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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

The More That Law Society Committees Change, the More Things Stay the Same

As an exception to the universally accepted view that law society committees are “all form and no substance” in regard to the “unaffordable legal services problem” (“the problem”), there is one Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) committee that has produced a Discussion Paper that has great substance, although some ingrates are so inconsiderate as to say that it’s not “the right stuff”; see: Alternative Business Structures and the Legal Profession in Ontario: A Discussion Paper. It was released by LSUC on September 24th, asking for comments by December 31st.[i] It proposes “alternative business structures” (ABS’s). They have . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Advice for the Reluctant Delegator

Are you a reluctant delegator?

  • You have tried delegating and have been let down time and time again.
  • You have found that no one does the work as well as you, or the way you want it done.
  • You have concluded that it is just faster and easier to do it yourself.
  • Or by the time you figure out that something could have been delegated it is too late.

On a scale of one to ten, one being you have never delegated a thing in your life, and ten being you are a star delegator, how would you rate yourself? . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Practicing With My Girlfriends

I once asked a senior woman lawyer how she was adjusting to working in a small boutique firm after spending most of her career at a large national law firm. She laughed and said the difference wasn’t the number of lawyers but the fact that her new firm had all female partners and mostly female associates. I asked her what difference that made. She summed it up in a way that I immediately understood. She said, “It’s like practicing with my girlfriends.”

Most women (at least those who value having women friends) will understand immediately what that means. Relationships, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The New International Outsourcing Standard: ISO 37500:2014

On October 31, 2014, the International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) published a new standard ISO 37500:2014 – Guidance on Outsourcing (the “Standard” or “ISO 37500”) to provide general guidance on outsourcing. It is likely that the Standard will impact outsourcing practices in Canada, both because of the comprehensive nature of the Standard and because of Canada’s role in its development. In this note I want to look at ISO 37500 in more detail. The discussion is divided into three parts:

(i) Part I provides some background to the publication of the Standard;
(ii) Part II summarizes ISO 37500’s approach to . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Unconscious Barrier to Equality

Before reading: (1) think of four colleagues (some male and some female), and (2) consider the first adjective that pops into your mind to describe each of those colleagues. Now continue reading.

….

I am a feminist. I know, I just heard a collective internal groan from the internet. But, like most feminists (and most people), I’m not a bra-burning, Thai fisherman pant-wearing, men-hating, razor-neglecting aggressor. Rather, I hold the simple belief that women and men should be treated equally. (And I am happy to report that I am part of a significant majority in Western society.) Unfortunately, I . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

The First Tool: Elements of the Project Charter

In the last two articles I described the idea behind becoming a very highly valued five-tools project manager and supplied an overview of the first tool, the project charter. Now let’s look at the elements of a project charter.

The Business Problem

What does the client need to achieve?

Corporate clients rarely have legal problems; they have business problems. (Yes, occasionally it is a true legal problem, but as doctors say, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses rather than zebras.)

What is blocking or imperiling their business? What business goal are they trying to achieve? The more you share an . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

International Court in Crisis

My last blog highlighted a crisis in international law relating to peace and security. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is the newest instrument in the peace and security toolbox. Twelve years ago I opened its doors as head of the ICC Advance Team and it’s now 10 years ago since I left the Court. There can be no doubt that it is also part the crisis.

The idea itself is still vulnerable: that peace and security will be more likely and lasting with the knowledge that you will be punished if you commit or actively support atrocities crime (the preventative . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Risk Management Revisited

In November of 2011, I wrote a column on the value of risk management for law firms and put forward the proposition that “[d]espite th[e] considerable grounding in working with risk and counseling clients on methods to minimize and avoid risk, seemingly very few law firms in Canada actually engage in any sort of structured or coordinated risk management activities for their own organizations.” I was recently contacted by a reporter for a legal industry publication to discuss risk management for law firms and thus had the opportunity to reflect on my original statement. When asked a question regarding the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Motivation by Deadline

I used to have it bad. In university I pulled all nighters for my papers, and crammed for exams. I even tried cramming for my Chinese 101 exam – trying to memorise two hundred plus Chinese characters in one night is not something I would recommend to anyone. Let me just say, it didn’t end well.

This last minute frenzy approach to work followed me into professional life and meant that I was stressed out, fighting the clock, and left wondering if my good work product could have been great if I had a little more time to give it. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A Crisis of International Law

My columns are largely about international trends and innovation around justice delivery at the national level. But I am an international lawyer. On holiday in Tuscany I am able to digest (as opposed to take in) the news about the tsunami of peace & security crises the world is now facing: Russia, Ukraine and the tragedy of MH17, the Israel-Gaza war, the war in Syria, and the conquests by ISIS. A propos: we have an economic and global-warming crisis as well. All this has me deeply worried about the very idea of international law.

Mark Mazower’s impressive book Governing the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Project Charters and the Five-Tools Project Manager

In the last article I described the idea behind becoming a very highly valued five-tools project manager. This time, let’s look at the first tool, the project charter.

Charter Basics

To start, recognize that all projects have a charter.

I’m not suggesting all projects have a written or even a conscious charter, however. Too many project teams fail to formulate a charter intentionally but rather drift – or blunder – into various facts they’ll later wish they’d known at the start.

Because when projects go south, they usually do so from the very beginning. The team doesn’t realize it, of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

External Legal Spend Management – Controlling “Rate Creep”

Background

It would be a safe bet to assume that almost every in-house lawyer and CFO in the country expresses concern about managing external legal spend. A material amount of effort is spent with external legal service providers about managing rising legal costs. However, typically this focuses solely on the current rate structure being offered. This is only one part of a well defined legal services delivery platform. In addition to articulating the current fee structure, an intentional approach to fee reviews is necessary to effectively manage the effect of “rate creep” (the year over year increase of fees without . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law