How to be Ethical and Civil in the Practice of Law

Ethics and professional responsibility in BC

How to be Ethical and Civil in the Practice of Law

Awareness and understanding of ethics and professional responsibility is of the utmost importance for every member of the legal profession in British Columbia. It guides a lawyer’s daily conduct, ensures compliance with relevant legislation and codes of conduct, safeguards against insurance claims or disciplinary action, and maintains a positive relationship with clients and a healthy reputation in the community.

Ethical and professional responsibility standards have been a strong component of the legal profession in Canada for many years and codified standards have existed since at least 1920.

There are a variety of sources of guidance in regards to ethics and professional responsibility for lawyers in British Columbia. These include:

Professional Code of Conduct for British Columbia (BC CODE)
Published by the Law Society of British Columbia, the BC Code is the primary source of guidance for ethics and professional responsibility. The BC Code was adopted in January of 2013 and is binding on all members of the profession in the province.

Legal Profession Act, S.B.C. 1998, c.9
While not specifically addressing matters of ethics or professional responsibility, the Legal Profession Act is the governing legislation for all lawyers in British Columbia and is therefore a useful document to consult when dealing with ethical or professional responsibility issues.

Model Code of Professional Conduct
The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has approved a Model Code of Professional Conduct that has been implemented by the Law Society of British Columbia on January 1, 2013.

Civility in the Courtroom: Essentials for Trial Lawyers
Civility in the courtroom is an integral part of the trial process. Lawyers have a moral and ethical duty to display good manners and professional decorum in court toward fellow lawyers, litigants and the court. However, in the heat of the adversarial process, trial counsel can find themselves behaving without civility. In a CBABC Professional Development webinar, Mr. Justice Frits E. Verhoeven of Supreme Court of British Columbia and Claire E. Hunter, a trial counsel, discussed the practical sides of civility in court:

  • What demonstrative conduct by counsel is off-side in court
  • How to use technology in court with respect
  • How to properly respond to uncivil conduct in court by self-represented litigants
  • How to prepare your clients to be civil in court

Using practical examples, insights from the literature, law and court practice and scenarios, Mr. Justice Verhoeven and Ms. Hunter took participants through common “un-civil” and unprofessional situations in court, and showed them how trial counsel could respond respectfully and ethically to such conduct.

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