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Archive for ‘Columns’

Legal Education Goes Digital

For the past few years, Queen’s Law has been exploring new teaching and learning tools in the classroom and beyond. “Blended” learning has been a growing component in our teaching: providing more course materials and videos online, so instructors can use more of the classroom time for discussion, problem solving and the application of the materials – and less time in a traditional top-down lecture format. And, while that approach is not new, it has led to other educational initiatives at Queen’s.

We are currently participating in a pilot project to explore Echo 360, a remarkable program developed by . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Time for Technology Ethics Opinions in Canada?

Lawyer competence is a relatively new concern for Canadian law societies. It was only in the 1970s, for example, that law societies really embraced the idea that they had a formal mandate to regulate the post-entry competence of lawyers. In addition to being a relatively new regulatory concern, lawyer competence is also an increasingly complex issue. Law practice has become highly specialized. Also, our understanding of lawyer competence has become more nuanced, now implicating a wide range of matters including, for example, technology, culture and wellness.

How best to handle this modern reality? Adding length and detail to rules of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Legal Research?

I have been thinking about the great flow chart below that David Whelan created to illustrate this blog post called “Law Libraries and Legal Malpractice” from 2014:

Image credit: David Whelan, “Law Libraries and Legal Malpractice”, https://ofaolain.com/blog/2014/07/04/law-libraries-and-legal-malpractice/.

He even went so far as to claim that “Lawyers do not need law libraries to be competent” (shocking, I know).

It got me thinking about something I’ve noticed working in legal information: lawyers don’t mean the same thing when they talk about legal research as librarians do. Lawyers tend to refer to the entire process of research that forms . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Planning for Succession: Part One

Over half of my clients are focussed on how to survive the transition from a first to a second-generation law firm. This is a critical and difficult business subject to deal with so I will explain the issue and its solutions over two SLAW postings. In this first one, I’ll seek to broaden your perspective of succession, describe why its implementation is so critical to a firm, and set the framework for meeting this business need.

This Shouldn’t Be Emergency Planning

Lawyers are of course human beings, and they age just like the rest of us. That means that they . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Paddling Together for Reconciliation and Legal Transformation

On July 14, 2017, the Government of Canada released a set of Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples. These principles are intended to guide an ongoing review of Canada’s laws, policies and operational practices designed:

[T]o help ensure the Crown is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights; adhering to international human rights standards including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

A Working Group of Ministers chaired by Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould has been tasked . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Personal Plight: Mending the Market

“Personal plight” legal services are those provided to individual clients whose legal needs arise from disputes. Personal plight areas such as family law, refugee law, and human rights are the site of Canada’s worst access to justice problems.

The market for personal plight legal services functions poorly, as Malcolm Mercer and Amy Salyzyn have shown in this space. A key problem, I suggest here, is that it is too difficult for consumers to shop intelligently. This undermines healthy competition and legal professionalism, in addition to access to justice. Regulators can and should mend the market for personal legal services. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

Personal Liability Under Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

Under Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (“CASL”) not only may a corporation that fails to comply be liable to pay a monetary penalty but personal liability may also arise. Section 31 provides that “An officer, director, agent or mandatary of a corporation that commits a violation is liable for the violation if they directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced in or participated in the commission of the violation, whether or not the corporation is proceeded against”.

An example of application of Section 31 is the case of Mr. Halazon and TCC reported by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) in June . . . [more]

Posted in: Intellectual Property

Our Relaunched Intranet – One Year Later

In April of 2016, I wrote about our ambitious project of re-building our corporate intranet. Our previous site had become a dumping ground of information that was poorly maintained and was woefully out of date. During the project, we removed nearly 85% of the content, upgraded a number of internal applications, made the site user friendly and improved the overall usability. We held focus groups and engaged junior, intermediate and senior staff in our decision to ensure the product we delivered would meet their needs.

In May this year, we asked staff for their opinion of the new site. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

Enough With “The Law Society of Upper Canada”

Many Ontario lawyers think the “The Law Society of Upper Canada” is still a great name for their governing body. They oppose the suggestion — no, the mere possibility — that the LSUC’s Strategic Communications Steering Group might recommend a name change. Read this article in Law Times for the details, especially the comments at the end in support of the current name — they’re a real treat.

I cannot get my head around lawyers’ continuing support for the term “Upper Canada.” The current year, last I checked, is 2017. There hasn’t been an “Upper Canada” on any reliable map . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Two Tales From Alberta

1. Be careful what you ask for…

“Maybe it’s opposite day! Maybe all these X’s mean that my answers are correct! Maybe your “A” is really an “F”! That must be it! I win the bet!”

– Calvin, Calvin & Hobbes

To me, the suggestion that the topic of the Standard of Review is the great Canadian passion, at least for practitioners of administrative law, is firmly tongue in cheek. While I have acknowledged that the standard of review is at the heart of judicial review, there is so much more to administrative law. I would suggest that . . . [more]

Posted in: Administrative Law

How Far Are Lawyers From Drafting Smart Contracts?

I wrote in my last post that the “blockchain will alter the way we think about contracts and several types of legal documents will effectively be software-like.” This is a truism for many cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

Of course, I was referring to “smart contracts” even if I didn’t used the expression “smart contracts” for buzzword avoidance purposes. I suggested that some lawyers would be involved in drafting these “instruments”.

Before we start, there’s some confusion about what a “smart contract” actually means, and it’s at the root of a certain amount of similar confusion in the legal sphere about the immediate . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Get SMART About Setting Marketing Goals

New clients will often ask me: “What do you need from us?” I do an intake interview to learn about their practice groups, their clients, and their current profitability. Then I ask them for their marketing goal.

Before the relieved look of “That’s it? That’s all it’s going to take?” leaves their faces, I hasten to tell them that they must thrash out a SMART goal. That’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. It’s anything but easy, yet without it, most firms’ marketing initiatives will degenerate into unfocussed, ad hoc, pet projects that don’t . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing