Canada Court Watch - Family Justice Review Committee
Policy and Position Statements

The conduct and practice of lawyers
(Under public review)

Discussion

The Family Justice Review Committee has received a number of legitimate complaints from people who have reported that their lawyer did not represent them or their children effectively and in many cases actually caused harm to their case and to their children.

Parents have complained of lawyers conducting themselves in an unprofessional and unethical manner.  Some of these complaints include:

  • that lawyers have served court documents on opposing clients with a very short period of time to respond or to be in court.  Some parents have been reported being served documents in which they have been given as little as one day to respond.

  • That lawyers have threatened to quit providing services to their client if the client does not do as the lawyer advises them to do.

  • That lawyers have refused to present evidence in court that the client felt was relevant to the case

  • that lawyers have signed consent agreements and made special deals with the other side without their own client's knowledge.

  • That government funded lawyers representing children have billed the government for services which they did not deliver.

In the matter of the conduct and practice of lawyers it is the position of the Family Justice Review Committee:

  • That all lawyers permit their clients to record client/lawyer meetings if so requested by their clients.

  • That lawyers who represent children allow parents to have a support person present at any child lawyer/parent meetings or discussions.

  • That lawyers argue in court to allow his/her client to record their own court proceedings  using their own equipment if it is their client's wish to do so.

  • That lawyers follow the instructions of their client even if they do not agree with their clients instructions.

  • That no lawyer should come to any agreement or sign any documents with any opposing party without the full knowledge and understanding of their client of the specific issues  in the documents.

For lawyers who represent children

  • That lawyers permit their child clients to have any support person be present with the child during any client/lawyer meetings if this is requested by their child client..

  • That if a lawyer is to present recommendations to the court which will affect the child and if the child is mature enough to comprehend the nature of the proceedings before the court, then the lawyer should fully explain the recommendations as well as the rationale behind the recommendations.

  • That the lawyer shall audiotape or videotape the testimony of the child client if requested to do so by the child client.

  • That all meetings with children be video or audio recorded if requested by any party in a court proceeding.

  • That if the child client indicates that he/she has lost confidence in the lawyer representing him/her, that the lawyer will assist the child to find another lawyer to represent him/her.

  • That the lawyer will not act as the solicitor for any child involved in any child protection hearing, should the lawyer or anyone else in the lawyers law firm have acted on behalf or accepted any referral or payment of money from any child protection agency within the past five (5) years.

  • That the lawyer shall support the child's attendance in the courtroom if the child expresses a desire to be present in the court to observe proceedings.

Complaints against Children's Lawyers

  • That complaint forms and information about how to file a complaint be given to each child and his/her parents outlining how a complaint may be filed against any lawyer who represents a child in a court matter.

Billing for Government funded Children's Lawyers

  • That certificates be issued to lawyers before engaging in a matter to represent a child stipulating the amount of time that has been allotted to a case in which they represent a child and that copies of this certificate be provided to children above the age of 12 and to all parents or guardians. All parties, including the child should be informed of exactly how much lawyer time has been allotted to the matter, just as is done with legal aid certificates for adults.

  • That upon completion of a file where a lawyer represented a child, a detailed billing should be sent to the parents for their confirmation and approval.