If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Perceptions from Three Recently Appointed Judges | CPDonline.ca

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: Perceptions from Three Recently Appointed Judges

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Professionalism (Ethics, etc.): 1.25
80 minutes
Substantive: 0.25
10 minutes
Peter Bawden
Karen Erlick
Robin McKechney
Benjamin Zarnett
Toronto Lawyers Association (TLA)
90 minutes
$129.00 plus tax
Includes Handouts

As litigators, you spend your entire career seeing the courtroom from the counsel podium, watching the often-inscrutable face of a judge looking back. You have probably wondered: What is the judge thinking? Am I winning? How can I do better? Unfortunately, there is no rule of procedure that allows us to call a timeout and ask, “how am I doing so far?” 

This unique program will address these common concerns through a distinguished panel that consists of three recently-appointed Ontario judges, one from each of the Court of Appeal, the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice (criminal). Our speakers will share what they have observed from the bench that they wish they knew when they were counsel. They will reflect on what they would have told their former lawyer selves if they could turn back time.  Drawing on their recent and long-term experience as lawyers, our speakers will tell you what they frequently see (and do not see, but should). What advocacy skills work? What traits annoy them? How can you as an advocate be more effective?

If there are questions that you want answered, send them to the TLA before the program and get the perspective from a panel that can look at the courtroom from both sides now.

Ethical Advocacy, Mentoring Best Practices and Career Management

What have been the biggest challenges of becoming a judge and what should counsel know about those challenges so that they can be more effective? What do you most wish you knew when you were a lawyer that you know now? What one quality would you have changed about your own advocacy if you knew then what you know now? What body language do you notice from the bench that can lead to a negative (or positive) impression of counsel? What is the most annoying thing you have observed from the bench? What are the most helpful things that a lawyer can do to assist you in your job? What are the most unhelpful things?

Ethical Advocacy, Mentoring Best Practices and Career Management

What have you learned most about written advocacy that you wish you knew when you were a lawyer? Do you have a different view now of what constitutes an effective factum and if so, what has changed? If not, what does make an effective factum? What have you learned most about oral appellate advocacy since you were appointed to the bench? Can oral advocacy actually change your view of the result once you have read the factum and if so, what makes the difference?

Ethical Advocacy, Mentoring Best Practices and Career; Judicial Pre-Trials and Case Conferences 

What have you learned about how to be effective in judicial pretrials or case conferences that you may not have known when you were a lawyer? What are the common mistakes you have seen made in a judicial pretrials or case conferences? What have you seen that has been effective in a judicial pretrial or case conference?

Ethical Advocacy, Mentoring Best Practices and Career Management ; Trials 

What is the easiest change a lawyer could make to make their examination in chief to make it more effective? What is the easiest change lawyer could make to their cross-examination to make it more effective? What is the easiest change a lawyer could make to make their oral submissions more persuasive? In a trial, is it always helpful to have written submissions? Are there times when it is not helpful?


The Honourable Peter Bawden

Justice Bawden was a proud member of the TLA Board of Directors at the time of his appointment to the Superior Court in October 2017. His Honour spent many happy hours working in the TLA library in the years preceding his appointment and still describes it as the best working law library in the city. Justice Bawden was assigned to the Criminal Team at 361 University when the pandemic struck in March 2020. Since that time, he has presided by Zoom over bail reviews, section 469 bail applications, judicial pre-trial conferences, and lengthy criminal trials. He describes himself as a guarded optimist regarding the future of virtual criminal proceedings.

The Honourable Karen Erlick

Justice Erlick received her Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University and then her Bachelor of Laws degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. She was called to the Ontario Bar in February of 2002. Justice Erlick began her career as a criminal defence lawyer with the firm of Greenspan, Humphrey, Lavine. In May of 2004, she joined the Downtown Toronto Crown Attorney’s office. In November of 2017, Justice Erlick was sworn in as a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice. She presides in Toronto.

Robin McKechney

Robin has acted as counsel on several of Canada’s pre-eminent white-collar criminal trials including Nortel, Royal Group and Armour Pharmaceuticals. Robin has also been engaged in both prosecuting and defending professionals before disciplinary tribunals and has frequently appeared as trial and appellate counsel for self-regulating professional colleges in Ontario.

Robin is an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School, where he has taught the Law of Evidence in both the J.D. and Common Law LL.M. programs since 2014.  Robin has spoken on numerous continuing legal education panels and conferences on topics including financial crimes, internal investigations, criminal procedure and professional regulation. Robin is a co-author of “Prosecuting and Defending Professional Regulatory Cases” which will be published by Emond Publishing in November 2019.

Robin obtained his B.A. (Hons) from the University of Saskatchewan and attended law school at Dalhousie University where he was awarded the Nova Scotia Law Foundation Scholarship. Robin graduated from Dalhousie Law School in 2000 and was called to the bar in Ontario in 2002.

The Honourable Benjamin Zarnett

Justice Benjamin Zarnett was born and raised in Toronto. He studied political science and philosophy at the University of Toronto before attending Osgoode Hall Law School, where he graduated as the Bronze Medalist in 1975. He was admitted to the Ontario Bar in 1977 and practiced trial and appellate advocacy until his appointment to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in November 2018.

During his career as a lawyer he handled cases ranging across a wide spectrum of issues including corporate, commercial and securities law, shareholder rights, pension rights, professional liability, class actions, insolvency law, taxation, real estate, intellectual property and broadcasting policy. His clients included individuals, law firms, court-appointed officers, companies, financial institutions, Crown corporations and public interest advocacy organizations. He was counsel in fifteen appeals in the Supreme Court of Canada and numerous cases before Ontario's appellate and trial courts, as well as appeals in the Federal Court of Appeal and the appellate courts of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. At the time of his appointment he was a member of the litigation group at Goodmans LLP in Toronto, where he had been a partner since 1990.

He is a former President of the Advocates' Society and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. For his contributions to the justice system, he was awarded the Law Society of Ontario Medal (its highest award) in 2006, the Toronto Lawyers Association Award of Distinction in 2007, and the Ontario Bar Association Award for Excellence in Civil Litigation in 2009.

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