The Myth that Lawyers Believe in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

In case you missed it, the Law Society of Ontario now requires lawyers to prepare and embrace a ‘Statement of Principles‘ regarding diversity in their practices.  I have been critical of the initiative because, at the end of the day, it requires no more than yet another act of lip service to fix real diversity deficits in the senior bar and judiciary of Ontario in relation to the public they serve. At the end of the day, most law firms and public legal institutions already have diversity mission statements and accommodation policies as good as any drawn up by our…

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Drama and Irony in a Canadian Courtroom?

With the nation riveted to news reports from a fraud, breach of trust and bribery trial in an Ottawa courtroom, Canada reaches a milestone in its legal history.  Behold, Canadians as mass spectators of our justice system “get” the role of dramatic irony, the narrative device used by playwrights to exploit the discrepancy between audience knowledge…

Obergefell v. Hodges’ invocation of liberty and due process, instead of substantive equality

The release today of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges will today be debated by popular pundits, and in the days and years to come, studied by legal scholars and school children.  Beyond the debate among American conservatives and liberals, the decision of a sharply divided court continues a philosophical debate as old as the American Constitution itself.  What is “liberty” and can the state deprive its citizens of it without due process? The dissenting opinion warned us that the interpretation of liberty in the Due Process provisions of the U.S. 14th Amendment to encompass the right to…

Getting to know your inner ejusdem generis

With increasing frequency, one reads arguments by lawyers arguing their clients have a “strong” case or defence based on an interpretation of a contractual or statutory provision is so wrong, it is enough to make one weep.  Beyond the common complaint about the literacy of lawyers in their everyday correspondence or speech, the inexcusable lack of legal…

Pleading the Blues in Franglais, before Ontario Courts

It took a week, but the court finally accepted their own prescribed form. Last week, I launched a motion on behalf of a francophone client. The bilingual registrar at the court house refused to accept the Notice of Motion because it did not employ a literal translation of the English text of the rule and court form. When my court clerk relayed my advice that the Notice employed the French version of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, as well as the corresponding court form, the registrar still rejected it. Only after arming the clerk with the form from the Attorney General’s own website,…

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 if … counsel had adduced better evidence? Deguise v. Montminy showed us the ‘What if’

Last July, in Deguise v. Montminy, 2014 QCCS 2672 the Québec Superior Court had occasion to revisit these issues from in Alie v. Bertrand & Frere Construction Co. Ltd., 2002 CanLII 31835, applying the Ontario Court of Appeal decision in that 2002 case to civil law concepts relating to allocation of responsibility among insurers in complex construction and property damage cases.  Many of the rulings in the decision were specific to Québec civil law. In one aspect, however, the case provided an opportunity to test the writer’s hypothesis that the Alie court called on parties and counsel to present expert…

ABCD’s of Litigation Prevention

No one, apart from litigation lawyers and patent trolls, likes litigation.  Or derives much happiness from it.  Then why do we offer ourselves to the public as litigation lawyers?  It is escape from litigation that our clients want, and these days we offer the escape only after costly proceedings and discovery.  What, then, if we started…

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.…