The ethics exam is quickly approaching and you are wondering what to expect and some tricks to prepare accordingly. With a very high degrees of accuracy, I am comfortable stating that your ethics exam will likely comprise of the following: 12 points for ethical lapses and four short answer questions each worth two marks.
The first part of the exam will look for a number of ethical lapses (manquements) this is normally worth 12 marks and you have to find somewhere between 10 and 14 different ethical lapses to get all of your points. For each of the ethical lapses you need to identify the lapse itself and include the article number (and the associated paragraph number) which applies. I should also mention that normally one mark on 12 is awarded simply for getting all of the ethical lapses correct so to say if you get one wrong, you’re unfortunately starting at 10 on 12 as opposed to 11.
These ethical lapses are generally divided as follows: 60% from the Code de déontologie, 30% from the Règlement sur la comptabilité et les normes d’exercise, and the last 10% from the Code de professions and the Loi sur le Barreau. People often forget to study the Règlement sur la comptabilité et les normes d’exercise, so make sure you don’t make that mistake.
For the ethical lapses themselves, make sure that you don’t multiply the number of lapses for one particular issue. Each ethical lapse is only one ethical lapse and should not be cited multiple times as violating different articles. Be mindful of ethical lapses by omission (not advising a client of the possibility of being admissible to legal aid, not providing a receipt when receiving cash, not having a sign near the entrance to the law practice, etc.)
The second part of the exam will contain four different short answer questions, each worth two marks. This can be the first time that you really are getting a feeling of the type of questions which the Bar asks. It is essential that you answer the question and only a question. You will likely lose all of your marks if you nuance your answer even the slightest. Your answer should be “yes” or it should be “no”; “yes, but” or “no, but” is a sure way to get zero on a question.
I should mention that you will likely see many lines to answer each of those short answer questions. Don’t be deceived and believe that since you have for example 12 lines provided to answer a question that the Bar believes that you must use them all to get all of your points. You need to be comfortable with white space as filling up all of the allocated space is an extremely risky strategy as the Bar uses negative correction which will remove points for any part of your answer which is incorrect. In addition, you need to cite the bare minimum number of articles for each answer and follow the golden rule which is you normally cite one article, two maximum and never more. These four short answer questions could be on many different topics, but it is likely that at least one will be on confidentiality, another on conflicts of interest, and the remaining may touch on subjects such as joint mandates or the disciplinary process.
To prepare, try to do as many of the past at this exams as possible. They may be found by following here (Quebec Bar Past Ethics Exams). Although the Code de deontologie des avocats has changed since these old exams took place, the questions and their answers are highly relevant for your exam. Just take advantage of the concordance tables found online between the old law and the new one. Doing these past exams will also help you get into the “Bar exam mindset”: expecting trick questions everywhere and learning how to see through them.
As a final comment, the ethics exams during most of the Covid period only the ethical lapses section without any short answer part. It goes without saying that if you only base yourself on those recent exams, your preparation will be inadequate.
For all were wondering, the new reformed Bar program will contain a stand-alone ethics exam. That exam will be three hours long as opposed to the current hour and a half, and will contain significantly more short answer questions. To learn more about the changes to the Bar and the pilot project which it happened this past year, have a look at this post You Say You Want a Revolution: Quebec Bar School Reform. Best of luck with your prep.