Words of advice to lawyers from CJ McLachlin

By Yves Faguy June 13, 201713 June 2017

Words of advice to lawyers from CJ McLachlin


As the Canadian legal community digests the news that our Chief Justice of 17 years will be retiring in December, here’s some friendly advice Beverley McLachlin shared with us during an interview in 2010 for lawyers appearing before her court:

Think about what the court will need, what it will be grappling with. We regard counsel as sources of assistance in deciding the case. Will spending 20 minutes on facts help the court? Not really. We’ve already read the briefs and know the facts. So how can you best help the court? Maybe it’s by going to the most difficult issue you face. I’m not trying to give a prescription for how a case should be argued. It varies from case to case. But sometimes one gets the feeling that counsel are trying to bury the most difficult issue, or escape by it, and hope no one will notice. Well the chances are not good. In the spirit of being helpful to the judges, go to the most difficult part of the issue. Say ‘Your honours, you will be grappling with this issue. It is a difficult issue. This is what I have to say about it, and this is why I believe you should decide that issue in favor of my client.’ Give the judges the ammunition, the cases and the resources they need

It’s perhaps obvious advice to many advocates out there, but I’m struck at how often lawyers are surprised when I relay her comments.

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