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Archive for ‘Columns’

Med-Arb: Efficiency vs. Justice?

I had the pleasure recently of co-chairing a one-day seminar on mediation-arbitration (med-arb), sponsored by the ADR Institute of Ontario, the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario and Osgoode Professional Development.

The program explored the question Med-Arb: Efficiency or Justice Compromised?

We were fortunate to have two thought-provoking keynote speakers and many very experienced panelists.

Warren Winkler, former Chief Justice of Ontario, recalled a number of efforts over the years to incorporate both mediation and med-arb into the justice system and talked about the resistance some lawyers and judges have shown to the idea of combined med-arb.

Stephen . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Access to Justice Levies for Lawyers: Putting Our Money Where Our Mouths Are

Tyrell Moodie, accused of drug offences and facing several years in prison, was denied a Legal Aid Ontario certificate because his income of $16,211 per year exceeded the cut-off threshold. In Manitoba this summer, refugees faced an 11-year wait list for legal aid funding. Self-represented litigants are now the majority in many family courts, mostly because people cannot afford the legal assistance that they would love to have, and legal aid won’t pay for it.

Every media story about a legal aid shortfall includes a quote from a lawyer, pointing the finger at the government for inadequate funding. However, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

To Build Public Support for Access to Civil Justice We Have to Let the Public Know That Access to Justice Is for Them Too

The results of two recent studies in the U.S. have used public opinion data to suggest that increasing public support for access to civil justice is a promising way to increase government funding.[1] The argument is that if the civil legal aid system[2] is viewed by the middle class as a program that could benefit them if they encounter trouble, rather than being only for the poor, a wider segment of the public will have a stake in access to justice and they will support higher levels of public funding. The question of how much public pressure would . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Proposal: The Legal Council of Elrond

After about 20 years of studying the Canadian legal sector, I’ve reached a couple of conclusions:

  1. The Canadian legal system is in the process of breaking down.
  2. No single group within the Canadian legal community can fix it.

To the first point, I’d cite the following:

. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

December 2017: A Late ILTA Recap and the Re-Flourishing of the Document Management System

In August I attended ILTACON, which bills itself as “the premier educational and networking event for the legal sector…ILTACON is the best place to learn what works, what doesn’t and what’s next in legal technology.” This conference is always highly anticipated and always delivers. It’s run and organized well, with excellent panels and a fantastic vendor hall. It’s a four and a half day whirlwind event, leaving everyone exhausted.

I really loved the conference app– a wonderfully built-out tool with session descriptions, tags, ability to choose sessions and add photos. It was a great help in deciding which sessions to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Sometimes Old Is Just Old

Does your company have marketing materials that have been sitting around for years? We do and sometimes you find out they are being used out of the blue.

I recently received a “brochure” that was 29 pages long. The book – at 29 pages it’s hard to refer to it as a brochure – was almost entirely text with maybe 25 small images in total. Block fonts, full justification, disoriented information, no branding, no context and no flow. It was a marketing package by name only and would likely cause us to lose more projects than win.

The material was . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

A Dozen Disaster Recovery Tips From the ABA Law Practice Division

From co-author Nelson: Normally, I write SLAW columns with Sensei VP John Simek, but in light of the recent and horrific disasters experienced by American law firms, I teamed up with Jim Calloway, Director of Management Assistance Program at Oklahoma Bar Association, to offer these disaster recovery tips.

  1. Immediately after a disaster, there is only one thing that matters – human life. Do what you can possibly do to help those in need and to ensure the safety of those who work with and for you. Supply your employees with all the support resources you can.
  2. Establish communications. Hopefully,
. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Technology

New Edition of “A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting”

The fourth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting (MSCD) has just recently been published. It is a must-have reference work for any lawyer who is interested in proper contract drafting, in other words, for any lawyer who drafts contracts. The author is well-known drafting expert Professor Ken Adams, who has been speaking and writing about these issues for a number of years. His blog, on the Adams on Contract Drafting site, is an excellent source of commentary on a great many contract drafting issues, including ones that, for space limitations, are not addressed in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law

Just Tell Me How to Market My Firm!

I often get asked “what kind of marketing should we do?” Or I’m asked to “just provide us with a bunch of great marketing ideas”. No time spent determining what the firm wants to look like in the future. No proper assessment of where they are today. No indication of what success would look like. And no commitment to doing what will be suggested. Just “fix me”. It’s a bit like a disgruntled teenager saying “make me popular, but don’t ask me to change anything about my looks, personality or actions”. I can do that. Give me several million dollars . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing

Who’s a Law Society For?

Canadian law societies operate under a public interest mandate. This premise is often presented without much fanfare or introspection – as a fait accompli, as a matter of common sense, as something always there and always having been there. And, to be sure, there is a way that this framing makes eminent sense. It’s a legal reality as reflected in legislation governing law societies. And, on a more conceptual level, if not for a concern for the public interest, why regulate lawyers at all?

However, once we peel back even a few layers of the onion skin, it quickly . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics

The State Weighs Differently on Each of Us

The creation and maintenance of a state is an ongoing exercise in force. Without the force the state will not continue. There are many societies throughout history that existed quite well without one, and recently I’ve been thinking about how each of experiences the force of the state differently, now that virtually all people live in them. I recently read that no group of hunters and gatherers or pastoralists has ever willingly transitioned to settled life, because it makes them easier to control and tax [1], and there is a vivid description of the violence and political machinations required to . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Can Computer Programs Produce Legal Arguments?

“Today, we look for information. In the future, information will look for us,” says Dr. Ya-Qin Zhang, Ph.D. and president of Baidu, one of China’s largest Internet companies and a leader in global artificial intelligence (AI).

AI systems have generated much speculation and it has many lawyers, including myself, wondering if lawyers could be replaced by robots. Personally, I thought the headlines that say lawyers would be replaced by computers was a bit exaggerated. Take persuasion and negotiation, or formulating legal arguments in court, or assessing the credibitility of a witness for example. I find it hard to believe that . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology