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Archive for April, 2016

Mental Health Is a Professionalism Issue

Michele Hollins, former President of the Canadian Bar Association said “Studies have shown that lawyers may have the highest rates of depression among various occupational categories…many in our profession think that it makes good business sense to keep concerns to themselves.”

About 20% of the legal profession suffers from clinically significant levels of substance abuse, depression, anxiety or some other form of psychopathy. Lawyers suffer from major depressive disorders at a rate 3.6 times higher than non-lawyers who share key socioeconomic traits. In 2010, the Ontario Lawyers’ Assistance Program reported that 42% of their calls were related to mental health . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Practice of Law: Practice Management

You Can’t Modernize the Courts on a Shoestring

With technology investments, approved budgets quickly become historical artifacts as changing project requirements and unexpected turns lay waste to the best laid plans. While the answer isn’t to close your eyes and keep your wallet open, it surely can’t be the opposite – to limit funding to such an extent that viable paths to improvement or success are foreclosed before the first dollar is spent. Yet in a 2016 federal budget that forecasts a $30 billion deficit, a mere $1 million has been allocated to investment “in information technology infrastructure upgrades to safeguard the efficiency of the federal court system”. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Lawyers and Self-Represented Litigants

It is disheartening how many lawyers in litigation practices persist in the view that self-representing litigants (“SRLs”) are a problem that needs a solution.

I’ve written about this here before (see Shifting the Burden) and really my views haven’t changed, except in that there is more evidence than ever before that the needs and motivations of those who “choose” to represent themselves in litigation are complex and that this choice is made at their peril and often at significant personal cost.

Why rehash an old story (and indeed it isn’t new)? Because I spent two hours of my day . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Sole Practitioner?

One-third of the more than 25,500 lawyers in private practice in Ontario are sole practitioners. as a solo, it’s great to have the freedom that comes with being your own boss, but you also have full responsibility for all aspects of the operation of your law practice. Do you have what it takes to be a sole practitioner? See this self-assessment quiz to answer that question.

The chart helps identify your strengths and weaknesses and gives you a better idea of whether you’re cut out for solo or small firm practice. Ask yourself whether you possess some or all of . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week

To Be or Not to Be? Totally Up to Her

There’s nothing quite like streaming clips of our American colleagues pitching for clients. Talk about free entertainment! You’ll see lawyers dragging flaming hammers through the ground or drug dealers thanking their counsel for past services as they move on to the next deal. Above all, you’ll hear screaming. Tons of it. You begin to imagine that the Law Society is on to something about refraining from advertising that brings the profession into disrepute. Indeed, the ads are brash, sassy, cheeky—pick your adjective. The underlying subtext of course is that Joe Smith, or whoever, is tough and aggressive, your . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Practice of Law: Marketing

Do It Your Way

Almost every time I sit down with a law firm for the first time, someone around the table asks me what “really works” when it comes to legal marketing. Is it Google AdWords? Blogging? This new “content marketing” stuff someone’s heard about? Maybe marketing to our referral sources instead of directly to clients. What about social media – is there anything to that? Videos – do we really need those? Or maybe we should focus on our annual client event and do that up on a larger scale?

Fair questions all. And I can almost hear the plaintive longing in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

Wednesday: What’s Hot on CanLII

Each Wednesday we tell you which three English-language cases and which French-language case have been the most viewed* on CanLII and we give you a small sense of what the cases are about.

For this last week:

1. Daniels v. Canada (Indian Affairs and Northern Development), 2016 SCC 12

[1] As the curtain opens wider and wider on the history of Canada’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples, inequities are increasingly revealed and remedies urgently sought. Many revelations have resulted in good faith policy and legislative responses, but the list of disadvantages remains robust. This case represents another chapter in . . . [more]

Posted in: Wednesday: What's Hot on CanLII

Sabbaticals for the Self-Employed

This mountain gorilla really knows how to take a break.

Many law firms and organizations now offer sabbatical programs as a workplace benefit. As long as employees meet defined criteria and plan carefully, they’re able to take a few months off without much risk.

But given that I’m self-employed and that I work alone most of the time, I didn’t think that a sabbatical was really an option for me. A carefully cultivated – or lucky – opportunity could come knocking at any moment. What if I wasn’t around to answer the door? When you’re self-employed, you need to . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Practice Management, Technology: Office Technology

LAWPRO Student Magazine: What Do Law Firms Look For?

Law students – like all students – are prone to anxiety about their career prospects. High-profile news about the employment challenges faced by new grads in the U.S. and changes in the articling requirements for Ontario have combined to create a climate of worry.

But worrying about trends and generalizations can obscure the fact that the employment relationship is, in essence, an interpersonal relationship. Each successful employer/employee match happens because an individual firm takes a chance on an individual lawyer for reasons that are not only unique, but also personal, and sometimes instinctive.

We spoke with law firms across the . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Practice of Law: Practice Management

The Ethics of ‘The Tweeting Lawyer”: Powerful Platform or Risky Undertaking?

Social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube) are web-based technologies that enable users to create and share content and to participate in interactive online communications. As the use of social media grows and becomes a powerful and indispensable tool for lawyers, so do the ethical risks facing lawyers.

Why “tweeting” is powerful. It is interactive, easy to reach, fast to use, cost effective, and informative. Social media is an excellent tool that can help lawyers establish broader professional networks, build and develop brands, and enhance professional profiles. While social media can provide powerful marketing tools, lawyer should . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Practice of Law: Marketing

Tips Tuesday

Here are excerpts from the most recent tips on SlawTips, the site that each week offers up useful advice, short and to the point, on research and writing, practice, and technology.

Research & Writing

Think About Lay-Out and Design
Neil Guthrie

If you’re lucky, you’ll have marketing or communications folks who will prepare your piece for publication, but there are some design aspects you should be thinking about too. White space: Dense blocks of text are hard on the eyes. Too many words will repel readers. Think about breaking up long paragraphs and sentences so your piece is easier . . . [more]

Posted in: Tips Tuesday

Orphaned Again? the Place of Government Lawyers Within New Regulatory Paths

In an article published in 2010, my colleague Adam Dodek smartly observes that “government lawyers and the work that they do are largely ignored…[t]hey are barely acknowledged in codes of conduct, underrepresented in many law societies and undertheorized in academic scholarship.” Adam also approvingly cites from Allan Hutchinson who characterized government lawyers as “the orphans of legal ethics” because so “little energy has been directed towards defining and defending the role and duties of government lawyers.”

It is unclear how much has changed since Adam made the above observations in 2010. Undoubtedly, the Edgar Schmidt case has recently brought greater . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics