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7 Dalhousie L.J. 831 (1982-1983)
Legal Competence Yesterday and Tomorrow

handle is hein.journals/dalholwj7 and id is 1309 raw text is: Leon E. Trakman*              Legal Competence Yesterday
and Tomorrow
I. Introduction
Attacks have been lodged against the legal profession for many
years, indeed, since even before Shakespeare commented in Henry
VI, The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers. However, it
is only more recently, with the growth of mass education and public
awareness and with technological advances, that suspicions of the
incompetence of lawyers has arisen again with a vengeance. Some
would credit this new trend to the condemnation of alleged
incompetence among trial lawyers by Chief Justice Burger of the
American Supreme Court. But to limit the attack on lawyers to this
Chief Justice is to ignore the fact that problems of lawyers' abilities
and performance are the inevitable outgrowth of an increasingly
rights-oriented public, which has responded to the democratic
system by questioning the utility of the lawyering services they
receive in return for their money. The members of an educated
community, conscious of the exchange of values in a free enterprise
system, will ultimately question the mystique that surrounds the
legal profession; they will doubt the lawyers' use of a covetted and
impenetrable language, and they will likely decline to accept advice
without reason, delay without cause, and inefficiency without
This paper examines the issue of professional competence,
principally from the perspective of a legal educator functioning
within a law school setting. The following basic questions are
posed. First, what is the meaning of professional competence in
the legal profession? Second, who determines the parameters of
professional competence in law? Third, what forms of legal
education are needed in order to provide society with lawyers who
best satisfy such standards of professional competence?
II. The Meaning of Professional Incompetence
One might well presuppose that incompetence encompasses only an
inability to perform. An incompetent lawyer would then be inept; he

*Professor of Law, Dalhousie University.

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