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Archive for the ‘Legal Ethics’ Columns

Regulating Lawyer-Client Sex

In Canada we allow lawyers to have sex with their clients. Or, to be precise: we do not prohibit lawyers from having sex with their clients.

Canadian law societies do regulate lawyer-client sex in a limited way. Almost all law societies prohibit sexual harassment.[1] And most law societies also identify lawyer-client sex as potentially creating conflicts of interest. They identify sexual relationships with clients as the sort of thing that may “conflict with the lawyer’s duty to provide objective, disinterested professional advice to the client” and which may “permit exploitation of the client” (FLS Model Code Rule 3.4-1, Commentary . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Preliminary Thoughts on Green, Groia and TWU

In the last thirty years, Law Societies have been parties before the Supreme Court of Canada in thirteen cases according to CanLII[i] [ii]. Four of these cases have been decided in the last fifteen months[iii]. While others will delve more deeply into this recent jurisprudence, it is interesting to take a preliminary look at the way that the Court has understood the role, responsibility and jurisdiction of the Law Societies. It is noteworthy that the court has been divided in each of these four cases.

In Green v. LSM [iv], the Court upheld mandatory suspension . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

See No Evil? Could “Innovation Waivers” Help Break Roadblocks to Reforming Legal Service Delivery?

We need to be more creative and bold when it comes to legal service delivery. To use a well-worn, if ambiguous, phrase: we need to innovate! Among legal circles, this refrain has so thickly hung in the air for so long that it is almost baked into the wall-paper like its cousin refrain: there is an access to justice crisis!

The fact that we repeatedly hear about the need for legal service innovation and for improved access to justice does not, of course, mean that these are not important, pressing goals. To the contrary, there is compelling evidence to suggest . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Measuring Legal Service Value, Part 2

What makes a great law firm? How can one quantify just how great a firm is, and compare it to its competitors? Last time in this space I suggested that legal service value has four elements (full paper here):

  • To the extent that a firm gets good legal results for its clients, it has effectiveness value.
  • To the extent that the firm’s fees are low and easy to pay, it has affordability value.
  • The more the firm’s practices minimize clients’ time and stress costs, the more client experience value it has.
  • Finally, if the firm’s work
. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Ethics

The Never-Ending Debate: What Should Be Required in Order to Become a Lawyer?

The qualifications required of new Ontario lawyers has been the subject of virtually continuous debate for generations. Starting in the late 1950s, being called to the bar required (i) a law school degree, (ii) practical training through the bar admissions course and (iii) an articling apprenticeship. The bar admissions course came to an end in the 2000s. A law practice program (the LLP) has recently been added as an alternative to articling. The qualifications debate continues with the focus now being whether articling and/or the LLP should continue and, if so, in what form. The central question today is what, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Law Schools’ Dirty Little Secret

Left-leaning social justice warriors have captured Canadian law schools. So goes recent commentary in the National Post (see, e.g. recent columns by Barbara Kay, Bruce Pardy and Christie Blatchford). Law profs “espouse and impose a particular set of values or opinions and a way of thinking” (Blatchford, emphasis added).

I am not persuaded. As explained below, this commentary is unsupported by relevant evidence and inconsistent with core features of Canadian legal education. I do, however, accept one of its basic premises: law schools have a public interest mandate. They have duties to their students, to the system of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Legal Ethics

Is the Law Society of Ontario Still Donating to Political Parties?

One benefit of being a regular Slaw columnist is the ability to revisit previous columns. Roughly four years ago, I wrote a column titled “Why Is the Law Society Donating to Political Parties?: Some Answers and Questions” where I explored and questioned the fact that the LSO (then LSUC) made donations totalling $21,000 in 2013 to the provincial Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties, as reported in a Law Times article.

At the time, the Law Society explained, in part, that “[c]ontributions are only made through the purchase of tickets to attend events hosted by the parties and/or elected politicians” and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Lawyers Should Not Abuse Their Perceived Legal Authority in Public Debate

Professor Bruce Pardy is not a constitutional law expert. His scholarship in peer-reviewed journals is largely on environmental law. Yet, over the past several months, the Queen’s Law professor has commented in the lay media on constitutional law issues.

In one instance, on October 3, 2017, the National Post published Pardy’s opposition to the Law Society’s new Statement of Principles requirement, citing selected Charter free speech jurisprudence as his underlying support. A policy that compels lawyers to privately acknowledge equality-related obligations, Pardy argues, is compelled speech and akin to authoritarian rule.

Publicly sharing opinions in the Post is not . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Measuring Legal Service Value, Part 1

If you work at a law firm, how good is that firm? If you’re a client or potential client, how good are the different legal services providers that you might choose to patronize?

It’s too difficult, at present, to answer these questions in an objective and reliable way. This is most obviously true for individual people with legal needs. They generally confront a mysterious landscape populated with apparently indistinguishable law firms, as well as proliferating alternative sources of legal services.

However, even experienced corporate clients, and lawyers themselves, lack solid information about the respective merits of different legal service providers. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

Against a Lawyer’s Duty to Be “Zealous” or “Resolute”

Canadian lawyers have a legal duty of resolute or zealous advocacy. Law society codes of conduct direct lawyers to represent clients “resolutely and honourably” (FLS Model Code, Rule 5.1-1). The Supreme Court of Canada says that a core aspect of a lawyer’s duty of loyalty is the “duty of commitment to the client’s cause (sometimes referred to as ‘zealous representation’)” (R v Neil 2002 SCC 70 at para. 19).

Not everyone likes those duties. They worry that they implicitly endorse lawyer aggression. They think duties of honour and integrity, and as an officer of the court, ought to govern . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

What Can We Learn From the English ABS Experience After Five Years?

After five years of ABS liberalization in England (and Wales), it is worth having a look at what has happened. Surprisingly and significantly, the answer is “not much”.

ABS liberalization in England

A decade ago, Legal Services Act 2007 brought about significant changes to the practice of law in England. These changes included allowing what were called alternative business structures to provide legal services where only lawyers were previously permitted to serve clients. The first alternative business structures were licensed in late 2011.

The essential idea of alternative business structures is that constraining ownership of legal practices constrains competition and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

An Ethical Jury? Reflections on the Acquittal of Gerald Stanley for the Murder/Manslaughter of Colten Boushie

We understand the ethical duties of lawyers and judges in a criminal trial – what they ought to do, what their office requires of them. Sure, we argue about the details (e.g., me on prosecutors), but in general we know what defence lawyers, prosecutors and judges ought to do. Yet as shown by Gerald Stanley’s acquittal by a jury on charges of murder and manslaughter after his admitted killing of Colten Boushie, lawyers and judges are not the only people relevant to the functioning of a criminal trial. Juries also hear evidence and decide outcomes.

So what of jurors? . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics