Conference Recap 2022

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.

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Conference Recap 2021

This year’s annual conference was held over Zoom, as public health conditions continue to make in-person gatherings difficult. We had intended to gather at Lakehead University but instead its planning team, led by Jula Hughes and Wendy Parkes, enabled us to meet online. The conference was held October 22-23, 2021. A full agenda for the conference is available elsewhere on this site. The conference featured a more formal opening than in some prior years, including a welcome from Elder-in-Residence Gerry Martin and greetings from Chief Peter Collins of the Fort William First Nation and Deputy Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

One highlight was the session on legal regulation which looked at what several law societies are doing in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. Initiatives include mentoring programs for Indigenous lawyers and new continuing professional development programs with Indigenous content and perspectives. There are ongoing debates about what level of competence should be required of the profession and whether particular aspects, such as educational courses, should be mandatory. As an example, Alberta has made the completion of an online course about Indigenous cultural competency training mandatory. Other provinces and territories are considering how to proceed.

Another highlight was a special session on the new Ethical Principles for Judges adopted by the Canadian Judicial Council earlier this year. Several commentators with expertise in the area of judicial ethics offered their perspectives on the most important changes. One of the key themes of the session was the need to update and develop the Ethical Principles on more of an ongoing basis rather than once each generation or so.

The session on teaching legal ethics considered the benefits to students of exposure to real-world discipline cases and ways to address curriculum gaps relating to particular groups. It also featured a debate about the importance of instilling certain ethical values in students. All presentations fueled the notion that teaching legal ethics to the next generation of lawyers is an important responsibility that involves difficult choices in structuring and delivering the course.

The conference featured five presentations about recent research activities by CALE/ACEJ members. These were about (a) ethical issues facing in-house counsel in the Canadian context, (b) the duty on Attorneys General to encourage respect for the administration of justice (and how that relates to potential criticisms of judicial decisions or processes), (c) making decisions to take on litigation clients in cases that are highly unpopular, (d) adopting a modified resolute advocacy model for transnational environmental and human rights litigation involving extractive industry clients and (e) what lawyers should know about the obligations on psychologists concerning the release of patient files for use in legal proceedings.

As usual, the tone was largely informal, allowing for significant debate and disagreement without animosity or hostility. The 40 or so attendees found the material rich and engaging. The obvious drawback was the inability to connect in person and relax in a social setting after the sessions. Lakehead University has generously volunteered to host again in 2022, this time in person in Thunder Bay. CALE/ACEJ members very much look forward to it.

Recap: Annual Conference 2020

On October 23, 2020, CALE/ACEJ held its annual conference, the intellectual and social high-water mark of its annual activities. The conference was held virtually and was supported by the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Heartfelt thanks are due to its Acting Dean Richard Devlin and Zoom Coordinator Conor Falvey for their efforts, without which the conference could not have happened as it did.

The conference featured presentations in three areas: teaching, regulation and research. A complete listing of all presentations is on the CALE/ACEJ website under the Annual Conference tab.

The teaching panel focused heavily on issues relating to teaching legal ethics online. One of the themes in the discussions was which recent short-term developments would continue to be used even after the end of the pandemic. This generated considerable (and heated) debate. Another related topic was whether the current requirement that the JD program be primarily taught in person rather than online is defensible as a matter of pedagogy or access to education.

The regulation panel considered the implications of the pandemic on the regulation of the legal profession. All presenters noted the significant demands the pandemic has placed on the need to improve access to technology and training in how to use it effectively. As with teaching, a major issue was thinking about which changes, made for emergency reasons and often in a very short period of time, will be retained for the future.

The research panels ranged widely over the landscape of legal ethics. Several presentations examined lawyers and the use of social media. Other topics included improving the ability of lawyers to work with and serve trans clients, how to regulate electronic legal services provided directly to members of the public, recent developments in the law on lawyers’ undertakings and on the obligation of advocates to raise adverse authority, and how to respond to the increasing use of analytics to predict judicial decisions (“Moneyball” for judging).

Many conference participants were struck by how much exchange and debate the presentations produced. The chat function in Zoom played a major role, allowing relevant commentary and information to supplement the oral presentation in real time and keeping people very engaged. While regular attendees certainly missed seeing each other in person, the virtual format did allow several people to attend who otherwise would not have done so.

CALE/ACEJ very much looks forward to the 2021 annual conference, to be hosted at Lakehead University. Here’s hoping we will be able to be there in person.