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Court Comments on Supervision of Junior Lawyers and Students During Pandemic

Working from home during the pandemic has been necessary, but a recent decision of Justice Myers shows that it is not without some problems.

The decision, Polgampalage v. Devany, 2021 ONSC 1157, involved an unopposed motion to transfer an action from Windsor to Toronto. Justice Myers dismissed the motion because he found an affidavit that was sworn by a student at the plaintiff’s lawyer’s firm to be highly lacking.  Justice Myers stated that he was very disappointed that “a principal allowed a student-at-law to swear and submit the affidavit” and that “closer supervision was required”.

Justice Myers indicated that he has special empathy for students and young lawyers who may be deprived of close contact with mentors and senior peers. His Honour stated:

Partners, employers, and mentors may not even realize how much their juniors are suffering from the lack of ready access to more experienced colleagues whether for formal training, informal feedback, or even serendipitous educational opportunities that may arise from casual chats in office corridors.

Justice Myers further stated that all students and lawyers have independent duties to carefully scrutinize every word to which they put their names. His Honour said that, during the pandemic in particular, juniors need to insist that they receive full instructions and that their work product is properly reviewed. Otherwise, they put their integrity and reputations at risk.