It was a great pleasure to return to an in-person conference this year. Our host was the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University and we are indebted to Dean Jula Hughes, Wendy Parkes and their team, including several faculty members, for running a terrific event. We met October 20-22, 2022.
A formal welcome ceremony featured a land acknowledgement, an opening from Elder Gerry Martin and greetings from Deputy Chief Bobby Narcisse of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, the leadership of the Fort William First Nation, and Provost David Barnett.
One of the highlights was the session with legal regulators, coordinated by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, which focused on efforts being made in legal “sandboxes” in British Columbia, Ontario and the prairie provinces to create new ways to deliver legal services, especially to respond to unmet legal needs. Some of these initiatives focus on the use of new technology such as artificial intelligence. British Columbia has approved several pilot projects and Ontario anticipates its first approvals soon.
The panel on teaching considered two areas in which a legal ethics course could be expanded beyond its traditional contours. The first was to devote more attention to the issues facing lawyers who work for the government. The second was to add material on the legal ethics issues raised by new technologies, including the obligation to maintain an appropriate level of technological competence. There are so many interesting dimensions to legal ethics that it is increasingly challenging to decide what to cover and what to omit.
There were two research panels, from which two broad themes emerged. The first was a focus on EDI issues as they relate to legal ethics and professionalism. Should lawyers be under a duty to achieve substantive outcomes that promote equity? Can judicial impartiality be reconciled with improving judges’ awareness of Indigenous issues? How should the legal system respond to misgendering people in court? The second was a discussion of two empirical research projects. Researchers have been conducting interviews with lawyers who work with Indigenous clients and lawyers who devote energies to supporting social causes through their practice. There was also an interesting presentation about ethical issues raised by lawyers’ statements on Twitter, including offering legal advice or making negative statements about other lawyers.
The tone at our conference is casual; even probing or challenging questions were raised with a view to being helpful to the presenters. Being together in person also allowed all attendees to take advantage of the fine social events arranged by our hosts, including an Indigenous feast. We enjoyed another successful annual conference and we look forward to gathering next fall at the University of Victoria.