Tending the Bar: The Good Character Requirement for Law Society Admission
Dalhousie Law Journal, Vol. 30, pp. 27-78, 2007
50 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2009 Last revised: 12 Jun 2010
Date Written: September 1, 2009
Every Canadian law society requires that applicants for bar admission be of “good character. ”The author assesses the administration of this requirement and its stated purposes of ensuring ethical conduct by lawyers, protecting the public and maintaining the profession’s reputation. In particular, the premise underlying the use of the good character requirement to fulfill those purposes - that character is the “well-spring of professional conduct in lawyers” - is subjected to critical examination through the theoretical principles of Aristotelian virtue ethics and the empirical evidence of social psychology. The primary thesis of this paper is that as currently justified, administered and applied the good character requirement cannot be defended and must not be maintained. The secondary thesis of the paper, however, is that given the relationship - albeit a qualified one - between character and ethical conduct, a reformed version of the good character requirement can, and arguably should, be maintained by the provincial law societies.
Keywords: character, ethics, admission, regulation
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