Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

A2J: “Let Them Eat Cake,” So, Let Them Use Alternative Legal Services

The cynical phrase, “Let Them Eat Cake,” is more appropriately attributed to Marie-Thérèse, the wife of Louis XIV, 100 years before Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI of France, about whom such royal indifference to starving peasants pleading, “bread, bread,” is alleged most frequently. If they were begging for bread, they certainly didn’t have cake. So to prevent a law society from appearing to be equally indifferent to the suffering of people who cannot afford lawyers, how should law society benchers explain their intense promotion of alternative legal services, and the resulting cynical phrase: “let them . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Make Legal Careers Great Again

In case you hadn’t heard, Donald J. Trump wants to make America great again. How? Well, according the man himself, by doing smart things, having a great plan and getting the best and most capable people to do smart things, all while working with, around or straight through those who would stand in the way. It will be fantastic. It will be amazing. Very classy and really, really great.

I’m going to offer some thoughts on legal careers. Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, what I won’t offer are links, references or any verifiable support or justification for what I . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Holiday Season, Reinvented

As I write this, the holiday season is almost upon us and I’m just returning from a lunchtime trip to the local shops. It’s not necessary to be terribly observant to see that customers and store clerks are beginning to lose their patience, drivers are behaving more aggressively (especially in parking lots!), and a general feeling of anxiety is descending upon the populace.

Sometimes I think the expression “holiday season” is a misnomer. For many of us it’s a time when we’re pulled in multiple directions simultaneously. Social obligations, family obligations and end-of-year deadlines coupled with long days, late nights, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Innovating Tribunals & Being Open

Two recent situations have led to calls for international accountability mechanisms. The responses to these calls differ widely. Why is this interesting? They show the potential of a more open justice innovation approach. And the costs of not doing so.

The first situation is the tragic downing of flight Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine on 17 July 2014, which led to 298 deaths. Politicians from the counties that suffered most losses – The Netherlands, Australia, and Malaysia – where quick to capture the public sentiment and announced: those responsible will be held to account. This was given international force . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

We Learn More From Our Failures

Do you celebrate your successes? (Or are you too busy?)

Celebrating success – and doing simple things such as saying “thank you” to the team – is one of the best ways to strengthen teamwork, and to build your reputation as someone good to work with.

Okay. What about failures? Do you celebrate them as well?

You should – albeit not in quite the same way.

The thank-you/end-of-project party remains worthwhile, maybe even more important than after a successful project. The people on a project with a less-than-desirable outcome – e.g., a lost case, or a judgment against your client . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What Do You Do for Fun?

A few years ago I decided to test drive a question when I found myself in a social situation with people I didn’t know. Instead of asking “what do you do?” I asked “what do you do for fun?” And I did this for a time at cocktail parties, meetings, wedding showers – wherever there were new faces and friends to meet.

Some people were startled, and had to really think before they could answer. Fun? Do I actually have any fun in my life after I get through working, looking after the kids, getting in . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Admissibility of Records Dependent Upon a Poorly Drafted National Standard

This article is about the poorly drafted proposed 2nd edition of a National Standard of Canada, which the Evidence Acts make necessary for discovery and admissibility proceedings concerning the use of electronic records as evidence. The admissibility of an electronic record requires proof of its records management “system integrity”; e.g.: Canada Evidence Act (CEA) s. 31.2(1)(a); and, Ontario Evidence Act (OEA) s. 34.1(5),(5.1). As shown by the case law, that is ignored, which is a failure to acknowledge the fundamental nature of an electronic record. Like a drop of water in a pool of water, it is dependent . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Boost Your Immunity to Stress With the What-Went-Well Exercise

Anne couldn’t sleep. She lay in bed thinking about a mistake she made, the pile of work on her desk, and the infinite number of things that could go wrong.

Sound familiar?

I had a night like that last night, lying awake at two am pondering a variety of worst-case scenarios.

If you find yourself experiencing stress attacks in the middle of the night, you are not alone. Most of us have experienced nights like that, and for a good reason: Our brains have adapted to do two things very well – make predictions, and focus on what could go . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A2J: Preventing the Abolition of Law Societies by Curing Their Management Structure Defects

1. The Defects of the Management Structure of Law Societies

Law societies in Canada have ignored the unaffordable legal services problem (“the problem”), because of the obsolescence of their management structure. Its major defects are:

(1) management by part-time amateurs (benchers), whose work is mostly charity–“amateurs” because they don’t have the expertise necessary for solving difficult problems such as the unaffordability of legal services (and they don’t try to get it);

(2) an unwillingness to attack the causes of difficult problems such as the unaffordability of legal services because their main duties are to their clients and institutional employers, who . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A Time to Learn: Lawyers and Mental Health

Dealing with mental health issues like depression, stress and anxiety is fraught with age-old taboos, stigmas and obstacles to openness – and none of it gets any easier when your job is to be the calm voice of logic and reason in an argument. It might make good business sense to keep your concerns to yourself, but ignoring the issue – for example, depression, anxiety or stress – won’t make it go away.

They say acknowledging you have a problem is the first step to recovery, but how do you know whether you have the kind of problem that needs . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development & Justice

A few days ago, on 11 August, the co-facilitators of the process that had to produce the successors to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) sent a letter to the President of the UN General Assembly that their mission had been accomplished. In diplomatic speak: an outcome document containing a draft of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) had been adopted by consensus. In the diplomatic universe this means that the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives will rubberstamp the document when they meet at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 25-27 September 2015 for the UN’s 70 . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

“Failure Is Not an Option.”

“Failure is not an option.”

Mission Control spoke those famous words in the quest to save the crew of Apollo 13, at least if you believe what you see in the movies. We remember that phrase – and believe in it – because the project team did not fail.

How do we deal with incipient project failure in the world of legal projects, however? It’s instructive to explore some of the difference – and similarities – between our projects and Apollo 13’s return from the moon.

Recognition of Impending Doom

Few project failures are as easy to recognize as Apollo . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law