January 8, 2014

The Challenges and Rewards of Practicing Law in Montreal

Dear Colleagues and Friends,
It gives me great pleasure to have been invited by M. Andre Gagnon to write a few words for this inaugural edition of “The Montreal Lawyer”, the first legal magazine to be published in English in Quebec.  I would venture to say that almost every anglophone lawyer in Montreal has, at one time or another, been asked how / why he or she chose to practice law in a French environment.  To answer that question, I think it is important to understand what it is to be a Montrealer and an “Anglophone lawyer” practicing in this city.  Notwithstanding the present Charbonneau Commission hearings and our seemingly omni-present infrastructure problems, we, Montrealers, have been and remain justifiably proud of our city and its history.  Indeed, Montreal has long been recognized as one of the world’s great cities- a bilingual, world- class, international metropolis, with a richness and diversity of cultures, languages and vitality that makes it unique, not only in Canada and in North America, but throughout the world.
This uniqueness also extends to the practice of law in our city, particularly by members of the anglophone legal community. 
Firstly, the English-speaking members of the Montreal Bar are not only highly bilingual - the highest of any Bar anywhere – but arguably the most “polyvalents” juridically.  Indeed, for almost a generation now, a significant number of Montreal’s anglophone lawyers and an ever increasing number of francophone lawyers have had the benefit of being trained trans-systemically in an integrated fashion, both in the two great legal traditions of the civil and common law.
A large proportion of our Bar’s lawyers are thus able to draw upon their bijural background and serve their clients in French and/or in English, in areas of private and public law that transcend boundaries.  Our lawyers are to-day able to seamlessly offer clients a bilingual, comprehensive and multidisciplinary expertise in such matters as mergers and acquisitions, securities law, tax matters, class actions, civil/corporate and commercial litigation, labour, employment and human rights, infrastructure, intellectual property, aerospace, environmental issues, technologies, bio-medical law, and the pharmaceutical industry, both on a local, provincial, national and international level.  This represents a distinct advantage to our clients, be they native Quebecers or clients from another province or country.  The active presence of bilingual, bijural lawyers in Montreal (anglophone and francophone) will continue to allow us to attract to our city, clients who might otherwise choose to litigate or do business in an “anglophone jurisdiction”, knowing that their Montreal lawyer can handle any of their legal concerns.
The foregoing having been said, there are challenges that do remain.
One such challenge involves judgments of the Quebec Court of Appeal, which unfortunately are not officially translated into English.  Without an official English translation, significant judgments of our province’s highest Court on Charter and constitutional issues, litigation involving federal statutes and other matters having national implications are not accessible and are rarely referred to in other Canadian jurisdictions.
En effet, fournir une traduction officielle en anglais des jugements importants de notre Cour d'appel permettra de mieux servir l'administration de la justice au Québec et partout au Canada.  Non seulement ceci renforcera le prestige et la crédibilité du plus haut tribunal de notre province aux yeux de tous les Québécois, mais ceci permettra également aux autres juridictions de bénéficier de l'excellence de notre jurisprudence québécoise.
Improving access to justice is another ongoing challenge in Montreal, as it is in virtually every major metropolitan jurisdiction. Innovative solutions have been and will be introduced here.  We will have more to say about this and other matters in future issues of this magazine. 
We have a “first-class” legal community in Montreal.  It is my hope that “The Montreal Lawyer” magazine will be able to capture and communicate to its readership, the uniqueness ,vibrancy and excellence which is the Montreal legal community, and the sense of both challenge and justifiable pride for the anglophone members of the Montreal Bar to be able to practice their craft in one of the world’s great cities.
On behalf of the English-Speaking Section of the Bar of Montreal, I extend to “The Montreal lawyer” our sincerest “félicitations” on your new endeavor and our very best wishes for your success.

The Montreal Lawyer