11 Cap. U. L. Rev. 401 (1981-1982)
Competence in Law: An Unending Search

handle is hein.journals/capulr11 and id is 415 raw text is: COMPETENCE IN LAW: AN UNENDING SEARCH*

LEON E. TRAKMAN**
I. INTRODUCTION
The issue of professional competence is a relative one; for compe-
tence in law is related to the character of lawyering itself. It is based-
upon the performance of those who practice the law, their skills and
legal propensities. Yet the extent to which each individual lawyer is
competent or acts professionally hinges upon who determines the na-
ture of competence in law and what standards of competence are ap-
plied to the lawyering process.
This paper examines the issue of professional competence prin-
cipally from the perspective of a legal educator functioning within a
law school setting. These primary questions are posed. Firstly, what is
the meaning of professional competence in the legal profession?
Secondly, who determines the parameters of professional competence
in law? Thirdly, what forms of legal education are needed in order to
provide society with lawyers who best satisfy such standards of profes-
sional competence?
II. DEFINING PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE
What does professional competence mean? The answers are many.
Any concept of professionalism demands a standard of ethics, a level of
honesty and decency, a degree of ability and, most importantly, a
minimum level of performance. Competence is therefore a measure of
both capacity to perform and performance itself. The lawyer must be
able to carry out lawyering functions with a requisite degree of
knowledge and skill; and he or she must also be willing to perform
such functions honestly, completely, and on time. In addition, lawyer-
ing requires psycho-sociological abilities; for the law is a human science
that addresses public and private concerns alike. A competent lawyer
is therefore one who is able, not only to recognize social needs, but
* Copyright 1982 by Leon E. Trakman. This article was originally presented at
the National Conference on Professional Competence and the Law, Dalhousie Law School,
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, May 29, 1981.
** B. Com., LL.B. (Cape Town); LL.M., S.J.D. (Harvard). Professor Dalhousie Law
School; Chairman, Legal Education Section (N.S.), Canadian Bar Association.
1. See ABA CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY Canon 6, entitled: A Lawyer
Should Represent a Client Competently. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct,
drafted by the Commission on Evaluation of Professional Standards of the American Bar
Association, defines competence as the specific legal knowledge, skill, efficiency,

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