Canadian Legal Practice


Professional Responsibility Rules for Internationally Trained Lawyers

Rule 5.6-1 - Advocacy and Accountability: The Lawyer's Compass in Upholding Justice

Vivian Caldas and Lara Merjane

November 10, 2023

Becoming a proficient lawyer extends beyond merely mastering laws and precedents. Rule 5.6-1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct serves as a beacon for all lawyers, urging them to go beyond the basic adherence to the law. It calls upon lawyers to foster respect for the law within society and strive for the betterment of the justice system. In this post, we examine the implications of this rule and delve into the nuanced balance it requires between exercising caution and demonstrating courage.

1) Beyond Professional Boundaries

Rule 5.6-1 sets the stage by negating the idea that a lawyer’s obligations are limited to the courtroom. It underscores that a lawyer’s role is a societal one, stemming from their position in the community, and thereby extends their responsibilities beyond what is expected of a private citizen. The rule signals lawyers to recognize the profound impact they exert on the wider landscape of justice.

2) The Weight of Responsibility

At its core, the rule highlights the significance of a lawyer’s words and actions. Cautionary notes against reckless allegations serve as a reminder of the delicate nature of public trust in legal institutions. As guardians of justice, lawyers must tread carefully to avoid unintentionally weakening the pillars they are meant to uphold.

3) Navigating the Public Sphere:

The rule introduces an intriguing paradox—a lawyer’s presence in public life brings both a warning and an opportunity. The inherent credibility and significance associated with a lawyer’s identity demand increased awareness. Public statements can either reinforce or diminish public trust, making it imperative for lawyers to exercise diligence in their communications. However, within this caution lies a powerful mandate—to use that credibility to boldly address injustices.

4) Lawyer’s Role in the Media

Take, for example, a situation where a lawyer is involved in a high-profile case attracting significant public interest and attention. In such instances, the lawyer’s comments to the media must be carefully considered. They should neither undermine the legal process nor make unfounded allegations about the parties involved. The words of a lawyer carry considerable weight due to their professional credibility, and they must use this influence responsibly to maintain public trust in the legal system.

5) Interactions Among Lawyers

The behaviour of lawyers amongst their peers takes on a dimension of profound importance in light of Rule 5.6-1. As practitioners of law, lawyers should always uphold respect for legal institutions in their interactions with other lawyers. This involves refraining from irresponsible allegations or statements that could undermine public confidence in these institutions. Criticisms or disagreements should be constructive, well-reasoned, and based on bona fide beliefs, aiming to contribute positively to the legal discourse. As participants in the administration of justice, lawyers are in a unique position to influence improvements in the legal system. Therefore, every interaction among lawyers should be seen as an opportunity to contribute to this discourse, upholding the principles of justice, respect, and a relentless pursuit of a better legal landscape.

Practical Insights for Lawyers

Mindful Communication:

  • Engage in public speech with mindfulness, understanding the impact your words can have.
  • Uphold the integrity of legal institutions by avoiding baseless or irresponsible allegations.

Balancing Act:

  • Recognize the dual nature of your influence—use it responsibly to strengthen public trust.
  • Navigate public life with a keen awareness of the weight your profession lends to your statements.

Speaking Truth to Power

  • Don’t shy away from addressing injustices; your credibility can be a force for positive change.
  • Collaborate with like-minded individuals and organizations to collectively improve the administration of justice.

Main Takeaway

Rule 5.6-1 transcends the confines of ordinary guidelines; it embodies a philosophy that defines the essence of legal practice. As lawyers, the professional path encompasses not merely mastery of the law but also the active participation in the betterment of the justice system. Embrace the obligations that accompany this position, navigate the delicate balance between caution and courage, and let the  practice be a testament to the enduring values of justice, respect, and the relentless pursuit of a better legal landscape for all.

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