As of October first Ontario lawyers have been facing amended Rules of Professional Conduct. In my view these rules will make lawyers’ lives more complicated.
For example, they provide for a new definition of the word, "client". In short, X is your client if he (or she) has consulted you and either retained you or has “a reasonable expectation” that he retained you. This can be fun. If you meet someone on the subway and they tell you about their accident 22 months ago, beware. You have been consulted. And if you say, "Uh huh, sounds nasty," you may have been retained. Client's choice.
There is also a rule on getting unretained. Even if the client dismisses you, you still have to write to the client to confirm you are no longer acting. So if a client says to you, " You are an incompetent, cretin of a scumbag shyster; you're fired", you have to write back and respond,
" Dear Sir,
This will confirm your instructions that I no longer represent you."
Otherwise you might still be this fan’s lawyer.
Then we have confidentiality. We are to maintain confidentiality even if someone threatens to put bamboo strips up our fingernails. This includes extends even to that guy we just met on the subway.
I think we would all like to see an end to this strict onus. I say if a client does not pay our fees in a timely manner, that we be free to tell the world. We should be allowed to post it on Face book. Isn't that more equitable than having to get off the record and then assess our accounts?
We can just post online, "My client, Gordon William McKnish, residing in Richmond Hill, owes me $4000 for all the hard work I did for him and he is stiffing me."
Actually McKnish is not a real client. I say that in the event that there is actually a Gordon William McKnish in Richmond Hill, that he realise that I selected that name totally randomly. So to you, William Gordon McKnish, of Richmond Hill, if you exist, you are not my client and you do not owe me a penny. If however you want to give me $4000.00, I’ll take it.
There are also provisions on conflicts of interest. This does not make sense to me at all. I think it would be much more economical if we could indeed represent both sides to a dispute. Wouldn't this result in a quicker and cheaper resolution?
Finally there is a rule on inadvertent disclosure. What do we do if say opposing counsel accidentally sends us some confidential documents that once we read them, his case is toast. The rule expects us call the other lawyer and to utter the words, "Woe is me", beat your breast, and flagellate yourself with a tire chain.
I would have preferred a rule that says something like, "Baby, if you ever luck out to get such a package, grab it like a Venus flytrap".
I say, where is all the fun in practising law? William Gordon McKnish, what do you do for a living?
I practice family law and civil litigation, emphasis on personal injury. Please visit www.striglaw.com .Even before October 1st, my professional conduct has always been beyond reproach.