“Micro-ethical” issues key to teaching professionalism

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.

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Aucune substitution pour la lecture ~ Read what it says, not what you think it says

qrcode.18702879Last week, was speaking to a lawyer about a document, when I sensed he hadn’t even read it.

It was in French.  ‘How’s your French,’ I asked.  ‘Awful,’ he replied.  ‘I guess you haven’t read it,’ I continued.  ‘I expect it says what you say it says,’ he explained.  Alas.

In the final article in the Accidental Mentor, I share my memory of the late George Miller, an extraordinary lawyer.  He taught me never to interpret a document without reading it first.  Simple enough?  How many times have you broken that rule?  Scan or click on the QR Code above-right, to read the article.

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La semaine dernier, je parlais à un avocat et je me suis aperçu qu’il n’avait pas lu le document dont nous discutions.

Un document écrit en français.  ‘How is your French,’ lui dis-je.  ‘Awful,’ dit-il.  ‘I guess you haven’t read it,’ j’ai reprit.  ‘I expect it says what you say it says,’ il m’a expliqué.  Hélas.

Dans l’article finale du Accidental Mentor, je raconte mes souvenirs de George Miller, un avocat hors pair qui m’a appris de ne jamais interpréter un document sans le lire.  Ce n’est pas toujours si facile de suivre ce règle.  Lisez ou cliquez sur le code QR ci-dessus  pour accéder à l’article.

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Distilling the LSUC’s decision in Groia: An old debate between passion and reason


Want a break from reading the Law Society of Upper Canada’s 88-page Appeal Decision in Groia?  

Consider it a replay of that old Hume v. Kant debate: To what extent can the passions inform ethical behaviour?  Or, to extrapolate Sontag’s famous 1963 NYRB book review contrasting Camus with Sartre, the Groia appeal panel confirms that trial lawyers ought to be good ‘spouses’ and not try to be good ‘lovers.’  The Ideal Husband stands as one of the great essays of the 20th Century, and proves that great thought can be a light read.

Malheureusement, l’arrêt Groia n’est pas encore disponible en français.  Même le grand débat entre Camus et Sartre, réduit à un contraste entre un époux et un amant par Susan Sontag, doit être capturé en anglais – mais The Ideal Husband est une bonne lecture même après 50 ans.


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Lawyers as the public conscience of their clients

On October 16, as part of their joint professional development seminar, Current Topics in Ethics & Professionalism, the Toronto Lawyers Association and University of Toronto’s Centre for the Legal Profession will be staging “A Great Debate:  Should Lawyers Consider Themselves the Moral Conscience of their Clients?”  I will be debating in favour of the resolution.

If you are attending and want to prep for the debate, or can’t make it, read my September, 2013, column in the Canadian Lawyer entitled “Lawyers and their demons.” (click on graphic, above right)

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Le 16 octobre, l’Association des juristes de Toronto et le Centre du barreau de l’Université de Toronto présenteront , Current Topics in Ethics & Professionalism.  Durant ce programme de formation juridique, je discutera dans “le Grand débat” en faveur de la proposition:  Est-ce que les avocats doivent s’identifier en tant que le sens moral de leur clients?

Si vous vous inscrirez et voulez préparer en avance, ou vous ne pouvez pas nous rejoindre, baladez au site du Canadian Lawyer et cliquez sur mon article, “Lawyers and their demons.” (cliquez sur l’image en haut)

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Mentoring Site Launched for Real Estate Lawyers by OBA, CDLPA and ORELA

Real Property Lawyers: Are you in need of a mentor?  Would you mentor someone if you had the time?  Here is a possible solution for both.  The Working Group on Lawyers and Real Estate has undertaken a mentoring initiative on their web site, www.lawyersworkinggroup.com.  This mentoring initiative is set up so that everyone can participate with little effort.  Go to the site, see the question of the month, click on the suggested answers provided or add a comment and you’re done.

The Working Group encourages all Ontario real estate lawyers to visit the web site regularly or sign up for the email notification service and receive the new question when it is posted.  The Working Group will collate all the answers and may offer some further comment or reflection.

The survey responses are anonymous so everyone is encouraged to lend their opinion or practice standard.  The more lawyers around the province participate, the greater the issues can be canvassed and practical information be provided for all to see. Continue reading

Removing exceptions for better legal drafting ~ Supprimez les exceptions et rédiger mieux!

Here you are, but —  You see how the word ‘but’ is the harbinger of bad faith, how the grantor never intended to give without taking away or wanting something in return.  What flows from the use of the conjunction is a natural source of ambiguity.  The use of the exceptionalist style, so pervasive among lawyers, is also poor form because it weakens the product of our work.  In the July, 2013, Canadian Lawyer, my column explains how this happens and how we can reduce our addiction to the use of the word.  Click on the image to the right, to read further.

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Je vous le donne, mais —  Voyez que le mot ‘mais’ apporte la mauvaise foi dans chaque phrase.  Et de l’ambiguité.  Cela fait partie d’une style exceptionnaliste qu’aiment tous les avocats dans leur travail.  Dans l’article de juillet 2013 dans Canadian Lawyer, je propose une stratégie pour réduire cette faute.  Cliquez sur l’image du mot ‘BUT’ pour accéder à l’article.

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The Ambiguity of Merit ~ Le Mérite et son ambiguité

Is it earned? Or is it an entitlement?  We never quite get our mind around the concept of merit, although it is among the most recurring themes in Canadian law, and despite its importance to every lawyer’s career.  In this month’s Accidental Mentor column, the writer takes the plunge into the ambiguous meaning of merit.  Click on the image to read the article.

Qu’est-ce ça veut dire, que l’on ‘mérite.’  Verbe transitif et non-transitif, et nom masculin terminé d’un ‘e’.  En droit canadien, la signification du mérite est soumise à des usages différents à différents points dans une carrière juridique. Malgré son importance pour le bien-être de tous d’avocats et les avocates, très peu entre nous prennent le temps à y penser.  Dans l’article du mois dans Accidental Mentor, l’écrivain essaie de creuser dans la sémiologie du mot mérite.  Cliquez sur l’image pour accéder à l’article.

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