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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Learning From Failure at the Oscars

By now, you’ve probably heard about the stunning failure at the Oscars ceremony, even if in Canada the Oscars play second fiddle to the Canadian Screen Awards.

To recap, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway presented the award for Best Picture to La La Land. The producers of that film took the stage, celebrated, and made the obligatory endless thank-you speech… until they were interrupted and told that the award actually belonged to Moonlight.


Or as Plattville, Wisconsin library so brilliantly put it:

We can learn a lot about project failure from studying the video of the award . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Vicarious Trauma

In July of 2015, a family lawyer in Winnipeg suffered severe injuries when a bomb was delivered to her office and was detonated. This incident hit our legal community hard. Sessions were offered to identify suspicious packages; a Personal Safety Handbook was developed and many lawyers became hyper vigilant. While many in our legal community were horrified, incredibly empathetic and wanted to help; others reacted differently. The impact on some involved very real trauma and the true fear that this could/would happen to them. A similar reaction occurred in 2007 when a Senior Crown Attorney was subject to an attempted . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Future of Access to Justice in Civil Disputes

Every lawyer probably got that phone call. Someone owes me a thousand dollars. Can you help me? Someone cut a branch on my tree without my permission. Can we sue them? Or the toughest question of all when random strangers call you for advice: do I have a case? No, you don’t. Well, wait: you’re frustrated because no responsible lawyer can answer this question on the spot, and you’re frustrated because you know that even if they have a case, they probably should not hire you because of your fees. It’s a simple cost/benefit analysis.

Let’s focus on the second . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Up Productivity. Root Out Procrastination.

Gretta has been slammed by a sudden flurry of work and has several critical deadlines looming. On Monday she was feeling anxious about one tough factum but instead of spending the morning hammering it out she wasted 20 minutes surfing the net and then a couple of hours on email.

Sound familiar?

Gretta is not alone. Many if not most lawyers struggle with procrastination at some point in their practice and Dr. Piers Steel, reports in “The Procrastination Equation” that about 95% of people admit to procrastinating.

There is one important thing to know about procrastination – the goal isn’t . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Evidence Based Upon National Standards Might Thereby Be Unreliable

I’ve endured a very worrisome and incompetent drafting of an intended second edition of this National Standard of Canada (an NSC): Electronic Records as Documentary Evidence CAN/CGSB-72.34-2005 (“72.34,” developed by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB)). Its intended purpose is, to be Canada’s most authoritative standard as to the proper operation and maintenance of electronic records management systems (ERMSs). Therefore it can be used to test the “integrity” that provisions such as, s. 31.2(1)(a) of the Canada Evidence Act (CEA), and s. 34.1(5),(5.1) of the Ontario Evidence Act (OEA), require of ERMSs, for the purpose of determining the admissibility of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

‘Justice Doit Être Ouvert Vers La Société’

This was the core message in the opening address of minister Mamadou Konaté to the first conference of public prosecutors of Mali held under the theme ‘the public ministry for public action’ early November. ‘You are’, he said to the prosecutors, ‘a key advocate of the public interest and an advance post into society for justice.’ Minister Konaté wants this conference to take place every year – a gathering at which to reflect on standing up for the public interest and better serving the citizens of Mali.

He is an impressive and hugely driven figure: a lawyer with more than . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A Modern Associate Manifesto (Beta)

A spectre is haunting law firms — the spectre of #NewLaw.

There are three things every law firm associate hates: long hours, working on weekends, and their boss. Oh, you think your junior does not hate you? Oh, ok.

Here is the low-down on the traditional law firm:

1) Partners who own the firm make money by selling associates’ labour.

2) Partners sell associates’ labour by billing clients by the hour.

3) Partners pay associates’ fixed salaries regardless of overtime (but they do, sometimes, pay bonuses).

4) At least in Ontario, Canada, statutory employment standards with respect to hours, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology, Practice of Law


Resilience is the ability to adapt or ‘bounce back’ from negative experiences such as criticism, rejection or significant sources of stress arising from family issues, health problems and, as lawyers, all of the stressful elements that we face everyday in the workplace.

While each of us is born with a certain degree of resiliency, environmental factors can also influence our ability to move past difficult life experiences and recover more quickly. As a result, some people are highly resilient while others are not, if at all. Unfortunately, studies have shown that lawyers overall have low levels of resilience which likely . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

One Good Habit All Associates Need to Break

Miranda is stressed out and fighting fires on all her files. A slew of sudden departures and maternity leaves have left her as the lone associate in a busy corporate practice. She has more work than she can handle and is behind on it all despite working long days and taking no holidays. Yet when a partner comes by to ask for her assistance on a large transaction that is heating up, she finds herself agreeing even though she knows something is going to give.

Are you like Miranda?

  • When asked for help is your first and immediate answer Yes
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Technology, the Fiduciary Duty, and the Unaffordable Legal Services Problem

The concept of a legal profession should have a strong social welfare aspect to it such that its distant goal is to make a community’s legal health as important to it as its medical health, and its lawyers as important to it as its doctors. Technology can do that. Unfortunately it is becoming a more distant and unattainable goal because our law societies are moving us in the wrong direction.

All efforts are aimed at helping the population learn to live with the problem of unaffordable legal services, but there are none to solve the problem. Law society benchers . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Idiot Lights

I’m old enough to recall cars that had useful gauges – the cooling-system temperature gauge, for example.

Nowadays they have on/off indicators, referred to as “idiot lights.” Such as the check-engine light. The idiot light that this morning is illuminated in my car. I’m writing this article while sitting in the dealer’s waiting room until they attach a computer to my vehicle to diagnose the problem. (And then charge me a bunch of money to fix it.)

The car’s computer system stores a diagnostic code that the dealership’s computer will retrieve, at least as I understand it. What I don’t . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Delaying Justice Is Denying Justice – a Senate Committee Report

The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Eight Report: Delaying Justice is Denying Justice: An Urgent Need to Address Lengthy Court Delays in Canada (published, August, 2016), must produce a final report by March 31, 2017.

1. The Major Shortcomings of the Committee’s Report

Appendix A to the Report is this List of Recommendations (p. 16):

Recommendation 1: The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories as well as with the judiciary to examine and implement best practices in case and case flow management across Canada to reduce the number of unnecessary appearances and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law