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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

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

Leaning in Without Falling Over

The challenge for many women lawyers in the “Lean In” age is to lean in without falling over. This means developing sufficient resiliency to manage demanding clients in an increasingly competitive world while also managing family and personal responsibilities. Resiliency is a key leadership skill. However, women often need to approach resiliency differently than men.

While both women and men need to exercise, get sufficient sleep, and eat well, women often need to pay attention to three other important elements to gain sufficient energy to lead demanding lives as lawyers.

Firstly, women must give themselves permission to take time for . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Up Your Resilience and Effectiveness With This Time Scarcity Thinking Reboot

Have you ever felt like there just wasn’t enough time to get everything done?

Well this May found me in a panic about a presentation I was giving with a fellow coach for a large group of women lawyers. At the heart of my panic was the thought “there isn’t enough time to prepare” followed by a second thought “and so I am not going to be good enough”.

That thought “there’s not enough time” raises much anxiety and stress in the legal profession and is the root cause of a lot of inefficiency, procrastination and wine guzzling.

The culprit . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Become a Five-Tools Project Manager

Baseball scouts dream of finding up-and-coming five-tools players. These rising stars hit for power, hit for average, speed around the bases, throw accurately, and field their positions well. Every position player in the major leagues has solid grades on at least a few of these tools, but only a handful have mastered all five.

Legal Project Management, as well, has five tools, each corresponding to one of the five areas you can manage:

  • Manage the project, starting with the project charter.
  • Manage the client, starting with the Conditions of Satisfaction.
  • Manage time, starting with the Off Switch.
  • Manage money, starting
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Justice Incubators

Incubators are in. They are popping up everywhere; Google the word and see. Most of your hits will have nothing to do with babies born too soon. There are even national associations of incubators. In these economic times an incubator is a thing that helps starting entrepreneurs further develop and scale up their idea. For a good definition, see here. Incubators started in the strictly for-profit world. With the rise of social entrepreneurship and the idea of impact investing, they have also moved into that area. I have been asking myself for the past year how we can benefit . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Voices, My Personal Demons

I am not sure if the voices in my head were inherited or created for survival. I suffer from the disease of alcoholism and medical opinion suggests that the predisposition to this disease is inherited. All I know is that the voices are part of my disease and long before I took a drink and for as long as I can remember they were there.

At first the voices helped me cope with a very abusive father. However, even from a young age the voices were more detrimental than helpful. They told me “you are bad, you deserved it, you . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Basics of Strategic Planning

In April, I summarized an annual spring cleaning process that I recommend to clients in a post entitled “6 Steps for Small Firm Spring Cleaning”. The final step that was recommended for small firms was the development of a strategic plan. In the April post I stated that “Strategic plans do not have to take an inordinate amount of time to develop and they do not have to become unwieldy documents that nobody uses.” I then promised that my next post would include some basic tips for developing a strategic plan and below is my attempt to do so.

The . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law