Categories
Legal Ethics

Screwing Up

On a clear summer day, my father carefully drove his car out of his narrow one-car driveway past the retaining walls on either side and onto the street. He then turned to the right and parked the car in front of our house. Or so he thought.

After he exited the car, he found out the hard way that rather than put the car in park, he had actually left it in reverse. The car retraced the path from whence it had come until it crashed into the retaining wall on one side of the driveway.

Categories
Legal Ethics

Murray’s Musings About Character

Once upon a time, there was a lawyer whose practice was reliant on one huge client. His junior associate made a mistake on the client’s file. The client demanded that the lawyer fire the associate. The lawyer refused to cast aside a young associate for having made one mistake. The client fired the lawyer. The lawyer lost his practice. The associate lost his job anyway.

Categories
Legal Ethics

Dancing Close to the Ethical Line

Since I moved to the country after spending most of my life in the big city, I fashion myself as something of a country type. I drive a pick-up truck and I listen to country music. So, it should come as no surprise that I am drawing inspiration for this story from Johnny Cash who proudly proclaimed that “I Walk the Line.” 

Categories
Legal Ethics

How To Lose Your License to Practice Law in One Easy Step

Let me start by saying that I really, really, like accountants. I had deep and valued relationships with a number of accountants when I practiced law, and they were by far my best referral sources. Many became good friends. So, the negative stories which I am about to tell relate to a tiny minority of the accountants who I came across.

Categories
Legal Ethics

Truth In Advertising Part Two

I have written before about how lawyers are usually fairly good at dealing with their clients in a truthful manner in the course of providing legal services, but not quite as accomplished when it comes to their marketing. Let’s look at this in the context of the most basic element of law firm marketing – how law firms identify their lawyers to the public.

Categories
Legal Ethics

Truth In Advertising

I expect that “honest” would not be the first word that comes to mind as a general description of the business culture in Canada, or anywhere else for that matter. The idea of “buyer beware” (or “caveat emptor” as we lawyers like to say) is well ingrained in our business culture, and we all expect businesses to create “spin” when they market their goods and services.

Categories
Legal Ethics

Time Travel on the HMCS Document

I attended my first closing of a commercial transaction when I was an articling student.  It was a rather large share transaction. The closing started around 2 pm and I imagine that the lawyers thought that they would be done by late afternoon.

It was not to be.

Categories
Legal Ethics

Ethics Matter, But Don’t Be Naive About It

In my first year of practice, a client asked me to advise him concerning his plan to build a sign for his restaurant.  The sign was to sit at sidewalk level and would be 6 feet high and 20 feet long with flashing neon lights.  It did not take long for me to determine that the sign would contravene the city’s by-laws and to tell him not to do it.

The client was furious with me.  He angrily explained to me that it was not my job to give him business advice.  In his mind, my role as the lawyer was simply to tell him what the law said and what the penalties were for breaking the law.  It was his job to make the determination whether it was a good business decision to break the law.  

That was my introduction to business ethics and how the practice of law fits in.