“I don’t believe in magic’, the young boy said. The old man smiled, ‘You will when you see her" – To Kill a Mockingbird
This may be an accurate description of how most criminal defence lawyers or those enamoured with all things “law”, describe those first jittery feelings when they got to know “her” – justice.
Although, their stories on how they crossed paths with “her”, differ.
Meet Sean Robichaud, a well-respected criminal defence lawyer with a practice that primarily focuses on areas of sexual assault, domestic violence, homicide, impaired driving, and drug offences/regulation.
Sean completed his undergraduate studies while basking in the wonders of philosophy and soon found himself struggling to find a way to make a living with a philosophy degree.
"I had a largely useless arts degree for what I had hoped to achieve in life, so the thought of law school crossed my mind. I took the LSAT just to see how I would do and next thing you knew, I was in law school."
This glimpse of the past takes on a new dimension as Sean reflects on his background,
“I come from a blue-collar family, where no one had gone to university. I had never even met a lawyer before law school. It was the curiosity of what university was that drove me to pursue higher education.”
“Curiosity”, that about sums up the motivating factor Sean had in his early days of law school, but then he met “her”.
“My perspective changed. I learned a great motivating lesson from that time; no matter how whimsical the motives may be behind a pursuit, you can easily dedicate everything to it once you’re there. It’s easier to change your trajectory from one commitment to another, rather than having no trajectory at all.”
Criminal law became all Sean wanted to do,
“I love interacting with people, solving problems, and looking at things from different perspectives. I loved answering the epistemological questions that I had encountered in philosophy, which could be applied to many facets of litigation.”
After being called to the Ontario bar in 2005, there was no clipping his wings. With a successful and burgeoning legal career, he slowly realized he had a knack for business as well, or rather innovation.
In 2009, he began a firm of his own Robichaud’s Criminal Defence Litigation and is regarded today as one of Toronto’s most renowned criminal defence firms.
With the scent of a freshly baked loaf of entrepreneurship still in the air, he pursued his innovation knack once again with King Law Chambers.
Located in Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market District, it provides lawyers with practice solutions, such as inexpensive collaborative workspaces and offices. Most recently, he pursues his new role as host of his award-winning podcast Of Counsel.
Amidst these ventures, Sean began to look at the law and the needs of the profession in a different light,
“The law has become far too complicated to have any meaningful connection to society. Very few things make sense anymore. Lawyers are here to assist, but it has gotten to a point where if I don’t specialize in a certain area of the law, I will get lost. The law needs to be simplified, we must come back to the first basic principles upon which our laws were founded, such as don’t hurt someone, don’t steal. These common-sense principles have become obscured and incomprehensible as some members of the bench are constantly trying to outdo previous judgments. Ultimately, people start losing trust in the justice system because they no longer understand it. It is our duty as lawyers and judges to prevent this.”
What should be done next? According to Sean, “ask deep questions.”
Upon his own deep reflections, he has identified the justice system’s greatest need today: access.
“Not just access in terms of opening up the doors of the courtroom, but the ability to walk into a courtroom and have access to a service quickly and easily; comparable to picking up a computer from an Apple store. What is frustrating for clients and society as a whole, is having to go to court 16 times and being told you have to wait. For instance, it was recently decided by the Supreme Court that waiting 18 months for a simple trial is ‘reasonable’ under the Constitution. To put things into perspective, we’ve been in COVID now for 6 months. This raises questions on how far removed judges are from the people, fueling further discussions on access to justice.”
Nonetheless, there is hope. Changes that have been repeatedly called for by defence lawyers, which have historically been “met with silence”, are now emerging.
With cautious optimism, the legal practice may become ever so slightly bearable, but the calling remains the same “though the heavens fall”.
“There’s too much risk in loving’, the young boy said. ‘No’, said the old man. ‘There’s too much risk in not” - To Kill a Mockingbird
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