Lawyers: Myth or Reality?

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2 Information About the Activity What You Need to Know Target Audience: Grades 7-11 (Secondary 1-5) Activity: Objectives: Duration: This is a true or false quiz about the work of lawyers. The activity explains their work while clearing up some misinformation. It can be used as an introductory activity by a lawyer who would like to talk about the profession or a particular area of the law. Explain the work of lawyers Dispel certain myths about the profession 20 minutes Preparation Read the Activity Sheet. Equipment & Materials Required Activity Sheet P. 1 Volunteer's Guide - Additional Activities

3 Running the Activity 1. Presentation If you haven t already done so, introduce yourself briefly. Tell the students that you will be leading a true or false quiz about the work of lawyers. 2. Rules The quiz includes five statements. Ask the students to answer True or False to each statement you read. 3. Discuss After each statement, set the facts straight and separate myth from reality. You can refer to the information given on the Activity Sheet. Also, add to your answers using your personal experience. There s more than one right answer for all the statements. It s up to you to decide how you want to portray your profession! 4. Time for Questions Plan to end the activity about five minutes before the end of class so you can answer students questions. Are you a judge or notary? Help us create a " activity about the work of judges and notaries. Write to us about your myths and reality! P. 2 Volunteer's Guide - Additional Activities

4 Quiz 1. Lawyers are insensitive because they defend criminals. Too often, we see movies portraying unscrupulous lawyers winning cases defending people we know committed a serious crime. First, it should be kept in mind that the accused is deemed innocent until proven guilty. This is the presumption of innocence and it s a central principle of the Canadian legal system. 1 It is not up to the accused to prove his or her innocence. Rather, a government lawyer called a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. Also, everyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial. 2 This means that the legal system must ensure that the rights of the accused are respected, that the police have done their work properly 3 and that the penalty ( sentence ) is fair compared to the penalty given to other people found guilty of the same crime. 4 Defence lawyers are a kind of shield, protecting their clients against possible abuses of the legal system. All people accused of crimes need the expertise of a defence lawyer, and are entitled to a good defence. 5 The work of defence lawyers is therefore essential to the proper operation of the legal system. People sometimes have the impression that defence lawyers conspire with people accused of crimes, helping them think up lies to avoid being punished. If the accused admits to the defence lawyer that he or she committed a crime, the defence lawyer can still defend the accused, but the lawyer cannot lie to the court. 6 A lawyer who lies to the court can lose the right to practice as a lawyer 7, and even be accused of committing a crime ( aiding and abetting perjury ). 8 In fact, lawyers must put the interests of the justice system above those of their clients. This means that they don t have the right to lie. 9 In summary, a lawyer must defend the accused as best as possible, but must do so while respecting the law. 2. Lawyers spend most of their time arguing before a judge. A small percentage of lawyers regularly go to court. 10 Lawyers work in a variety of settings and in several areas of the law. They work for law firms, the government and private companies, do community work, etc. We often have the image of a lawyer working in a large, private law firm, but that s not what most lawyers do. Only 40% of all lawyers work in private firms. 11 Of these lawyers, only a small proportion work in large" firms with several dozen lawyers. P. 3 Volunteer's Guide - Additional Activities

5 Lawyers do all sorts of work. They don t just sue or defend people in court. They also advise people, do research, draft documents, negotiate contracts, etc. It s often said that law makes an excellent training for work in many fields. Lawyers work in universities, management, politics, communications and the world of entertainment. 3. Lawyers are very rich. The salaries of lawyers vary a great deal. Lawyers who participated in a study done by the Quebec Bar said that they earned from less than $5,000 to over $350, For a young lawyer (less than 10 years of practice), the average annual salary is $68,000. The average annual salary increases to $113,000 for lawyers who have been practicing for over 30 years. Here are a few factors that can affect a lawyer s salary: number of years of experience, number of hours worked, duties, the size of the firm, working in a large versus a small city, etc. Note that 60% of lawyers work over 40 hours per week. This means that they often work during the evening or on weekends. 12 By comparison, the average income for Quebecers is $37,000 per year All lawyers have studied for many years. Like other professionals, such as psychologists, dentists and engineers, lawyers have to go to university. It s not enough to buy a lawyer s gown and lots of books! After graduating from high school and CEGEP, someone who wants to become a lawyer in Quebec must get a law degree from one of these universities: Laval University University of Montreal University of Québec at Montreal McGill University University of Ottawa University of Sherbrooke P. 4 Volunteer's Guide - Additional Activities

6 These universities don t accept everyone who applies. The marks required depend on the university and vary from year to year. After doing a bachelor s degree in law, students must take professional training given by the Quebec Bar (the professional association for lawyers, also called the professional order ) for either four or eight months. 14 After finishing the Bar training, law students must do an internship (called articling ) for six months. After graduating from university, passing the Quebec Bar training courses and successfully completing articling, there s one last condition: becoming a member of the Quebec Bar. The Quebec Bar checks whether candidates have the required moral character. For example, candidates must prove that they don t have a criminal record and that they haven t gone bankrupt. 15 The Bar s role is to protect the public, so it has the power to deny or withdraw the title of lawyer from anyone without the qualifications required to practice the profession or whose conduct is unacceptable. 16 In all, after the end of high school, you should count on a minimum of six years to become a lawyer: 1. CEGEP: two or three years (depending on the program chosen) 2. University: three or four years (depending on the program chosen) 3. Bar School: four to eight months 4. Articling: six months 5. A lawyer knows all the laws. Contrary to popular belief, a lawyer doesn t know all the laws in the country by heart and can t answer all legal questions in the blink of an eye. Legal problems are often very complex and there are thousands of laws and regulations in this country. And that s not all: lawyers must also be familiar with "jurisprudence", which means court decisions that have legal authority. As a result, there is a lot of information to read, understand and apply. And lots of new information every day! That s why lawyers, like doctors, often develop areas of expertise during their careers: criminal law, labour law, health law, family law, etc. Asking a lawyer practicing criminal law for advice about an employment contract is like making an appointment with a dentist when you have the flu! If you re going to consult a lawyer, it is best to choose one who knows the appropriate area of the law. P. 5 Volunteer's Guide - Additional Activities

7 Other Interesting Facts About Lawyers in Quebec 50.5% of members of the Bar are women and 49.5% are men % of young lawyers (less than 10 years of practice) are women and 39% are men. Most young lawyers are therefore women. 18 Over half of all lawyers and notaries in Quebec work in Montreal (40%) and Quebec City (13%). 19 According to lawyers, environmental law is the area of the law that will grow the most in the coming years. 20 Being able to speak English is an asset for lawyers. However, in Quebec, 75% of lawyers usually work in French Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 11 d). 2. Ibid, s Ibid, s Criminal Code, s b). 5. Belleau and Cournoyer, Éthique, déontologie et pratique professionnelle, Vol. 1, Collection de droit, Barreau du Québec, 2008, p Canadian Bar Association (2009), Code of Conduct, Ottawa, Canadian Bar Association, p Professional Code, s R. v. Legato, 2002 CanLII (QC CA), par. 88; Criminal Code, s Code of ethics of advocates, s % go to court. Source: Job Futures Quebec, Service Canada: Studies and statistics on the Bar and its members: Journal du Barreau, 2009: and p By-law respecting the professional training of advocates, s Act respecting the Barreau du Québec, s. 45 (2). 16. Professional Code, s. 156; Act respecting the Barreau du Québec, s. 45 (2), p P. 6 Volunteer's Guide - Additional Activities

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