From Bar Leadership Skills

Originalism as misnamed judicial legacy of the Scalia years – 1986-2016

Yesterday, in The Supreme Battle, Canadian constitutional scholar Adam Dodek described a side of the late Antonin Scalia, that few even in the legal community hardly ever saw: a U.S. Supreme Court justice willing to subject himself to honest intellectual debate among peers, even once with Canada’s former Supreme Court justice and champion of legal pragmatism, Ian Binnie. Dodek nevertheless attributed the lack of success of Canadian legal conservatives to too much inspiration from Scalia, whose strident ideology has found little favour here.  Despite the recent appointment to Canadian courts of jurists reportedly following Scalia’s brand of constitutional fundamentalism, it will take more than that…

Jaggers and the Law Society rule governing trust accounts

Fans of Charles Dickens’ novels will know that his lawyers are practitioners of an obscure art.  In that regard, they are plot devices, agents of change in the course of principal characters’ lives.  None is more iconic than Jaggers, or Mr. Jaggers, in Great Expectations.  The trustee of a sum of money left by an anonymous benefactor to the orphaned working-class boy Pip, Jaggers is instructed to disburse funds necessary to make Pip a gentleman.  The secret identity of the benefactor, not revealed until nearly the story’s end, is the source of a significant malentendu that drives Pip’s actions and character development. No one…

Early Lesson from the Duffy Trial: The Bar needs to focus, not wince at a “bright line” rule

Amid the media frenzy over the morality play unfolding in an Ottawa courtroom, the bar has a lesson to glean from the argument over the interaction between the Canadian Senate’s expense rules and the Criminal Code.  (“Blame the rules, not Mike Duffy, defence says“; “Mike Duffy trial: Defence to continue attack on vagueness of Senate rules.”) Mr. Duffy’s defence lawyer contends the Senate’s self-imposed rules permitted practices such as claiming housing expenses for property in the province of a senator’s appointment, even though the senator resided in another province most of the time.  The Crown argues strict observance of this expense rule, to satisfy a questionable…

What is the Dollar Footprint of that 2015 Bencher Campaign Email or Flyer?

After the last Law Society Bencher election, four years ago, rumours abounded that one candidate had spent over $100,000 in campaign expenses.  This time around, there is a lot of talk about opening up the Law Society’s leadership to more diverse candidates.  The fact remains that, like any other form of politics, money plays a part in the democratic process. If you get an email from a bencher candidate, or a post card in the office mail, don’t immediately delete it or throw it in the blue bin.  First, think how much it cost to get that email or admail…

Post-Mortem, CBA Futures Debate on ABS

On February 21, I participated in the panel debate on Alternative Business Structures (ABS) at the plenary CBA meetings in Ottawa, for which I had provided my preliminary speaking notes on this blog.  I left the debate feeling there is no business plan for allowing non-lawyers and corporations to share in the delivery of legal services: in…

How origins of ABS in U.K. and Australian Law differ from Canada

“Everything you want to know about ABS but are afraid to ask.”  That is the name of the panel discussion at the Mid-Winter Meeting of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) on February 21, in which CBA has asked me to represent a skeptic’s perspective on the Alternative Business Structures (ABS) recommendations of the CBA Futures Committee.…

Judges judging judges: The Douglas Inquiry exposed its flawed process

My recent post on the conclusion of the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) Inquiry into the Douglas Inquiry urged for a better and clearer articulation of the reasons for removal of federally-appointed judges from office.   After realizing late that a procedure in the hands of her judicial colleagues was in fact a runaway train, the former Associate Chief Justice of…

Diversity Awareness and Cultural Competency as Core Skills for Canadian Lawyers

Later today, I will have the privilege of participating in a working group of the Chief Justice of Ontario’s Advisory Committee on Professionalism tasked with modernizing the basic principles of professionalism for lawyers.  High in priority is the importance of integrating equity, diversity and cultural competency into the package that lawyers must offer the public. Historically an afterthought The equity and diversity file has historically been an afterthought, tucked into the discussion after other ‘Wonder Bread’ aspects of professional merit are given full airing.  This has been a fault of those leading the discussion.  It is time to turn the agenda…

Stop letting the TWU controversy make fools of the Canadian bar

It came to my notice that my last post on the British Columbia Law Society’s handling of the accreditation of Trinity Western Law School may have appeared at odds with a prior entry encouraging a negotiated solution.  In the September 26 post, “B.C. Law Society abdicates self-governance in favour of non-governance,” I stated that the decision to refer the decision to a referendum before the expiry of a statutory 12-month period was an abdication of the Law Society’s duty to govern the affairs of the legal profession.  Further, the referendum option can only be invoked by a petition from the membership, not the governing…