Stephen Young – Interview a Lawyer Assignment w Calvin Barry

It’s a pleasure having this fine young man doing his work placement at our firm. See his interview with Calvin below:

By Stephen Young

For this assignment, I interviewed criminal defence lawyer, Calvin Barry. I am currently doing my work placement at his firm, Calvin Barry Professional Corporation. His scope of practise focuses on criminal and regulatory offences. Calvin has been in the legal profession for over thirty years. Calvin spent over sixteen years as a Senior Crown Attorney. In the year 2004, he made a switch and started practising criminal and regulatory offence law through his own practise. The thing that Calvin enjoys the most about the job is having his own firm, where he gets to decide his own hours. Additionally, criminal law and regulatory offence matters are always current. Calvin states that there will always be accused persons with drunk driving related charges, who require a defence to ensure their access to justice.  Ultimately, the defence council’s job is  to promote rehabilitation.

Calvin states that the advice that he would give someone entering the profession is that it is a lot of work, and one should expect to work sixty to seventy hours a week to be at the top of their legal discipline. There is also a lot of sacrifices one has to make, because being a criminal defence lawyer is not a nine-to-five job. The main challenges he faces is in relation to Covid-19, where a lot of trials have been moved to Zoom. He foresees in his profession that jury trials will be a challenge due to social distancing. When asked if prefers the Covid-19 methods of phone trials to the traditional in court trials, Calvin replied that he would like to see a combination. Although there are a lot of legal professionals already in the Greater Toronto Area, Calvin thinks that there is still room for new talent who are passionate about practising law. When hiring he looks for legal professionals who are exceptional.

In recent years, there have been many driving under the influence (DUI) offences, resulting in a large amount of victim deaths. This prompted me to ask him if he has observed if the amount of DUI offences that he has been retained for, has increased in the last five years? He replied, “no”. He elaborated that unfortunately there have just been more high-profile ones that have resulted in a large number of victim deaths. When asked where he sees his practise in five years, Calvin hopes to spend less days at the office and would like to do further world travelling.

I asked Calvin about being a defence lawyer and the stigma that comes with defending the “wrong side”. Calvin stated that everyone is entitled to a defense and that he is not the decider of what is right and what is wrong. Calvin believes that all of the accused are entitled to due process and a defence. Additionally, there is always the possibility that the accused did not commit the crime and is innocent. It is the accused’s right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to a fair trial.

I learned from this interview that one must have a passion to practise law and know that it is not a nine-to-five job. Criminal defence involves mediation, negotiation and diversion. This allows less serious offences to be settled out of court, which allows the courts to have the resources to try the more serious crimes. Additionally, from a criminal lawyer’s perspective  people make mistakes in society and instead of punishing them they should be rehabilitated. I learned that criminal  law is always changing and thus, one must stay informed by reading the news and staying current on new criminal law via a legal database. I learned that my theory that the amount of DUIs has gone up was wrong despite there being more news about DUIs in the media. I learned that by having your own practise, allows you to make your own hours and can be more successful from a monetary standpoint. Lastly, I learned that it is important to have a good work-life balance, as during this interview Calvin was on his way to Port Carling, Ontario to spend the weekend on his boat, “Knot Guilty”.