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Archive for ‘Columns’

Asleep at the Wheel

In 1987, those roseate times before social media and Google searches, Dr. James Billington was appointed the United States’ Librarian of Congress. The appointment did not bode well. My voice was part of the outcry over the fact that at a crucial juncture for the role of libraries in the world, a person was taking the helm who was neither a librarian nor an information professional. The New York Times, which I had always viewed as the sage voice of national reason, opined that the job was too big for a librarian. It called for a scholar like Dr. Billington. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

The Law Schools and the Future of Indigenous Law in Canada

The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have presented Canadian society with a set of urgent ‘calls to action.’ Two in particular require a response from the law schools, Recommendations 27 and 28, quoted in full at the end of this blog post – although, as I argue below, our concern should extend between the particular terms of those recommendations.

Law schools are earnestly considering what they ought to do to respond to those calls. At least four schools (Lakehead, Thompson Rivers, Ottawa (Common Law) and my own, UVic) have posted preliminary responses on their websites. Individual scholars (such . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Self-Represented Litigants’ Tax Money Provides More Funding for Legal Aid Ontario

Rejoicing over Legal Aid Ontario‘s (LAO’s) recent increased funding from the Government of Ontario, should be tempered by the listed “points of conscience” that follow this next paragraph.

The Government of Ontario’s 2014 budget increased Legal Aid Ontario’s financial eligibility funding of legal services by $95.7 million over the next three years. This commitment was expanded in the April 2015 budget announcement. These recent articles celebrate LAO’s increased funding:

(1) “Expanding access to legal aid for Ontarians, by Nye Thomas, Legal Aid Ontario Blog, June 5, 2015, at: http://blog.legalaid.on.ca/2015/06/05/expanding-access-to-legal-aid-for-ontarians/

(2) “Expanding LAO’s services: the road ahead . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Slaughtering the Judicial Scapegoat

Thousands of years ago the Hebrew Bible records a practice of the ancient Israelites. Aaron, spiritual leader and High Priest, would select two goats designating one as a sacrifice for God while the other – designated by a red string tied around its neck – had the distinct misfortune of representing the nation’s sins and was cast off the precipice of a cliff; the original scapegoat.

Centuries later, far from the desert wilderness of the early Jews, Prime Minister Harper (along with a host of pundits, authors, and a sizeable portion of Canadians) has tied a similar crimson knot into . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Libraries – the Value of Just in Case, Not Just in Time

I am using the column this time to explain my anxiety that society risks losing too much as the materialism of ‘value’ replaces the experience of centuries of unquantifiable practice and purpose.

It is my concern that too many libraries are under threat from the bean counters. Libraries have always existed as places for the ‘just in case’ event, providing the go-to location when you want sustenance of the mind in some way – knowledge, leisure, curiosity, information, entertainment.

However the world is in thrall to the ‘just in time’ mentality of financial wunderkinds who do not value those ‘old . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Twelve Tips for Effective Tech Presentations

Let’s face it – whether you are talking about securing your data or describing the functions of legal IT products, the average lawyer audience may regard your presentation as useful, but hardly as “sexy.” Since we have been successfully lecturing on multiple topics for 18 years now, we have amassed a number of tips for making our presentations entertaining as well as educational. A friend suggested we share what we have learned. Here our twelve of our best tips:

  1. Be a storyteller. Cold hard facts have very little allure. But everyone likes a good story. When we lecture on cybersecurity,
. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Technology

A Few Thoughts on Writing for the Web

Your online presence plays a more prominent role than ever in your marketing, your brand, your reputation. That presence is defined in part by the “look and feel” of your various online outposts (including your website, social media accounts, and blog) but also by what you write in those places. The pretty veneer is mostly the domain of outside experts (graphic designers, photographers, web developers), but the writing – well, that’s largely on you.

Earlier this year I was asked by a Canadian legal stakeholder organization to present a customized seminar series for their staff on “writing for the web”. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

Loose Leaf Pain No One’s Gain.

There is a way out for the publisher

At the most recent meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Moncton, it was clear that the present, past and future of looseleaf services continue to be a source of angst and concern in the legal research community. This fact has been documented on many occasions, most recently by Louis Mirando in The Curse of the Loose-Leaf Law Book posted on slaw.ca on July 22, 2015. There is no doubt that loose-leaf services are an open wound that can and should be healed.

A sense of loss

The issue is . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Publishing

What to Read Before Starting Law School

This fall an estimated 2800 students will begin their three-year journey for a J.D. degree at one of Canada’s 18 Common Law Schools (there are 23 law schools in total in Canada).[1] If they are anything like I was some 23 years ago, these students are excited but apprehensive. The vast majority of new law students have had no contact with the legal system and have not taken any law-related courses. Their knowledge of law comes from popular culture. For me this was L.A. Law, Inherit the Wind, Perry Mason and To Kill a Mockingbird. For today’s law students, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Legal Ethics

The Curse of Loose­-Leaf Law Books

At the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries last May in Moncton, one of the keynote sessions was on The Future of Legal Publishing. The keynote speakers were Robert McKay and Jason Wilson, moderated by Gary Rodrigues – all fellow Slaw columnists. The opinions offered by these legal information industry experts were informed, insightful and fascinating, and the audience – a roomful of law librarians – was completely engaged. Though each of the speakers had his own vision of law publishing’s future, all were unanimous on one point in particular: there is no future for loose-leaf . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Time for a Human Rights Defenders Action Plan: the Shrinking Space for Advocacy and Dissent in Canada

Last month Voices-Voix, a coalition of 200 organizations – large and small, local and national – from all corners of the country, released a deeply troubling report detailing what has become a campaign, some go so far as to say siege, against advocacy and dissent in Canada. It is a gloomy but necessary report, well worth a read.

My own organization, Amnesty International, has been centrally involved in Voices since the outset. Voices came together in 2010 because it had become clear that a growing number of groups and individuals who expressed views that went against federal government views on . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Some Highlights of SOLSC15

An interesting thought to take away from the 2015 Sinch Online Legal Services Conference, was the drive to action ideas, prototypes and business models, rather than just leave them to bloom in good time. This was reflected in the intensity of the discussions among attendees and speakers. The potential for “spot fires” of transformative thinking to come together and impact legal niches, seems imminent. The planets may be aligning for some major legal industry events, with big dollars at stake, according to some speakers.

Richard Granat spoke about “Law For the Rest of Us” as 80% of US citizens cannot . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology