Henry Higgins, in My Fair Lady, famously sang, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” For Higgins, an elocution teacher who traded in British class prejudice by offering to improve clients’ social standing through posh talk, the education of a woman was essentially a troublesome Alternative Business Structure (ABS) – he could work with the moving parts but the brain remained a mystery.
The Final Report of the Canadian Bar Association’s Legal Futures Initiative, released today, appears to be a multifaceted atlas mapping out a strategy for renewal of Canada’s law industry. There are many good thoughts in it, including a premise that “The future for lawyers is as much about ethics and values as it is about economics and value.” That equation is somewhat betrayed by the simple textual metric that the word “value” in the sense of economic value is used more than twice as often than in the sense of ethical values. Review of the report from beginning to end bears out this imbalance. In reality, there is no shortage of Darwinian zeal when it comes to the core message: Change or Die.
A report in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix that the University of Saskatchewan plans to eliminate its law library and integrate the collection with three other campus libraries into the main university library prompted protest from many in the legal academy. One of the requirements set by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) is that a law school maintain a law library (2009 FLSC report pp. 5, 11 and 42).
The argument that many students and practitioners now gain access to legal resources online ignores the importance of the tangible written word on the rule of law. A row of books, even ones that are “out of date,” serve to remind the public, as well as judges and lawyers, that even the common law is engraved in modern versions of stone tablets for all to view, not suspended in an oral tradition guarded by a few oracles.
In a much-anticipated research paper on training lawyers to be ethical professionals, Shelley M. Kierstead of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School and University of Toronto’s Erika Abner have published groundbreaking work in “Learning Professionalism in Practice.” How and where do lawyers learn to be professional? What are the modes of learning? Is professional ethics the responsibility of law society regulators, the legal academy, or the profession? Can ethical lawyers bring “swimmers” onto their lifeboat?
The paper, funded by a fellowship grant from the Chief Justice of Ontario’s Advisory Committee on Professionalism (now the OBA Foundation Chief Justice of Ontario Fellowships in Legal Ethics and Professionalism), explores the occupational setting of lawyers as an environment replete with “micro-ethical moments”:
“Mindful practice, which incorporates self-awareness and critical reflection on these micro-ethical moments, is learned through apprenticeship models that allow for on-going modeling, close observation, reflection and feedback. In particular, new learners learn to develop a certain level of comfort with uncertainty – a hallmark of professional practice.”
To review the abstract and paper, click here. For more information regarding the fellowships, visit the OBA Foundation Chief Justice of Ontario Fellowships site.