Conflicts of Interest in Canada: The McKercher Decision
Legal Ethics 17:2, Forthcoming
5 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2014
Date Written: November 21, 2014
The most important legal ethics decision in Canada in 2013 – and arguably the most important legal ethics story in Canada for that year – came straight from Canada’s top court. Canadian National Railway Co. v. McKercher LLP is a decision on conflicts of interest that finally provides much needed clarity to this area of the law. The Supreme Court of Canada was asked to determine whether a law firm can accept a retainer to act against a current client on a matter unrelated to that client’s existing files. In answering the question, the Court reviewed and refined its conflict of interest analysis (including its “bright line rule”) first articulated in R. v. Neil and Strother v. 3464920 Canada Inc. Despite, this refinement, however, there remains enough flexibility for creative arguments in future cases.
Keywords: Canadian National Railway, McKercher, Neil, Strother, conflict of interest, lawyer-client relationship, solicitor-client relationship, legal ethics, bright line rule
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