a few weeks.

She was lucky. A few weeks later the same man attacked another woman, in the same mall. This time he approached his victim from the back and hit her on the head. This lady suffered a serious concussion, and couldn’t work for . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Re-Imagining the Notion of “Pride” in the Legal Profession

The Path to Pride

The year is 2001. The legal profession in Ontario is in disarray after several law students at the University of Toronto’s law school were caught fraudulently altering their grades to secure prestigious Bay Street summer positions. Many of these students were disciplined. Yet, in the eyes of the legal priesthood, this also necessitated a macro-level response.

Accordingly, some of the profession’s best and brightest were corralled together under the leadership of the then-Chief Justice of Ontario, Roy McMurtry, to define the elements of professionalism for lawyers. Understandably, the Advisory Committee on Professionalism, as it was . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

From “a History of Exclusion” to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”: What May Have Gone Wrong in the Pursuit of the New Notion of Professionalism

Today, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (“DEI”) practices have become indispensable in almost every legal workplace. DEI practices aim to promote a new notion of professionalism, one where individuals from all walks of life enjoy fair treatment and full participation. “Merry Christmas” has become “Happy Holidays”. Profiles of Black and Asian-looking lawyers surge during Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month. Rainbows are slapped onto logos before the pride parades. Land recognitions are performed before major events.

However, do these actions mean this new notion of professionalism is working well?

Where It Starts: DEI as a Departure from a “History of

. . . [more]
Posted in: Law Student Week, Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

You Are Where You Eat: The Influence Your Colleagues Will Have on Your Relationship With Legal Ethics

Ethics are the core of the legal profession, guiding lawyers, young and old in their interactions with clients, the public, and the bar. Each jurisdiction maintains a Code of Professional Conduct as a set of rules for lawyers to follow as members of the profession to maintain the profession’s honour and dignity. Much of each Code is open to interpretation and therefore can only form part of a lawyer’s approach to ethical conduct. Every lawyer also relies on their personal ethics, character, and the advice of their mentors, colleagues, and peers.

This short paper will address the challenges of ethical . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Legal Ethics