Government Lawyers Series: Navigating Ethical and Moral Obligations 

Oct. 18-27, 2022

Government lawyers face unique challenges in fulfilling their ethical and moral obligations. Although they are bound by the codes of professional conduct for their jurisdiction, very little guidance or attention is given to how those Codes apply to their context, or how additional public law and public service duties, as well as the unique nature of their client, are crucial to this practice of law. 

When faced with challenging ethical situations, however, it is of utmost importance to have a clear understanding of the unique framework and nature of their ethical duties and obligations.

This four-part series delivered by Professor Elizabeth Sanderson, author of Government Lawyering: Duties and Ethical Challenges of Government Lawyers, provides detailed guidance on the legal and ethical framework that government lawyers work within. 

Module 1: Setting the Ethical Framework
October 18 noon - 1pm ET

This session provides the constitutional, statutory and institutional framework of lawyering in the Executive Branch, and looks at the additional duties and obligations unique to government lawyers carried out on behalf of the constitutional Office of the Chief Law Officer of the Crown. We also discuss the duties of neutrality and objectivity as public servants.
Module 2: The Unique Client Relationship of Government Lawyers
October 20 noon - 1pm ET

This session focuses on the government lawyers’ singular client, the Crown, which represents the public interest, and not private or corporate interests more typically associated with legal practice. We explore this unique relationship and the nuances that impact the way your job and duties are fulfilled. We also address the constitutional imperative and constraints of Attorney General independence in criminal and civil matters.
Acting as the “Guardian of the Rule of Law and Public Interest”
October 25 noon - 1pm ET

Ensuring the administration of public affairs complies with the law is at the heart of government lawyering. This session focuses on the concepts embedded in the term “Guardian of the Rule of Law and Public Interest” that have become associated across the Commonwealth with the role of the Chief Law Officer of the Crown and those who practice law on their behalf.
Series #4: Distinctions in practice between government lawyering and private/corporate lawyering
October 27 noon - 1pm ET

Capping off the series, this session considers several unique aspects of government legal practice and how it is distinct from private or corporate lawyering. These include the focus on public interest in exercising the duty of candour, legal risk management, advocacy when acting on behalf of the State, taking instructions and solicitor–client privilege.


Sanderson, Elizabeth Elizabeth Sanderson, Sessional Professor and Public Service Mentor in Residence, University of Ottawa
Elizabeth Sanderson is a former government lawyer with over 30 years of experience at Justice Canada, including as ADAG, Aboriginal Affairs, during the resolution of the Residential Schools class actions. She was also Deputy Minister of Justice Nunavut. She has developed and taught courses on government lawyering at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, as well as courses on public and constitutional law.


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    Free for members
    $50 (for the series) or $20(per module) for non-members