Meet David L. Cameron: Former Judge Turned Arbitration Instructor

Posted by Kompass Professional Development on Feb 23, 2024 10:31:22 AM
Kompass Professional Development

Arbitrators and judges have a lot in common: they’re both tasked with interpreting and applying the law and ensuring a fair resolution for the parties involved. They’re both committed to upholding ethical principles such as impartiality, confidentiality, and transparency.

That’s why we’re thrilled to introduce David L. Cameron as the newest instructor in our arbitration program. Having served for many years on the Court of Quebec, David is also a certified arbitrator with extensive experience in teaching, applied ethics, and alternative dispute resolution.

We caught up with David recently to learn more about his career journey and what students can expect from his class. Below are the highlights of that conversation.

Q. David, could you share a bit about your education and professional background?

David: I studied music at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, then did a BA at York University focusing on translation and French and English literature. In the latter stages of that program, I started to get interested in law.

I then went to McGill University and did the national program. I graduated with both the common law degree and the civil law degree, which qualified me to apply to the bars of all the provinces of Canada.

I stayed in Quebec and practised law for 23 years. My practice was devoted to litigation, which became more defined and more specialized as I went along. I was a specialist in construction litigation, and a big component of that was insurance. I also had a general litigation practice that had to do mainly with corporate litigation.

I got the call to become a judge of the Court of Quebec in 2008. As a judge, I became very involved in appellate work related to administrative tribunals—various boards and agencies of the government that have quasi-judicial functions.

One of the fields I covered very extensively was deontology, or applied ethics. My role was to decide whether decisions of disciplinary committees and deontological committees were valid.

I retired from the bench in January 2023 and rejoined the Quebec Bar. Simultaneously, I joined IMAQ, which is the Quebec division associated with the ADR Institute of Canada (ADRIC). I’m currently part of a group within ADRIC that takes care of all matters that relate to ethics.


Q. What sort of teaching experience do you have?

David: I taught for seven years at the McGill law faculty as a sessional lecturer, meaning I was a practitioner giving a course in the field that I knew through my practice. I taught judicial law, which included evidence and procedure. I also taught insurance law at the Quebec Bar School for a few years.

Throughout my time as a judge, I mentored law students and young lawyers within the Court’s programs and frequently participated as a guest presenter and panel member in university events.


Q. What inspired you to become a certified arbitrator?

David: Right from the very beginning of my legal career, alternative dispute resolution was a component of my practice. One of my earliest assignments was to assist a partner in a major law firm who was building an ADR practice from scratch. We worked chiefly on various forms of principled negotiation and mediation.

As my litigation practice matured, I started to do commercial arbitration, first as a lawyer representing parties that were in arbitration and then as an arbitrator on panels of three. I also did arbitrations for the Quebec Bar.

That led into the judicial field, because the work that you do as an arbitrator is very, very similar to the work you do as a judge.


Q. What core skills do you need to be a successful arbitrator or judge?

David: You need to be impartial and fair to both sides, and not make a decision until you’ve had the chance to hear everything they have to say.

A key skill is to know the law well enough in the field that you’re deciding so that you can see the issues emerging and you can relate the factual issues to the legal principles. Once you have a sufficient grasp of the case, you make sure that all the evidence you’re hearing relates to those points so you’re not wasting anybody’s time.

You also try to make sure that any objections to the process are dealt with fairly so that both sides feel they have had their chance to make their evidence on those issues.

Once that’s complete and everyone’s had their day in court, then, and only then, you move into decision mode. You have to go back through the issues and explain in clear text what your findings are on each of them.


Q. You’re the instructor for the Law and Ethics in Arbitration course at Kompass. What are the main takeaways from this course? What will students learn?

David: Students will learn the rules that govern how they conduct a hearing so that they will not be acting unethically. A good example is the rule that you don’t communicate with the parties separately; you only communicate when all parties are in the same communication. That’s a very fundamental rule of procedure. It preserves the independence and objectivity of the decision-maker.

There are specific codes that might apply because you’re a member of, say, the legal profession. But there are general rules of ethics that apply in a similar way across all organizations. They come down to basic principles about maintaining a system where there is a fair decision-making process in front of people who are impartial and qualified. It’s about the confidence of the public in the integrity of the system.

This course will prepare students to think in that mode and to look at specific issues that have arisen in cases and see if they can make the right decision. As they become professionals and continue their practices, ethics will touch on every aspect of what they do.


Q. What advice would you give legal professionals who are looking to get into ADR?

David: Become active in a professional association or institute that is devoted to mediation and arbitration. It’s important to get into an organization where you feel happy and comfortable and where you’re stimulated and supported by others.

The other thing is to make sure that you present yourself, with the appropriate modesty, as being capable of carrying out the mandates you can truly fulfill. I think it’s really important to define areas where you feel competent and where you can honestly and legitimately say that you have expertise. You must work constantly to deepen your knowledge in those fields and never rest on your laurels.

Let’s not forget that in private mediation and arbitration, clients choose their professional based on their specific talents, whereas when they go to court for a decision or settlement conference, they cannot choose their judge.


Q. What have you found most rewarding about working in arbitration?

David: One of the most rewarding things has been to see in the sort of omniscient way that judges see when they preside hearings. It’s the experience of seeing everything that everybody is doing and thinking and feeling. To me, one of the most thrilling things you can do as an arbitrator is get into that zone where you’re following everything that’s happening and taking it all in.

Another thing that’s rewarding is knowing you’ve made a good decision. Good in the sense that you’re comfortable with it as a result, but also good because it flows from a process where everybody has had their chance to be heard. It’s a sense of accomplishment when you sign that decision.

Clients need and deserve that fair hearing. They need the chance to tell somebody objective and impartial what they think the case is about. The essence of all judicial work and arbitral work is to give people that day in court and the result that is coherent with it. That’s what it all comes down to.



The arbitration certificate from Kompass Professional Development takes just 10 weeks to complete and is accredited by both ADRIC and ADRIO. Graduates meet the educational requirement for the Qualified Arbitrator (Q.Arb) designation.

Click below for further details.

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Topics: arbitration

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