– Group of young(ish) Toronto Lawyers set out to reform their profession

A group of young(ish) Toronto lawyers are telling some inconvenient truths on their new blog. Hopefully they will retain their mission when members of the Bay Street Boys Club start refusing to shake their hands in court. DB

Some excerpts from Allison Hines’ article ‘Thou Shalt Not Bring the Justice System into Disrepute’

Allison Hines, Toronto lawyer

Allison Hines, Toronto lawyer

I’m talking about the people who do not equate the words “justice system” with “justice”, for which I am one. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am proud to work in the justice system as a lawyer. I’m proud to have the opportunity to help marginalized people maneuver through the system, and to be someone who understands what it’s like to have distrust for the very thing that you’re hoping will allow you to access your rights…this time. I also acknowledge that even though the justice system isn’t perfect, it does provide protection and dignity to many.

However, I see too many flaws and too often. I see that our current system was born from and still imitates feudalism, where inequality and unchecked intergenerational privilege make a mockery of our constitutional rights. These flaws truncate individual rights proving the system to be illegitimate in the eyes of many.  Put simply, the system betrays many of its own people. It disrespects the rights and dignity of those who have no meaningful say in how the law is created, maintained, or carried out.


So, I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that instead of telling law students and lawyers not to bring the justice system into disrepute, I think we should be teaching them to question how we can bring the justice system into good standing, for all people, period. I know that what I have written here may seem very negative and critical. Hell, I’d even agree with that. However, I am saying these things because I am optimistic that things can change, but not without a critical view of how the system is working, or not working.

Read Allison’s full article at The Redline: Thou Shalt Not Bring the Justice System into Disrepute’

When big law firm lawyers won’t say ‘No’ to unethical demands from major clients

Canadian Bar Association’s Ethics Forum underlines why ordinary citizens should involve themselves in the discussion. Legal Ethics are too important to be left to the legal profession alone.

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

by Donald Best, former Sergeant, Detective, Toronto Police

In life and in legal practice, sometimes making an ethical decision is simple, even easy. Other times, doing the right thing, no matter how carefully considered, seems to be an impossiblity given all the circumstances.

In any profession the laws, practices, technologies and societal expectations are constantly changing in ways that make new difficulties for anyone trying to behave ethically. While I’m sure that plumbers and ceramic tile installers have their ethical concerns and codes of conduct, I think you’ll agree with me that along with medicine, the practice of law is probably one of the most difficult professions when it comes to the challenge of behaving ethically.

The Canadian Bar Association’s Ethics Forum is coming up on March 7, 2016. I won’t be attending but I just might next year after my book is published, because the one thing that seems to be missing at these conferences is the perspective from outside of the legal communities.

While some lawyers may not appreciate independent civilian involvement and oversight of the legal profession, virtually all ordinary Canadians I’ve spoken with agree that laws and the practice of law are far too important and foundational to our society to be left to lawyers alone.

The list of speakers and moderators at this year’s Ethics Forum includes many of the ‘Who’s Who’ leaders in the area of legal ethics. Malcolm Mercer (McCarthy Tetrault LLP) and Alice Woolley (University of Calgary) are the co-chairs. Dr. Steven Vaughan (University of Birmingham) will deliver the keynote speech.

Other panelists and moderators include:

  • Brent Cotter, University of Saskatchewan
  • Elaine Craig, Schulich School of Law
  • Adam Dodek, University of Ottawa
  • Allan Fineblit, Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP
  • Charles Gluckstein, Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers
  • Stephen Goudge, Paliare Roland LLP
  • Julia Holland, Torys LLP
  • Gavin Hume, Harris & Co
  • Jasminka Kalajdzic, Windsor Law School
  • Darrel Pink, Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society
  • Stephen Pitel, Western University
  • Amy Salyzyn, University of Ottawa
  • Noel Semple, Windsor Law School

Although I won’t be attending this year, I do have an ethical question for the panels to consider, especially in light of the topic of Dr. Vaughan’s keynote address about the too-cosy relationships between large law firms and some major clients:

Example Situation: A Large Law Firm lawyer acts unethically. Should the law firm refund the client’s payments for ‘work done’?

And just to make it interesting for the discussion panels at the Ethics Forum, the following example is real, and involves one of the law firms (but not the lawyers) participating on the panels:    Read more