THE ADVOCATE 399
VOL. 79 PART 3 MAY 2021
By Derek LaCroix, Q.C.*
MEANING, VALUES AND THE PRACTICE OF LAW
In meetings with many young people leaving the law, the common complaints
are a sense that there is not a meaning for them in practising law, a
sense of isolation and generally a sense that the practice of law is too difficult,
with little or no possibility of a fulfilling and healthy life.
There is evidence that the rates of major clinical depression and of alcoholism
are significantly higher in the legal profession than in the general
population. There is evidence that this trend begins in law school. Again, in
my discussions with many law students and young lawyers and with other
LAP professionals from across North America, it seems that a significant
part of this problem is caused or contributed to by the legal training students
receive, which teaches them to “be objective”, learn the law and apply
it objectively without regard for personal values. The law schools and the
legal profession are also competitive, and pressure is applied to compete for
what are considered the top jobs, and later top clients, best cases or most
money. The students often get lost in this and forget why they went to law
school. Many say they entered law school hoping to be able to help others
to make a difference and were open to any future. They report that sometime
during law school they forgot about that and they began to think only
of getting articles, at large, prestigious law firms. Few if any students or
young lawyers have reported to me taking any courses in legal ethics, legal
history or jurisprudence, and for sure none have reported studying goal setting,
values clarification or how to make ethical decisions.
I suggest that this loss of attention to values and values clarification is at
the root of much of the distress in our profession. It is also at the root of why
so many young lawyers are leaving.
* Derek LaCroix, Q.C., is the executive director of the Lawyers Assistance Program of BC.