In your address to the clerks of the Supreme Court you spoke of six relationships for lawyers. They were the relationships between the lawyer and justice, the lawyer and trust, the lawyer and education, the lawyer and social need, the lawyer and the firm and the lawyer and public service. I believe there is an important seventh relationship for lawyers. It is the relationship between the lawyer and people. I have spent over four decades in my office and in court representing people.
Public concerns with the legal profession are rarely over the relationships between lawyers and corporate or government clients. They are with regard to lawyers and people.
From my time as an articling student through the numerous students for whom I have been principal through watching the experiences of my sons in law school I have found law school graduates ill-prepared to deal with people. To aid in a basic element of the relationship between the lawyer and people I suggested at a seminar at the College of Law in Saskatoon a few years ago that law students be taught how to interview people.
I applaud your recommendations for a greater integration between law school and practising lawyers but I fear the focus will be on the needs of corporations and governments.
In your analysis I did not see an emphasis on improving how lawyers deal with people. You spoke of corporate law and big firm practice. I would say your observations are common within law schools, government and “big” law. The concentration is on the legal needs of the corporate world and government world.
As a resident of rural Canada I also see limitations on who speaks with regard to lawyers in Canada. I attended a conference on Power in the Law that dealt primarily with the issues of women in the legal profession. I spoke in a seminar on the law effecting social change. My topic was the role of class actions in this area. I added a couple of comments for the organizers. I said that I was a member of a minority among the presenters. I know most thought I was going to say the minority was men. It was a surprise for those assembled when I said that the minority of which I spoke was that out of 25 presenters I was the only speaker from a community of under 100,000.
If you should write another book of letters I would encourage you to write to law students who will neither be clerking at courts nor becoming law school professors nor going to big firms nor joining government. I hope you would write to the students who will be dealing with the legal needs of the people of Canada.
I have thought most about your letter to your former Harvard hockey coach, Ralph “Cooney” Weiland on banning fighting and headshots in hockey. In support of your position, especially with regard to fighting, you used the example of Derek Boogaard.
I knew Derek as a boy in Melfort. I did not know him well. He was a classmate of my sons. He was always the biggest and strongest boy in his grade by far. His physical presence dominated but academics were a challenge.
Derek’s only route to the NHL was as a fighter. Yet even his skills as a fighter were modest. He took a lot of punishment.
I was actually surprised that he reached the NHL. My experience with enforcers, I find goons too simplistic a term, is that they are among the most thoughtful of players. Their intimidations were calibrated. Fighting had a lesser role than sticks and elbows. Derek was never going to be that analytical.
He reached the NHL at a unique moment. Fighting had become a ritual of combat in the league between designated players on every team. I am grateful that form of battle has faded from the league.
I agree there should be harsh penalties for headshots. On whether fighting should be banned from hockey I remain ambivalent, probably inconsistent.
(My discussion on the issue of violence in hockey is continued in the next post.)