Toronto Lawyers Association reports decline in civility in legal profession that has accelerated post-pandemic

A lawyer arguing while sitting at a desk. Photo: Andrew Popov/Getty Images/Canva

The Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA) has raised concerns about a perceived decline in civility and professionalism within the legal profession, a trend that seems to have accelerated in the aftermath of the pandemic.

In response to feedback from members of the bar, the TLA conducted a comprehensive study, culminating in the release of the “Report on Civility and Professionalism.”

The study, initiated by the TLA Membership Committee earlier this year, aimed to address concerns that lawyers, including both barristers and transactional attorneys, were demonstrating reduced civility and professionalism.

The TLA’s President, Aitan Lerner, highlighted the significance of these concerns, stating, “The feedback shared with the TLA informed the association’s hypothesis that there was a palpable change in the way lawyers engaged with each other, the judiciary, and the justice system post-pandemic.”

The report explores various factors contributing to this decline. Survey respondents cited several reasons, including the shift to remote work and a lack of in-person engagement, diminished opportunities for mentorship and training, as well as broader cultural and technological changes.

One respondent candidly admitted to observing and participating in this decline, noting a tendency among lawyers to be “sharper with one another” and to set unrealistic deadlines.

The research methods for this study were comprehensive, including an extensive literature review, surveys distributed to TLA members and the broader Toronto legal community, and parallel inquiries conducted with members of the Federation of Ontario Law Associations.

The TLA also facilitated discussions with legal professionals, including a session with lawyers on September 21, 2023, and a separate meeting with the judiciary on October 3, 2023, both hosted at the TLA Offices.

The TLA report not only identifies the problem but also proposes a pathway for improvement. It emphasizes the need for a respectful dialogue within the legal community, aiming to enhance the collective experience of its members. The association is eager to engage with stakeholders in the justice system to discuss the findings and seek solutions.

This initiative underscores the fluid nature of civility, which varies based on context and facts. The TLA’s effort reflects a growing concern within the legal community about maintaining professional standards and adapting to the evolving landscape of the legal profession in a post-pandemic world.

Get a copy of the report at https://tlaonline.ca/site/aboutus/advocacy?nav=sidebar#sub_2023

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