JAMES FROST of WELLS FROST LITIGATION GROUP
James Frost practices in the areas of criminal law and child protection law and provides representation in select civil litigation matters.
James appears at all levels of court in Ontario on trial and appeal matters under the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and represents young persons under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
He also has specific expertise in representing youth on behalf of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer in secure treatment hearings under the Child and Family Services Act.
James was called to the Ontario Bar in 2010 and the New York State Bar in 2009. He has been a member of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association since 2009.
My Business Magazine caught up with James to discuss what he does, and why he might be the right lawyer for you.
MBM: What compelled you to enter this particular field of law?
James: I was just attracted to the subject matter and procedure of criminal law.
I had a unique experience of going to law school in the U.S. and actually clerked with the District Attorney’s office in downtown Los Angeles. LA County’s District Attorney’s office is one of the largest law firms in North America, so it was quite the experience. It was around the time that some celebrities were having big trials. I got a taste of what it was like doing prosecution in one of the most polarizing jurisdictions that you could have that experience in.
When I decided to come back up to Canada, my inclination was not to go for prosecution, but to actually do defense work. There is a different style in Canada that I enjoy, versus being in the U.S.
I wasn’t always comfortable with being part of this large state run machine – whose only goal was to ‘take down’ a defendant, or someone accused criminally. I started articling with someone who practiced solely in criminal law, Kathryn Wells, who I now work with. I’ve had criminal law as the mainstay of my practice the entire time.
MBM: How would you best encapsulate what you do?
James: When the state is threatening an individual’s livelihood on any number of levels – we take on all those cases that range from criminal code and drug cases, ranging to even a company, or director of a company, facing liability.
But the central theme is that it’s all relative to the person or the client. It could be, directly, someone’s liberty at stake. Or it could be someone’s livelihood at stake, because of their inability to operate in a certain industry.
MBM: What brings you most meaning about what you do?
James: I think it would be having that feeling like you’ve made a great impact in someone’s life. You can see that, and feel that directly, as opposed to feeling like you’re a cog in a much greater wheel, and are disconnected from the clients and the outcome.
MBM: What are some of the challenges?
James: One challenge is managing client expectations. Because even though great lawyers can get some really great results, sometimes the facts are, or the circumstances are, what they are. You have to focus on getting the best result for your client, doing things in your client’s best interest. Sometimes that doesn’t gel with what the client is expecting.
The way to overcome that is keeping the client informed of everything that is going on, and why it is happening.
It’s an opportunity to educate. Understandably, people who interact with the criminal justice system don’t really have any reason to know all the ins and outs of the procedure.
MBM: Tell me about a particular success.
James: I would say, obviously, people enjoy acquittals. But particular successes that I’ve enjoyed are where you have a good constitutional or Charter argument, and you see it through. Ultimately, the judge who decides the issue agrees with you.
When you are trying to get, for instance, evidence excluded, because of a Section 8 breach, or something like that – unreasonable search and seizure – everyone is trying to push you into some sort of resolution.
Some of the sweetest victories are when you can see that there is a deeper issue at play, and you follow it through, and are successful on the merits of a constitutional argument. That, often times, is determinative for the case.
MBM: If someone asks ‘why you, versus a thousand others?’, what is your response?
James: In criminal law there’s always been a tendency for people to practice in small groups or as sole practitioners.
Now, it’s becoming clearer how beneficial that mode of practice can be to the client. In recent years, large firms have broken apart or merged into a mega-firm. But they are not really well suited to deal with these types of cases – nor do they necessarily try.
The real advantage of dealing with someone who has experience, but also knows how to run a practice, is that the clients are getting a personalized approach.
So, when they have questions, they speak directly to the lawyer that’s handling the case. When there is better communication between clients and the lawyer who is actually going into court, that yields better results.
MBM: Are you still involved with the Children’s Lawyer?
James: Yes. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to be a panel lawyer for the Office of the Children’s Lawyer several years ago, and I specialize in ‘secure treatment hearings’. That can be a very gratifying part of the practice. You are dealing with kids who are already, number one, going through something significant in their life in terms of mental health issues. Number two, you are dealing with kids who don’t necessarily want to be involuntarily detained somewhere to receive mental health treatment. The stakes are pretty high for them. Their liberty is at stake, but you are also dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in society.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of those cases, and really start working on some of the challenging issues that arise from them. These types of cases certainly are not something that everybody is aware of, or even has to deal with, but they are important.
Dave Gordon has penned more than a thousand articles, and more than five hundred editorials, on every topic imaginable. He writes regularly on domestic and international politics, current events, culture, relationship issues, and much more.
He has spent time in the newsrooms of the Toronto Sun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, National Post and eye Weekly.
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