|Illustration: Scott Page|
There’s a general belief that a lot of lawyers don’t enjoy what they do. Their work makes them unhappy. The empirical evidence tends to support this suspicion. In a recent American Bar Association survey, for example, only 55 per cent of lawyers who responded said they were satisfied with their job. In a 1998 study of Michigan lawyers, 60 per cent said they would not become lawyers if they could start their careers over. It is reported that half of all lawyers don’t want their children to follow in their footsteps. There are a number of surveys like this, particularly in the United States, all showing much of the same results.
Last month, I attended the International Bar Association’s conference in Vancouver. About 5,000 lawyers from around the world descended on the city to discuss issues from law firm management to emerging M&A trends to dawn raids to professional ethics and the appointment of judges to the International Criminal Court. There was a little of something for everyone with points of view from across the globe.
It is a fundamental principle of contract law, one which public policy favours and subject only to certain well-established and narrowly defined exceptions, that parties are free to determine for themselves the terms of contracts voluntarily entered into. Regrettably, the Supreme Court of Canada recently departed from this principle in Tercon Contractors Ltd. v. British Columbia (Transportation and Highways), thereby injecting uncertainty into the enforceability of contractual arrangements.
Every magazine and web site has a list of the top this or top that. And love or hate the lists, everybody ends up reading them and talking about them. At Canadian Lawyer, we’re no stranger to lists but for the most part we’ve not tackled the most controversial type of list: one about individual lawyers. So about 18 months or so ago, I decided to take on the task and come up with such a list. Its main characteristic, though, had to be that it was different from all other lists in the various legal publications and web sites dotting the Canadian landscape. What I realized is that most such tallies look at one particular area and don’t take into account the law as a whole: every area of practice, government, regulatory, judiciary, etc.