An overhaul of the legal business paradigm coupled with more women attaining positions of power and greater transparency over remuneration are key towards helping women achieve more parity and to stem their exodus from the legal profession, urges a report and legal pundits.
“We are all aware that there have been advances in recent years, but we cannot be satisfied with the current situation,” remarked Suzie Lanthier of Gowling WLG International Limited and head of the Forum of Women Lawyers at the Canadian Bar Association, Quebec Division. “Just because it’s better than before doesn’t mean we should do nothing to improve it.”
Women have made significant strides in the legal profession since they have become the majority of lawyers in Quebec nearly a decade ago. However, they still face considerable obstacles over pay equity, access to partnerships or leadership positions, work-life balance and suffer silently due to sexual harassment and discrimination, prompting many to shun private practice and leave the profession far earlier than men, according to a report and leading Quebec legal actors.
“There is still work to be done to ensure that the share of female members in our professional order and their contribution to their workplaces is fully recognized throughout their careers,” said Catherine Claveau, the head of the Quebec Bar. “What has changed is that maybe we are becoming more and more aware of the importance of women in the profession. But in practice, unfortunately, it’s not very much reflected in the statistics.”
A voluntary disclosure of a report protected by privilege to assist police in a criminal investigation does not quash the privileges attached to the document held the Quebec Court of Appeal in overturning a lower court decision, the latest indication that case law surrounding privilege continues to evolve, according to a legal expert.
In a decision that reviews and revisits Quebec case law surrounding privilege, the Quebec Appeal Court held that it would be contrary to public policy for the disclosure of privileged documents in criminal proceedings to “somehow” have the effect removing privileges attached to those documents. The waiver of lawyer-client privilege must be clear and unequivocal, added the Appeal Court in Centre universitaire de santé McGill c. Lemay, 2022 QCCA 1394.
Disclosure to a third party information protected by solicitor-client privilege in principle entails waiver of the privilege but the Quebec Court of Appeal emphasizes that context must be considered, which must take into account all the circumstances in the case, noted Montreal litigator with Lavery de Billy LLP, who recently published an article entitled “Professional secrecy and testimonial immunity” for the legal encyclopedia JurisClasseur Québec.
Professional services firms that have mandatory retirement policies and provisions that require partners to divest their ownership shares solely on the basis of age are discriminatory and in breach of the Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms held Quebec Superior Court in a ruling that has the legal community buzzing over its implications.
In a case that pitted a Montreal municipal and labour and employment law firm against its founder, the decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Stéphane Lacoste is expected to have wider repercussions than the thorny issue of mandatory retirement, according to legal observers. Following the decision in DHC Avocats inc. c. Dufresne, 2022 QCCS 58, typical arrangements made by professional services firms in succession planning such as “unpartnering” or changing the status of their senior partners while still allowing them to work in the firm may be called into question, added legal experts. Continue reading “Mandatory retirement clauses breach Quebec Charter, rules court”
Half of Quebec female lawyers have been subjected to sexual harassment, a third of Quebec lawyers were the subject of unwanted sexual conduct, and 4.2 per cent of women suffered “negative consequences” for refusing to engage in sexual activities. Approximately one per cent of lawyers who were the subject of sexual misconduct reached out to police.
So reveals a report unveiled by the Quebec Bar, three years after it was launched. Only 14 per cent of Quebec Bar members, or 3785 members out of 28,000 lawyers in the roll, responded to the survey.
Following the 76-page report, the Barreau du Québec intends to launch free training on harassment and sexual violence, and is considering making it compulsory. A committee will examine other options.
Months after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the near shutdown of courts across Canada and paved the way for virtual justice, a Quebec lawyer and researcher is hoping that judges and lawyers will be alert to the unintended consequences of conducting justice through the use of technology.
Under pressure to deliver legal services in spite of Quebec‘s public health state of emergency, notaries in the province have been given the go-ahead by the Quebec Ministry of Justice to sign notarized documents remotely.
Nearly a decade after co-founding Cyberjustice Laboratory, a unique hub that analyses the impact of technologies on justice while developing concrete technological tools that are adapted to the reality of justice systems, Karim Benyekhlef and Fabien Gélinas have set their sights on artificial intelligence.
The federal government is cautiously wading in. Enticed by the promise of blockchain to simplify the management of trusted information in a secure fashion, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Port of Montreal, the country’s second-biggest port, are now testing a blockchain-enabled digital solution to see if it will streamline freight shipping. Several provincial governments too are swayed by the prospect of being able to better deliver government digital services, beginning with the British Columbia which launched OrgBook BC, a new blockchain-powered online search tool that allows users to verify if businesses and organizations are legally incorporated in the province.
An ambitious pilot project by the federal courts that will allow for the application of the Quebec Code of Civil Procedure is being lauded by Quebec practitioners as a welcome initiative that may prompt more of them to avail themselves of the federal judicial bodies.