Acting as agent good way to gain experience, develop business


Toronto civil and commercial litigator Jonathan Miller says acting as agent in commercial and estate list matters has been an excellent way to get more courtroom exposure as well as build a small book of business.

“I've been contacted by colleagues asking if I can attend on agency matters on their behalf,” says Miller, an associate with the Toronto office of Shibley Righton LLP. “A matter is either being adjourned or there needs to be someone in court representing their client in Toronto but it's not necessarily worth the firm sending someone from Windsor, Waterloo or Kingston to handle it.”

He tells when it comes to commercial and estate list matters, it’s common that early morning appointments are scheduled to deal with procedural aspects of litigation. When requesting an adjournment, for example, travelling from Kingston to Toronto to spend five minutes before a judge may not be the best use of a lawyer’s time.

For Miller, making sure the conflict check is clear and that he’s up to speed on a matter is key before acting as agent.

"The first thing I do is I ask for the names of the parties involved to run a conflict check. If it comes back clear, I’ll ask for a copy of any relevant documents, typically the application and/or responding records so I can see if there’s a potential business conflict and to familiarize myself with the issues.”

He says when showing up as an agent for the lawyers representing their clients, it’s crucial to be as prepared as possible to deal with any questions the judge might have.

“A judge is not going to simply accept, ‘Well, I'm just the agent, I don't know anything.’ They're going to expect that you at least know something about why you're there and what’s going on.”

Miller says as a 2014 call to the bar, acting as agent gives him more opportunities to get into court.

“It's never a bad thing to get before a judge and be able to speak with them,” he says. “Quite often there's not a whole lot that has to be said but at the same time it gets you more familiar with the system.”

Acting as agent is also a great way for a young lawyer to generate some business for the firm.

“It's harder for a young associate to bring clients to the firm but this is one way to start contributing to the firm and building a book of business,” Miller says. “You never know where that's going to lead down the road.”

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