From Bar Leadership Skills

B.C. Law Society abdicates self-governance in favour of non-governance

This afternoon, the Law Society of British Columbia voted 20-10 to hold a referendum on the issue of accreditation of the Trinity Western University.  This came after a vote of 9-21 against deciding to overturn its previous decision in April to grant accreditation.* That first motion arose from a non-binding resolution of a special general meeting of the entire B.C. Bar, held in June.  A third motion, to defer any decision, was obviated by the decision to hold a referendum. In deciding to hold a referendum, the B.C. benchers have abdicated their responsibility as the directors of a self-governing profession.  Either they…

End the Trinity Western Law School Deadlock without Litigation

On June 10, rank and file members of the Law Society of British Columbia voted to require their elected Benchers to reverse course on Trinity Western University’s bid for a new faith-based law school.  According to s. 13 of the B.C. Legal Profession Act, the vote is not binding on Benchers, at least for a grace period of 12 months.  If the Benchers do not implement the resolution within 12 months, they face the prospect of a referendum to be conducted in accordance with poll rules identical to that of a Bencher election, under art. 1-37 of the Law Society Rules (p.…

Why law societies must act to preserve university law libraries (updated)

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…

Why judges’ political activism also hurts lawyers

The Law Times reported that an Ontario Superior Court Justice is facing a complaint by an oil sands advocacy group to the Canadian Judicial Council for his role in a public mock trial of environmentalist David Suzuki at the Royal Ontario Museum this past November 6.  The basis for the complaint is that the judge’s participation in a political event compromised his judicial impartiality.  Another judge of the same court had originally agreed to participate, but later withdrew in the face of a similar objection. Judges have long been criticized for “judicial activism,” especially since the advent of the Canadian Charter of…

“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),…

2013 : The year of ethical lapses among high-performing professionals

If there has been a mystery from the events of 2013, it is the emergence in Canadian public life of respected professionals as instigators of questionable deals and conflicts of interest.  The intrigue surrounding Senator Mike Duffy captured national attention, but we were also mindful of the fact that, in Québec, it was getting hard to find anyone with a clean past to step into the glare of municipal politics.  In law, we ended the year with the disappearance and death of Javed Heydary, and the trail of missing millions from his trust account. What is common to the cast…

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.…

An iTunes for law? Think the unthinkable retail experience.

As shoppers file past the packaged meat counter at a Korean Tesco’s built into a subway platform, brings the groceries to commuters, then delivers them to their homes.  The virtual grocery, sort of like iTunes for those who want the record store browsing experience, might give us a glimpse of the law firm of the future. Never has the market for legal services been so mismatched.  The courts, especially in family law, are bursting at the seams with pro se litigants.  Firms, on the other hand, resist cutting back on essentials like supper club memberships for partners.  The reality is…

Mentoring diverse professionals: Let history be the teacher

The most difficult part of mentorship is convincing the new members of our profession that they belong.  The reason why anyone belongs anywhere is a question of history.  Whose grandfather took the train to Toronto?  Whose parents were rescued from a refugee camp?  Whose ancestors were brought here against their will?  How you arrived in the Canadian legal profession concludes with your degree in law and a place among our nation’s lawyers.  It is a story you need to tell yourself, or have someone take an interest in having you tell it. In the October article in the Canadian Lawyer’s Accidental…