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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Legal Regulatory Reform in Britain and the US: Will History Repeat?

A reporter called me the other day with a perfectly simple question about the potentially enormous changes to legal regulation on the way in California, Utah, and Arizona.

Specifically, she noted that England & Wales brought about significant changes to its legal regulatory system eight years ago, yet not much has changed in those jurisdictions. Why do I think that these possible US reforms would yield a different outcome, especially with regard to access to justice and innovation?

As other reporters have learned to their chagrin, I’m incapable of giving a nice concise answer to perfectly simple . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Maximizing Your Non-Billable Client Meetings

Lawyer time is valuable… and so is client time. When a lawyer has decided to meet with a client in a non-billable capacity, they are well-served by taking the time to ensure both parties receive maximum value in the exchange.

Contrary to popular belief, this value isn’t achieved by just showing up. By way of example, I worked with a lawyer who had been asked by their firm to create an annual business plan. The plan was filled with various action items under goals (or just headings, really) like “education” and “client service”. Under the heading of “business development”, they . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Mr. Attorney General, Please Help Lawyers Short of Clients

On March 20, 2918, I received an email message about Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO’s) increases in financial eligibility for legal services.[1] But the majority of the taxpayers who fund Legal Aid Ontario, cannot afford legal services for themselves (except for very routine, simple legal services). Any legal service that takes any significant amount of a lawyer’s time is unaffordable to that majority of the population. And so, the majority of lawyers is short of clients.

Legal Aid’s funding is indeed very poor (see the tables of figures in that email message). In R. v. Moodie, 2016 ONSC 3469, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How Can We Get Lawyers to Change the Way They Do Advance Medical Care Planning With Their Clients? a Physician’s Reflections

I recently visited with a friend in my hometown in Lethbridge, Alberta who is struggling with an incurable cancer. He was suffers from pain, confusion, and despair. He loves his life and his family and is sad to think about dying.

I asked about his future medical plans and his wife proudly declared, “we’ve been to the lawyer and filled out those forms” — suggesting that nothing more needed to be done. But can a form filled out in a lawyer’s office really ensure that you get the medical care that’s right for you?

I asked my friend’s wife for . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

What the Law Society Should Be Doing: Standing Up to Tyranny

In the Law Times article “Diversity and inclusion fundamental to the OBA” (July 3, 2019), Law Society of Ontario Treasurer Malcolm Mercer said that the Statement of Principles “genuinely divides” people in the profession. The statement suggests that the legal and paralegal professions, numbering over 52,000 lawyers and 9000 paralegals, are aboil with conflict over the Statement. In fact, in 2017, the first year the Statement was required, Law Society statistics (evidence) show that 98% of lawyer members indicated in their annual reports that they have such a statement. The Ontario Bar Association, comprising more than 10,000 members, supports it. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Existence Before Essence: On Identity and Adaptation in the Legal Profession

I’ll start by showing my cards: I’m an existentialist. I believe in Jean-Paul Sartre’s creed, the obtuse-sounding rallying cry “existence precedes essence”, which in law-conference circles would elicit, more often than not, a guffaw and a snobbery beyond what I’d typically impart. But my qualms leave me as leaves on a tree – they fall with age. I take the existentialist creed to mean that a person’s identity is defined by this action, right now. And every subsequent action re-defines a person again. There is no identity other than the identity we choose. And the past fades away into the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Empathy for the Disrupted

I use both taxis and Uber, depending on the situation. Here’s at least one thing that differentiates each from the other.

If you’ve taken a taxi in the last few years and the subject of Uber has come up (almost certainly raised by your driver), you know how much cabdrivers just hate that company. They absolutely loathe it. In my city, taxi drivers wrecked rush-hour traffic for several days by staging massive protests against Uber before it even arrived. (They did not win any hearts and minds in the process.)

But what’s interesting is that during all the Uber rides . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Hire Me. I Won’t Work Hard for You.

What kind of lawyer are you looking for? Someone who will work 9 to 5 9, 12+ hours a day, weekdays and weekends? Someone who will sacrifice his weekend, his time with his family, his hobbies, his health, for you? Someone who will stop everything to service you? Someone who will respond to your texts like a physician on call every second of the day and every day of the year? That ain’t me.

There was a night, early in my career, when I sat in my office exhausted and tired. I looked out into the city skyline and thought . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Law Society Policy for Access to Justice Failure

[Download the full text for this summary from the SSRN.]

Law societies appear to be powerless to serve the public interest by defending lawyers’ markets against three major threats:

(1) the access to justice problem (the A2J problem of unaffordable legal services for the majority of society that is middle- and lower-income people), which has left the majority of law firms short of clients;

(2) the commercial producers of legal services such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer, now have millions of customers, who are now here in Canada beginning the same process of invading lawyers’ markets, along with the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How to Better Deal With Stress in Law Firms

“Survival mode is supposed to be a phase that helps save your life. It’s not meant to be how you live”.
Michele Rosenthal, Author and Trauma Therapist.

Whether I’m coaching individual lawyers or assisting a firm with a strategic plan, inevitably the concept of stress management will arise. It could be at the heart of an under-performing lawyer; it could be blocking teams from executing on their practice group or client team plans; or it could be holding back the implementation of a new firm program. Sometimes stress is the obvious culprit; sometimes it’s under the surface and takes a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Reforming Ontario’s Family Law Justice System

Despite the best efforts of our dedicated and tireless Family Court judges, they are becoming overwhelmed. There are many reasons for this phenomenon I am sure including the fact that governments across Canada spend roughly only 1% of their annual budgets on the justice system[1]. One of them is what has been termed the rise of the “self represented” litigant. Self represented litigants are not necessarily a problem despite what you might hear in the media and read in studies[2] undertaken to try understand the reasons behind their “rise” and to offer to solutions to deal with . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

How Can We Talk About It?

We urgently need to figure out how to talk about justice systems at the highest political level. As I have said before in this column: globally, justice systems are not delivering. Read the report of the Task Force on Justice. We need to make them better. That requires a new type of justice leadership and a new way of talking.

On 19 and 20 June the ministers of justice of the G7+ met for two days in The Hague. The fact that they met made me rejoice. You can’t have enough ministers of justice sharing experiences and getting . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law