American legal shows pervade our television – I’m a huge fan of Suits and Boston Legal – and I frequently notice people referring to Canadian lawyers and judges by American terminology.
American lawyers are called attorneys, but we do not use this term in Canada. I generally refer to myself as a “lawyer” when asked what I do. As a kickback to the British legal system, lawyers in Canada are also barristers and solicitors. A barrister attends Court and runs trials, while a solicitor does not attend Court and works on document oriented tasks, such as writing Wills and completing real estate transactions.
Judges in Canadian Provincial Courts are called “Your Honour.” I believe this is similar to what we see on American tv shows. Judges at the Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal are properly called Justices, and they are addressed as “My Lord” or “My Lady.” This is another vestige of the British legal tradition, and it is commonly followed in our Courts. When in doubt, however, a simple “Sir” or “Ma’am” will always suffice.
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