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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Failures of Project Leadership

I’m fascinated by project failure.

First, I believe we learn more from our failures than our successes. Success usually has an element of chance, of circumstances cohering… or at least not pulling out the rug. Yet in looking back (e.g., at after-action reviews/project debriefs), we rarely recognize the extent to which what-didn’t-happen played a part in our success.

Second, failure stories are often mesmerizing, especially big failures. They frequently read like thrillers, with plot twist after plot twist conspiring against the heroic project manager. Actually, at least half of them read more like lampoons, with the project manager anything but . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Access to Justice Is Not (Just) About Lawyers and Judges

Imagine for a moment that starting tomorrow, every lawyer in the world could be hired at no charge. They’re not working for free — maybe Jeff Bezos has decided to subsidize every lawyer’s income for some unfathomable reason. Basically, anyone can hire a lawyer for whatever they need at no cost.

Consider this, and then ask yourself: Would this make access to justice better, or worse?

Are we likely to see more cases filed, or fewer? Court backlogs grow, or shrink? Go a little further and ask: Do you think you’d be able to hire a lawyer at all? Or . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Hopping Ministers and Crossing Canyons

At the end of July, after months of lockdown, my first trip outside The Netherlands was to Tunisia. Just before I flew over, the prime minister tendered the resignation of his government. That meant possibly another minister of justice; the fourth in a little over two years. Much as I believe in democracy, it felt a bit much. With a deep sigh I reconciled myself with the fact that we needed to start developing our ministerial relationship all over again. In most post-revolution and post-conflict reconstruction environments frequent changes of ministers of justice and, with that, senior civil servants, are . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Harnessing the Power of Practice Groups

Most firms have come to appreciate the value of practice groups in their management and marketing; but not everyone knows why they are more powerful than operating without them, which may result in their under-utilization. In this post I’ll explain the evolution of practice groups, what they look like today, and how you can use them to more effectively drive the business objectives of the firm.

The Evolution of Practice Groups

Initially, law practices were based on the personal reputation of the principal. In time, lawyers realized that if they pooled their resources, they could split costs while still maintain . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Unbundle the Courts

It’s been a long time since I did an analysis of the constitutional give-and-take between the courts and the legislature when it comes to Charter decisions, so I’m not going to opine on Justice Minister David Lametti’s remarkable musings last month that the government might legislate a solution to court backlogs caused by enforcement of the Jordan decision during the pandemic.

As the defence lawyer states in the linked article, the Supreme Court’s ruling already allows for flexibility around “illness or extraordinary circumstances,” and COVID-19 certainly qualifies as both. There’s no need to legislate a solution to Jordan backlogs . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Silence and Other Weapons of the Weathered Lawyer

Experience has taught me silence and like weapons can be effective. Here were five lessons for me, and perhaps for you.

  1. As plaintiff counsel I met a potential new client, a woman who was catastrophically injured. Liability was a slam-dunk, damages were huge, and I was sure to improve my standard of living a thousand-fold when I was done with her file. An hour into the meeting she was hanging on to my every word. All that was left was to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. As I reached into my bag searching for my pen, a younger
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Law Societies’ “Bencher Burden” Causes the Access to Justice Problem

[See the full text of this article on the SSRN. It is related to my three previous posts on Slaw, dated: July 25, 2019; April 9, 2020; and, May 29, 2020.]

Bigger law firms are now providing an example of the solution to the access to justice problem (the A2J problem) that is the unaffordability of legal services for the majority of society that is middle- and lower-income people. Richard Susskind, (with son Daniel), in, The Future of the Professions (Oxford University Press, 2015) states (at p. 68): [1]

More generally, larger firms are responding

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

Justice for Resilience

There are many reasons why well-functioning justice systems are important. The Corona crisis made me more aware of its importance for resilience. Louise Vet, a widely distinguished ecologist from the Netherlands, said in a recent interview that our economies are aimed at reducing diversity. That makes us vulnerable, she said. Ecosystems can teach us how to do better. Resilient ecosystems are made up of many small connections. Each individual connection may not matter that much, but together they matter a lot. They create a fine web of resilience. A lot of diversity allows you to spread risk. If something goes . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Mismanaging Money, Clients, and Teams: How Not to Manage Projects, Part 4 of 4

This is the fourth article in a series about mismanaging projects. If you stop doing some not-good things, you’ll be left with better approaches to managing projects… or at least will be more likely to get out of your own way. (Believe me, this comes from experience. I’m quite the expert at getting in my own way.)

There are five aspects you have to manage to move projects forward effectively, the last three the focus of this article:

  1. The project itself, discussed in the January column.
  2. Time, which we covered in March and May.
  3. Money
  4. The client.
  5. The
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Coffee in the Times of COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. However, new and innovative strategies have emerged to help lawyers reduce stress and improve mental health in these uncertain times of the global crisis. Technology has been a key enabler in supporting people to connect, socialize and engage in dialogue about the impact of the virus in our lives and reminding people that “you are not alone.” A simple gathering for some DIY coffee in a positive virtual environment can stimulate a profound impact on one’s well-being.

One such innovative initiative was launched in May 2020 by the Canadian . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

On Memories Lived and Living

“One cannot, in reality, suffer from memories all the time; one can rest and enjoy oneself in the intervals” – The Eternal Husband, Dostoevsky

Siobhan woke up, soaked in sweat in the darkness of her apartment. City lights snuck in under her curtains, flickering shadows across her dresser. It was another hot summer night, and she had turned her air conditioning up so high it was, as her father would say, cold as an ice box, and by that he meant the huge ice lockers that stored the day’s catch. As a child her brother had locked her in . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Society’s Income-Inequality Unrest and Law Society Access to Justice Failure

[See the full text of this article on the SSRN. This one is related to my two previous Slaw posts dated: July 25, 2019, and April 9, 2020]

Law society bencher-based[i] management structure: (1) has caused and perpetuates the very destructive access to justice problem (the A2J problem) of unaffordable lawyers’ services for middle- and lower-income people; which has a cause-and-effect relationship with, (2) increasing the negative consequences of society’s equally destructive income-inequality problem. Law societies are thereby abandoning that majority of society such that those many millions of people will have no choice but to . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law