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Archive for ‘Columns’

“Front Door to the Past”

One aspect of having a great affection for law publishing is that I have a tendency to search for its characteristics and qualities elsewhere. For me, it sets a general standard for non-fiction and published information provision. Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, I find myself looking for snippets of law publishing in many unlikely places and am pleased to find it frequently. My enjoyment, not long ago, of Philip Wood’s The Fall of the Priests and the Rise of the Lawyers, in which the author stresses the centrality of law to human survival was, in part, for such reasons. Lawyers . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

The Problem of Judicial Arrogance

In her remarkable new book Life Sentence (Doubleday Canada, 2016), Christie Blatchford describes the Canadian judiciary as “unelected, unaccountable, entitled, expensive to maintain and remarkably smug” (at pp. 33-34). She argues that the process for judicial appointments and judicial discipline, along with the structure and conduct of an ordinary trial, create judicial arrogance. And that arrogance, even if not universal, is both systemic and common enough to corrode and undermine the pursuit of justice. She also suggests that actors in the legal system are complicit in judicial arrogance while simultaneously having considerable arrogance of their own: lawyers and judges alike . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

How Would Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Comments About Donald Trump Play Out in Canada?

Donald Trump and his polarizing ideas have attracted widespread criticism. However, I suspect that few expected to find a harsh, vocal critic in a United States Supreme Court justice. Judges, after all, are held to the highest standards of impartiality, and political statements can easily raise the question of judicial bias. Against this backdrop, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comments about Trump’s presidential campaign present an interesting case study. What happens when a judge is openly opposed to a presidential candidate but has no relevant case on the docket? Could such a comment lead to a finding of bias in Canada? . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Like Moneyball for Lawyers?

There is a growing trend to bring the tools of data analysis into legal practice, and much of the media coverage references Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game*, or perhaps the movie based on the book:

With so many things being described as being “like moneyball”, I started to wonder what Moneyball actually said. It also made me wonder what analytics can best be used to illuminate legal information, and where the data could come from, so I read the book:

Lewis discusses the development of the statistics required to adequately measure baseball . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Student Loan Debt: A Crisis for Law Students, Young Lawyers and Far Too Many Underserviced Communities

It is a distinct honour for me, in my capacity as Dean of Law at Thompson Rivers University (TRU Law), to provide a contribution to the Canadian Council of Law Deans series of important issues affecting legal education and the legal profession. I have chosen to select the critical challenge for today’s law students (and recent law graduates) of the ever increasing costs of legal education in Canada. I recently was talking with a law classmate of mine (UBC ’75,) who is now a distinguished justice, about tuition fees. His recollection was that we were paying approximately $450/year to pursue . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Give, and You Will Receive: The Power of the Network

Have you ever wondered how some people always seem to have the inside track? Or always “know someone” who can give them the inside scoop? Or can always “call a friend” to find out something or ask a favour?

That’s not just family connections or personal charm at work. It’s the power of the network, that invisible web that we all need, whether it’s new parents looking for advice, hand-me-downs and babysitters, or lawyers looking for business. You may feel that you’ve got where you are today by hard work, not by who you know. You may even feel offended . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

Legal Technology and Access to Justice

Legal Technology is often reported as being intrinsically linked to access to justice. Apps, AI, and digital access suggest an Uber-like ability to receive legal services at the push of a button. A recent Globe and Mail article by University of Ottawa law professor Jena McGill, for example, bore the headline “Better access to justice in Canada? There’s an app for that”. However, while there are increasing numbers of apps and technologies being developed and integrated into the legal world, it is a mistake to assume that technological developments on their own will necessarily improve access to justice for those . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Use of Artificial Intelligence to Facilitate Settlements Through ODR

Fellow Slaw columnist Omar Ha-Redeye recently wrote a blog entry on how artificial intelligence is making its way into the Canadian legal community more slowly that expected (by some) due to the fact that the data repositories that are behind SOQUIJ, CanLII, and other caselaw search engines are simply too limited in size to allow for true predictive capacities. In other words, there are too few decisions to generate reliable trends that can be identified through A.I. This has pushed Mr. Ha-Redeye to question how successful and useful a tool like Premonition will be on the Canadian market. . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

We Have Pizza, but How Will We Get Grilled Cheese?


What place, you might reasonably ask, does this question have in a column on justice issues?

Bear with me. I’ll get there.

Slaw readers are more aware than the average legal professional about the roles of existing major legal information suppliers (let’s call them Dominos and Pizza Hut) and the efforts of upstarts to do law differently and offer tailored solutions to legal research needs. Though many believe (with some justification) that the pizza on offer from the “Big 2” is great, sometimes the pizza costs too much and sometimes what you need is a grilled cheese sandwich.

Here’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Building and Maintaining a Precedents Collection – Part 1: Getting Started

Building and maintaining a precedents collection presents many challenges but the benefits of success are multiple. In my posting from last June, the architect of the Gowlings precedent collection, Graeme Coffin, outlined what the process is at his firm. But undertaking this initiative is one of the biggest challenges that any practitioner, whether practising solo or in a firm or working in-house, faces. I therefore propose to treat this topic in a series of postings so as to discuss the issues in some depth and offer some suggestions.

Benefits. The benefits of creating a good quality, comprehensive precedents collection . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Negotiating Advice From the Rolling Stones

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need
– Rolling Stones

I teach a negotiation course several times a year at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies. I am always surprised at the number of students who come into the course thinking that being a successful negotiator is all about “winning” – getting what they want.

My hope is, by the end of the course, they have learned that truly successful negotiation is about finding a way for both (all) parties to get what they . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Guilt by Mobile Phone Tracking Shouldn’t Make ‘Evidence to the Contrary’ Impossible

This is a brief outline of an article that I have posted on the SSRN, using the same title (pdf download). Mobile phone (cellphone) evidence will be among the most frequently used electronically-produced evidence of location. How does a defendant produce “evidence to the contrary” for purposes of challenging its reliability? Rare and very difficult it will be that one might get access to the complex electronic systems involved, to search for such suspected “evidence to the contrary.”

A mobile phone can be located at the time of a particular call by finding the mobile phone tower that directed . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law