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UNB Fredericton

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Jim Lockyer brings trial advocacy expertise to the UNB Law classroom

Trial lawyer, Dean of Law, Attorney General, and even pilot; alumnus Jim Lockyer, ONB, CD, KC (LLB ’75) has worn many hats throughout his extraordinary career. He has studied at some of the world’s top educational institutions, served his community and province through political office for over a decade, and for the last twenty-plus years, has established himself as a leading figure in trial advocacy across North America. Since 2020, Lockyer has brought his expertise to the UNB Law classroom as a visiting professor, where he has been hard at work preparing students for the rigors of trial practice.

An unconventional path to the classroom

A graduate of the class of 1975, Lockyer looks back on his three years at law school fondly. He considered it to be a great privilege to study law at UNB under the guidance of Professors Dore, Bird, Stapleton, and McAllister.

“It was three years of very hard work. I went into UNB having something to prove to myself—that I belonged there. I committed myself to working very hard, and it paid off greatly because it opened many doors.”

In his final semester, he recounts being approached by Dean Alan Sinclair, KC, with an unexpected request.

“Class had just finished. The dean came up to me and said, ‘we know you're going for a post-grad; would you be interested in teaching here at UNB Law when you return?’ To be frank, that was the furthest thing from my mind at that time. I did not want to teach; I wanted to be a litigator. I said I would think about it, and after three or four days, I said, ‘no, I don’t think teaching is in my future.’”

This was an especially memorable moment for Lockyer, considering the latter part of his career would be dedicated to teaching law across North America. But that was that. Lockyer set off for the United Kingdom, receiving his LLM from the London School of Economics. He returned to Moncton one year later and began his practice of law as a litigator with Stewart Cooper. Just a few years later, Lockyer received a second call to teach. This time, from Fernand Landry (LLB ’72), who was coordinating the hiring of professors for the newly opened Faculté de droit at the Université de Moncton.

“I had a conversation with Fernand, and he asked me to come over to teach for two years. I told him my linguistic strength was not good enough and he offered to send me to Paris for a year to study.”

It was a tough offer to refuse. Lockyer received a DEA from L’Université de Paris 1 - Panthéon-Sorbonne and became the first-ever full-time faculty member of the newly opened law school. As it does, two years turned into a decade of teaching, with Lockyer eventually serving as Dean of Law (1984 to 1987).

Seventeen years in political office

Lockyer next set his sights on provincial politics. In 1987, he was elected a Member of the Legislative Assembly in the New Brunswick general election, representing the riding of Moncton West (L). During his twelve years as MLA, he held several cabinet positions, including five years as Attorney General and one year as Solicitor General.

“My five years as attorney general was one of the most animated periods in New Brunswick legal history. We had high-profile cases involving availability of medical services, hate literature, correctional services sexual abuse and public inquiry, prosecutorial sexual abuse of the complainant, and several police scandals. There were high-profile murder cases such as those on the Miramichi where the perpetrator was on the run in the New Brunswick woods for seven months. That arrest led to a ground-breaking trial where it featured the first use of DNA profiling to convict rather than exonerate—something we understood was the first time ever anywhere. We also had the Colombians crash land an airplane at Brockway Airstrip carrying 500 kgs of cocaine. They were captured and sent to prison, and about six months later, another crew of Colombians was arrested in Edmundston, who was sent to New Brunswick to break them out of jail. It was non-stop, but it was fascinating.”

For Lockyer, politics was thrilling; it provided enormous highs and very low lows.

“You're living on adrenaline 24/7—there's never a minute to breath. It was a tremendous period, I enjoyed it immensely, but at the end of four and a half years on city council and twelve and a half years in the legislature, I was spent. I won five elections, I lost my sixth, I just needed a year off.”

At the suggestion of his wife, Madame Justice Brigitte Robichaud (LLB ’80), he decided to take the year off to pursue his pilot’s license, something he had been dreaming about for years. He has been flying ever since as an instrument-rated private pilot.

Returning to the classroom for trial advocacy

Following his time in office, Lockyer returned to the classroom at U de M with a renewed passion for teaching—but now, focusing on trial advocacy.

“I totally fell in love with teaching again. I enjoy the students, their enthusiasm, their zest, and their curiosity. What sort of married up with this was that I stumbled into teaching trial advocacy, which I've been doing now for 22 years, and it's opened up a whole new field of research for me, and I have developed some fantastic contacts.”

Lockyer has established himself as one of the preeminent trial advocacy professors in North America, committing the last two decades of his career to developing and sharing as much knowledge as possible in the field.

“I found that people were yearning to become better in the courtroom, so I really committed myself to trial advocacy. I took a number of steps to learn as much as I possibly could in the shortest possible time.”

One of these steps was reconnecting with the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA), an American not-for-profit organization that provides lawyers with training in trial advocacy skills. Lockyer had first worked with NITA in the mid-1980s, delivering a series of workshops for practitioners. It was during these workshops that he first met James Seckinger, an internationally recognized trial advocacy professor and author. 

“At the time, Jim Seckinger was the Executive Director of NITA, and it was centered at the University of Notre Dame. I got to know him in the 80s, and we've stayed in touch. When I returned to teaching in 2000, I started really concentrating on trial advocacy, I got talking to him, and I picked up a whole lot of material which I just committed to memory.”

Lockyer has been sharing his knowledge with the North American legal community ever since. For over a decade, Lockyer has taught Osgoode Hall Law School's annual Intensive Trial Advocacy Workshop. From 2007 to 2019, he was a visiting teacher of trial advocacy to students at the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Indiana. Since 2007, he has taught trial advocacy to members of the Quebec Bar in its program "Techniques de plaidoirie" at the Université de Sherbrooke. He has taught workshops for law firms and Departments of Justice.

“I've wanted to have as deep a knowledge of trial advocacy as possible. When you go to these places, you're in the company of 30 or 40 trial advocates from across Canada in the case of Osgoode and Quebec, and 30 and 40 across the US in the case of Notre Dame. There is an incredible amount of knowledge sharing. You're working with these experts, and you just study them, you pick up so much to enhance what you already know.”

Why trial advocacy?

“The skillset is multi-dimensional; it's infinite in terms of how you program yourself to communicate. It takes a huge amount of mental discipline. You have your plan, the witnesses you're going to examine and cross-examine, and you know beforehand the facts you want to get out of them. If you don't have a lot of discipline and a firm foundation of trial advocacy, when stuff hits the fan, and things start to go in a direction you were not planning, everything will crumble.”

Lockyer teaches his students a series of rules that he insists must be committed to memory and must be respected. Ten for cross-examination and ten for direct examination. For example, in a direct examination when dealing with controversial fact, all questions must begin with the words; how, what, where, when, why, who, which, describe, explain, or ‘tell us.’ According to Lockyer, this is to ensure that it is the witness telling the story and not counsel. All questions should be no more than 6 to 8 words and each question pursue one fact only. A proper factual foundation must be prepared for each question.

“In cross-examination, the purpose is to elicit known facts from an adverse witness that will help your case,” explains Lockyer. “To control the witness, an assertion of one fact only is put to the witness with the goal that the witness confirms the fact already known. The assertion must be one fact only and a maximum 6 to 8 words. However, an assertion of two to three words is better and an assertion with one word is better still.”

Using this method, the practical effect is that lawyer, on cross-examination, is testifying on known facts to which the witness has no choice but to accept. This approach is not permitted in direct examination.

“Being a trial lawyer is one of the most interesting things one can possibly imagine. The stakes are just so high. You can't hide from the judge, you can't hide from the jury, and you can't hide from your clients. My job is to teach students the foundation, so they can properly represent their clients, and can take what I’ve given them and develop it further throughout their career.”

A homecoming to support UNB Law’s McKelvey Cup team

Lockyer returned to his alma mater in 2020, travelling from Moncton to Fredericton each week to teach intensive sessions in trial advocacy to the McKelvey Cup team. That year, team UNB Law delivered one of its best performances ever, nearly sweeping the competition with 6 of 8 awards. This past academic year, Lockyer not only assisted with the moot preparations but also taught Trial Practice for 3Ls. As you will read in this issue, this year’s McKelvey Cup team won the competition for the first time in 20 years. 

“My time teaching has been just absolutely a thrill, and the crowning piece to that was being invited back to teach at UNB. For me it was like a homecoming. In room 14, where I delivered my course this year, my seat is still there, where I sat for three years listening to Karl Dore, Dick Bird, Baz Stapleton, and George McAllister. I've just enjoyed it immensely.”

Prof. Lockyer will be returning this fall to teach trial practice once again, and to prepare UNB law’s McKelvey Cup team for their title defense. 

Continue reading this issue of NEXUS