The Canadian Bar Association
Criminal

Set clear expectations ahead of co-counsel arrangement

When it comes to the details of a co-counsel arrangement, senior lawyers need to recognize a person’s strengths and weaknesses and assign responsibilities accordingly, Toronto criminal lawyer Jill Presser tells Lawyers Weekly.

“You always want to make sure your client is being excellently represented, but if you’re working with juniors you also want to give them the opportunity, appropriately, to learn and grow,” says Presser, principal at Presser Barristers, who has been on both sides of the co-counsel table during her career.

Once, when Presser noted a junior’s timid personality, she assigned research and writing-related tasks where the individual excelled, instead of oral presentation of arguments in court.

Communication is also key, she explains.

“When I’m taking work to a junior, whether it’s one of my own associates or somebody outside my firm, I’m very clear from the get-go,” Presser says.

“If my expectation in bringing a junior into an appeal is that they’ll do the research, help me write the factum and help me put together the appeal book, but that I’ll be the one arguing the appeal, then I want to make that very clear to them up front,” she adds.

Presser tells Lawyers Weekly that she outlines timelines, procedural steps and other preferences. Where applicable, she also discusses monetary arrangements in advance.

“I don’t want any misunderstandings or hard feelings down the road. It’s about making sure we have the same expectations.”

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