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On a typically chilly early February day in Ottawa, Ontario, 150 or so proud Canadians gathered in the West Block room of Parliament for what was pronounced a one-time holiday. They were there to pay tribute to one of Canada's greatest litigators, David Scott.
Among those gathered in the opulent high-ceilinged room in the nation's capital were the chief justice of Canada, two other justices, the city's mayor, and virtually anybody who is anybody in the country's legal circles. Several people rose to speak in honor of Scott, and when the mayor took his turn at the podium, he announced, "February 4, 2004, is David Scott Day."
Not bad for a man who recalls that he was "an average student" in college and who essentially says that he fell into law because it was convenient. So why such a lavish celebration for this senior partner with the Canadian national law firm of Borden Ladner Gervais?
Well, Scott had recently been elected president of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL), the first Canadian ever to serve in that position. To lawyers in the Great North, that's a big deal and understandably so because Scott now has the opportunity to foster important cross-border education among North American trial attorneys.
What's more, the ACTL is one of the most prestigious institutions in the profession. Not just any Joe Attorney can pay an annual fee and get membership. To become Fellows, as their called, lawyers must be nominated in secret by their colleagues and then elected in by the ACTL membership; some 25 percent of all nominees are denied fellowship, according to Earl Cherniak, an attorney with the Canadian law firm Lerners, a current fellow and former member of the nomination committee.
"There are between 250-300 Canadian fellows in the ACTL, and every one of them is delighted that the new president is (1) Canadian and (2) is David," Cherniak says. "We're not surprised because he is one of the country's greatest barristers. We're all very proud of him."
Praise for Scott's litigation skills comes from virtually every corner of Canada's legal profession. In the courtroom, "[Scott] transmits in a palpable way the feeling that he is committed to his client's cause," says Ottawa-based attorney James O'Grady. "He believes that an advocate ought to be prepared, indeed has a duty, to take any case or any client, popular or unpopular, at any time; this is one of his most-deeply held beliefs. He is, as one lawyer described it to me, the Master of Reply, the Master of the Last Word."
Cherniak, who was in attendance on David Scott Day, agrees that Scott is well-known for his courtroom prowess--he's represented prime ministers and supreme court justices--but he's equally respected for his public service. Most recently, Scott has been deeply involved with …