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What changes should be made to family law?

These proposals let family law lawyers discuss and vote on what changes they think should be made to the law or court procedures. The results can be viewed and shared with legislators and the Courts. The proposals put forth are written by member lawyers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website or its administrators. You can view more proposals or make a proposal yourself.


Proposal: There should be better means to prevent lawyer bullying
Other - Feb 13, 2023

96% in favour out of 25 votes

Stephen Harfield
  Queck & Associates
   Sherwood Park, Alberta


Mr. Dustin Tkachuk recently raised a good point on a discussion board.

Many of us perhaps turn down files based solely on who the other lawyer is and the potential impact on mental health.

The general observation I have is this. If a lawyer is breaching code of conduct issues in a non-financial way, the law society is slow to act, and also actively encourages raising matters only when a matter is completed to “avoid a sideshow”.

There is not really any good mechanism to address lawyer conduct in the courts. A court’s test to remove a lawyer isn’t whether that lawyer is causing you distress.

I don’t have a solution, but some brainstorming can happen.

-like PAS should lawyers be required to file something about their commitment to behaviour at the outset of a file?
- should their be an automatic application process where both lawyers are removed from a file if they are unable to work together, regardless of the cause?
-or maybe a process where you can “review a play” like in hockey. A process where you can “tax” a lawyer’s behaviour on a file. If you succeed, there is something granted to you, like costs payable by the lawyer. If you lose, you pay.
-mandatory litigation plans filed at the outset of a file?


1 16 months ago

Anonymous 2020
   Edmonton Region, Alberta


I see these steps being weaponized against the lawyer who is not in the wrong.

Having had files where I had to withdraw due to some apparent grudge by opposing counsel, who used every means possible to make life miserable for me and my client, I could see this tactic being used. Always interesting when that same opposing counsel then withdraws once I have done so (in my mind evidence it was personal).

Saying all that, I have no answers. Having been treated horribly by opposing counsel even in a court room where the court did nothing (to be fair though I have had an apology in private from a Justice for allowing the atrocious false accusations of my character and ethics in the court room), I would like to see bad behaviour have consequences.

By the time a lawyer withdraws due to the vitriol from the other side and the impact on the client's file, reports to the Law Society don't happen because it was a lucky escape and being exposed to that lawyer again is not worth the stress of reporting.

Look forward to feedback on this topic. We lose really good lawyers from family law because of this issue.


3 16 months ago

Anonymous 2020
   Edmonton Region, Alberta


The folks that are part of the problem, don't attend CL Education, are oblivious to their own behavior (or just plain don't care), and are the ones likely to weaponize the "both lawyers have to get off the file". It would be great if the Law Society actually had a practice advisor or a program that included a lawyer experienced in family law or civil practice who could intervene in some of these dynamics and that problematic offenders (those counsel who are continually a problem) could be directed to a senior practitioner for one on one mandatory coaching.

2 16 months ago - edited 16 months ago

Anonymous 2020
   Edmonton Region, Alberta


I should add that often the behaviour isn't necessarily a direct contravention of the code but it walks close, but it does both parties a disservice by increasing cost, and conflict unnecessarily. From experience, sometimes counsel is so exhausted from having to deal with such lawyer(s) that they don't have the emotional energy or time to contact the Law Society with the belief that nothing will happen since it's not something that may be a direct breach of the code, but it certainly not in compliance with the spirit of the code.

It must be exhausting for these bad eggs to practice this way.


2 16 months ago

Anonymous 2020
   Edmonton Region, Alberta


Another option is we have a poll every year where we get to vote someone off the island ...

4 16 months ago

Shazia Umer
  Umer Law
   EDMONTON, Alberta


That person might not always be impolite to others. Additionally, a lot of manipulative lawyers work for major legal firms. They will not even be somewhat persuaded to change, much like big pharma.

1 16 months ago - edited 16 months ago

Stephen Harfield
  Queck & Associates
   Sherwood Park, Alberta


I agree that anything put in place to stop bad lawyers is not then just simply used by bad lawyers to abuse the system. I notice for example that as it is, the most incivil lawyers raise incivility all the time (I suppose it is not very civil of you to disagree with them), and it is the lawyers who are the worst at conducting their file who most frequently apply for costs against another lawyer.

I have no doubt too that if you made it easier to apply to get a lawyer off a file, that rule would probably be used more often by the bad lawyers to kick good ones off.

That's why I think it simply starts with brainstorming about what could actually be done without simply rushing to do it.

I have to renew my drivers license every few years. Some people need to more regularly convince the government they are fit to drive. Sometimes I think a bad lawyer has greater capacity for damage than a bad driver. It's worth asking at least how to better control the road.


1 16 months ago

Susan Rawlings
  Thompson Laboucan & Epp LLP
   Edmonton, Alberta


I believe that bullying is a result of improper training from the outset. Instead of pointing fingers at the bullies - which could start a war - perhaps we can continue to focus on family law training in law schools in a manner that de-escalates conflict. I am also going to continue to advocate for trauma informed training, which I believe is a perfect preventative mechanism for bullying. Lawyers are being bullies because they might be traumatized themselves to the point of not caring about who they hurt. When we are desensitized, we dehumanize families and the lawyers we are up against!

3 16 months ago

Shazia Umer
  Umer Law
   EDMONTON, Alberta


I believe it's just another time waster. Who has time to establish their case? I most definitely don't. Spending time with my family is more important to me than responding to 50-page-long inquiries and citing all of my emails as evidence. And surprisingly, there are numerous details concerning those particular undocumented appearances that are not recorded anywhere. Those that abuse and berate you with their eyes and facial expressions are suddenly the most vulnerable to finding their flock to defend them.

Finally, if you try to keep your position, they will interrogate you as if you are mistaken. Recently, I had the experience where as soon as I saw that communication was not going well on the other side, I took a step back and said I was incorrect and would adjust my practice approach—the End.


0 16 months ago - edited 16 months ago

Anonymous 2020
   Edmonton Region, Alberta


The real stumbling block is that normal Law Society procedures take more time than it is worth to the legitimate complainant to address these issues. Therefore, no solution is workable unless it is relatively quick.

Realistically, something like this is the only economical way of disincentivizing incivil behavior. I am sure there would be quite an audience if it involves feuding lawyers and the whole thing will pay for itself.
https://www.cbsnews.com/baltimore/news/baltimore-mayor-jack-young-suggests-public-boxing-rings-to-end-street-beefs/


0 16 months ago

Anonymous 2017
   Calgary Region, Alberta


The real bad ones are great at keeping you on edge that maybe you are doing something wrong or turning any complaint against them into a counter complaint against you. My own experience is complaining is not worth it.

0 16 months ago

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