Guy Pratte '82This Q & A is the complete version of the one that appears in the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Nexus.

Guy Pratte is a BLG litigation partner who divides his time between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Fluently bilingual in French and English, he practices regularly before the Superior Courts and Courts of Appeal of Quebec and Ontario, the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal of Canada, and the SCC. He was the lead counsel for Brian Mulroney in hearings before the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and the Oliphant Commission and represented "Lola" in the groundbreaking common law case in Quebec.

Interviewed by Lucianna Ciccocioppo

LC: What does the law firm of the future look like?

GP: I'm wary of predictions because when I started to practice law more than 25 years ago, everyone said there would be no mid-sized law firms left since these firms wouldn't survive because big clients wouldn't go to them, and the hourly rate would disappear. The only thing that I would say is that it's difficult to believe that there won't be more consolidation, quote unquote, involving international firms and matters.

LC: Many firms have a China strategy given its importance in the global economy, but is there another global frontier your firm is looking at?
 
GP: We're looking everywhere. Initially, a lot of firms opened offices in Asia and even in Europe. There has been a bit of a retrenchment, and some will argue that you don't need to have offices necessarily in China or the Middle East, for example, because you can go there on a regular basis and make the connections you need to make, and have the presence that you need to have.  We are looking at that at the moment.

LC: What do you think of our new Global Professional LLM-is this the right direction the law school should be going?

GP: Definitely.  I'm totally in tune and supportive of those kinds of initiatives because I think that many, many lawyers maintain a strong academic interest. These are people who have been practicing a long, long time but they are very much stimulated by the academy. It's a rejuvenation of sorts for them. I think it's fantastic.

LC: You've been quoted in media that you hate public enquiries and parliamentary committees. You called them very crude instruments.  What would your ideal system be then?

GP: I do believe there have to be instruments for genuine issues of proper policy concerns.  For example, pick parliamentary committees. The real problem there is that MPs, the politicians, have an absolute immunity in what they say, and I think that these committees are clearly exploited for purely political purposes. And there is absolutely no protection whatsoever for the witnesses. I think we need to review the absoluteness of the parliamentary privilege because people show up there with lawyers who can't do anything, they have no rights in the proceedings, and some MPs will abuse them or call them liars-with total impunity.

LC: What books first influenced you?

GP: That's an interesting question.   I would say that the first philosophical influence that probably stayed with me since I was 18 years old was Cardinal Newman.   In Montreal, there was a course called "Newman and Atheism," (only the Jesuits would do a piece about atheism), but it turned me, I guess, into a bit of a skeptic. Later on, David Hume was an influence, because I did a master's in philosophy and David Hume was a great Scottish skeptic of the 18th century and great writer. So I approach all intellectual pursuits, politics and law, really, with a healthy dose of skepticism, and I hope some modesty and humility.  We had a lot of intellectual debates in our household when I was growing up, and we were never discouraged from disagreeing with the mainstream view or the view of our parents- unless it was something that they really cared about, like what you were having for dinner.

LC: If you could have a second career, what would you be and why?

RP: A writer or classical musician.  I'm a Beethoven freak but I should say that, within the limits of my talents, those options were not open to me.  The only career that I did flirt with was politics.  I was asked to run a couple of times, and I did assume that, in politics, at some level, there was a micro-extension of advocacy.  But within the limits of my talents, I probably could only do what I'm doing. I'm very content with my fate.

LC: I understand you are a marathon runner?

RP: Not anymore.  For the past five years or so, I do road biking and cycling. Hence my illusion to the fact that I have become a biking nut.  I have several bikes, and I've been to the Tour de France twice and actually followed them for a week in the south of France with my son.  So that's my latest obsession.

Photograph by Nigel Dickson