I’ve been an Articling Student at Cobb & Jones LLP for almost 10 months and as I reach the end of my articling term, I try to remain thoughtful of the duties and responsibilities of the profession I have chosen to enter. Lawyers are put in a position of trust not just by their clients but by society and it is important that we live up to the standards of that position.
The Law Society of Upper Canada, the body that governs the practice of law in Ontario, has a set of Rules of Professional Conduct that governs the duty of lawyers, and articling students, to clients and society. “A lawyer has a duty to carry on the practice of law and discharge all responsibilities to clients, tribunals the public and other members of the profession honourably and with integrity.”
A lawyer’s duties are mostly owed to the client. These duties include competence, confidentiality and loyalty. Competence includes knowing general legal principles, identifying issues, applying the skills we have acquired through education and practice, and communicating with our clients in a timely and effective manner.
We have a duty to keep client information confidential; however, there are instances when a lawyer must divulge confidential information if required by law or court order. We also have a competing duty though not to assist in any dishonesty, fraud, crime or illegal conduct. We have a duty to be honest and candid with clients.
Importantly, we have a duty to avoid conflicts of interest. Conflicts can arise in many different scenarios, including those caused by past clients, current clients, or the lawyer’s own personal interests.
We also have duties to the court. When appearing in court we must represent our clients “resolutely and honourably within the limits of the law while treating the tribunal with candour, fairness, courtesy and respect.” Part of this duty includes that we cannot deceive the court by misstating facts or law. We are also required to encourage compromise or settlement of claims whenever it is possible and reasonable.
We are required to be “courteous, civil, and act in good faith with everyone that we deal with.” We are required to agree to reasonable requests concerning things like trial dates, and adjournments, so long as it does not prejudice the rights of our clients.
A client should have high expectations of his or her lawyer. Lawyers are given a great privilege to practice law in Ontario by the law society. With this privilege, comes great responsibility. I hope that the law society will grant me this privilege, as I work hard to live up to the responsibilities of my chosen profession.
Scott Buchanan is an articling student at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. For more articles, visit the Library Page at www.cobbjones.ca