What makes a good "lawyer" and a good criminal lawyer?

There are arguably many ways of being a “good lawyer” or a “successful legal professional”. Some of you will become practising lawyers,  some will go into government, some of us will pursue academia,and others will pursue other paths entirely. "Lawfullyuncommon" is a good source to get a sense of where some of your more unconventional peers have gone in the past. It is crucial that you use your legal education years to pursue your own path within the law, one that will lead to a fruitful lifetime engagement with it, whatever it is you end up doing professionally. Learn to trust your instincts and hone in on what inspires you!

 

That being said, there are skills which are useful to all legal professionals that can be developed throughout this course, this program and the rest of your legal careers:


Competence: we often think of lawyers as being "competent." Lawyers are indeed licensed professionals which means that their competence has been recognised formally. Part of attaining and maintaining the right to practice as a licensed professional is being competent. In the same way we would not let anyone practice medicine or surgery, we will not let anyone give legal advice or represent people in court. Practising carelessly can have severe impacts on clients and the public. This is particularly the case in the criminal law area where the freedom of defendants, the integrity of victims, and the security and harmony of society may be at stake (even marginally).  Of course, there are inherent challenges to ensuring the competence of all lawyers, and imposing sanctions for incompetence (given the self-regulatory nature of the profession) but the legal profession does stand out as one of the most regulated. As such, we are expected as legal professionals to maintain and develop our legal skills throughout our careers. Although knowledge of the law and how the justice system works are key competencies, competence is arguably broader and includes ethical, human, social 

 

Potential sources:

Martyn, “Lawyer Competence and Lawyer Discipline: Beyond the Bar?” (http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/glj69&div=25&id=&page=) 


Cramton, “Lawyer Competence and the Law Schools” (http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/ualr4&div=7&id=&page=)


I'm not sure if this counts as "incompetence", but I was pretty shocked to hear this judge applied a law which was not on the books: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/travis-vader-trial-citing-judge-s-mistake-defence-will-file-appeal-1.3764305 


Also perhaps too tangential, but shows severity of practicing when not licensed/competent: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/fake-toronto-lawyer-defrauds-clients-1.4276157 

 

Ethics and Professionalism: Ethical and professional conduct frame all other skills we use as legal professionals. Developing sound judgement and the ability to work with others (whether co-workers, clients, opposing counsel, courthouse officials, students, etc.) in a professional manner is essential to building a successful career. In this course, you will be asked at times to work collaboratively with your peers. While your views on an issue may differ, cooperation and professionalism will help you achieve a successful outcome. It is asked that you also keep this in mind when engaging in class discussions.

 

Potential Sources:

Farrow, “Sustainable Professionalism” (attached)

 



Organizational Skills and Reliability: Part of being a legal professional is managing a busy schedule of priorities and deadlines. Law school is a great place to begin developing these skills, as you will certainly have many readings, assignments, extra-curricular activities to balance. You are expected to be prepared for class, and your peers will be relying on your preparation for your "class expert" session. 


Potential Sources: 

?

 

Effective Written Communication: Legal careers generally involve much writing. Whether, legal memos, factums, negotiation plans, briefs, academic papers or judgements, the ability to communicate effectively to a target audience is crucial. Legal writing styles may be different from styles used in other professional areas. Written assignments and exams will be in-part graded on your ability to communicative effectively.

 

Potential Sources:  

Laskin, “Forget the Wind Up and Make the Pitch” (http://www.ontariocourts.ca/coa/en/ps/speeches/forget.htm)

Garner, “Principles of Legal Writing” (attached) 

Cromwell, “Effective Written Advocacy in Factums” (attached) 

Berkeley IRAC Handout –  not sure if we can use this, I just found it online last year in my own research, trying to understand how to write effectively. (attached) 

 

Effective Oral Advocacy: The ability to present a persuasive oral argument is essential in many fields of legal work. Whether in a courtroom setting, at a negotiation table, debating policy or elsewhere, the ability to persuade listeners is a critical component of successful lawyering. “Class Expert” sessions will provide an opportunity to get comfortable speaking in a group setting about legal issues.  

 

Potential Sources:

Pomerance, “Appellate Advocacy: Presenting the Oral Argument” (Attached) 

 

Analytical Skills:

I would welcome your thoughts on how to improve one’s analytical skills.  

Comments