THE ADVOCATE 21
VOL. 78 PART 1 JANUARY 2020
PRINCIPLES ABOUT PRINCIPALS
(OR ANOTHER ARTICLE ABOUT ARTICLES)
By Rishi T. Gill and Nick B. Wright*
In handing down the recent decision of Acumen Law Corporation v.
Ojanen,1 Gomery J. of the B.C. Supreme Court gave members of the
bar useful guidance on what they should likely avoid when stepping
into the role of principal to an articled student.
To all present and future principals who have not had the opportunity to
review the decision in its somewhat jarring entirety, we can only advise
that if you are inclined to think it wise to fire your articled student and at
the same time launch a Supreme Court civil claim against them, and to
notify the student of this claim for the first time by formally serving her
during the student’s first week of PLTC in front of the student’s classmates,
then perhaps you should seek a second, third, fourth and potentially fifth
opinion. Actually, feel free to seek a sixth if the opinion is anything other
than, at minimum (and conveyed to you in a concerned tone), something
along the lines of: “Are you sure you want to take such a bold step?”
An important question to answer before taking on the significant role of
principal to an articled student is what are the basic duties, responsibilities
and obligations of a principal? The answer engages general considerations
of the role of lawyers within the legal community.
This article is not directed toward articled students; there are abundant
materials directed toward this audience. However, as an esteemed senior
counsel consulted for this article pointed out in pithy and direct terms, the
job of a student, fundamentally and somewhat simply, is to “listen, observe
and learn”. Conversely, the principal’s role is far more subtle, nuanced, challenging,
multi-dimensional and fraught.
Handed down August 13, 2019, Acumen centres on the decision of Acumen
* The authors wish to thank the following past and present members of the bar for their contributions to this article: L. Keith
Liddle; Peter Leask, Q.C.; Richard C.C. Peck, Q.C.; William B. Smart, Q.C.; Peter J. Wilson, Q.C.; Christopher S. Johnson,
Q.C.; Marilyn E. Sandford, Q.C.; Julie K. Lamb, Q.C.; Jeffery T.J. Campbell, Q.C.; A. John Lakes; Timothy Pettit; Trevor A.
Shaw; Matthew A. Nathanson; and Maurice D. Mirosolin.