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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

‘On Progresse’ in Tunesia

Avenue Bourghiba was closed off. A statute of the founding president of Tunisia on horseback was being reinstated in the square. The current President Essebsi was going to inaugurate it in two days. The taxi dropped me off as close as he could get. Hotel Africa is a high seventies hotel with large wooden panels, brown carpets, and huge chandeliers. As I made my way, urban Tunisia walked by and ordered drinks on the terraces: hip youngsters, women with blond hair, women with headscarves, families, groups of boys, and groups of older men.

Kalthoum picked me up later and we . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

From Zen to Chaos and the Long Road Back

People often talk about the intrusion of technology on our lives, particularly in the context of being at work 24/7 as long as you carry a smartphone. For a long time, I took pride in having the discipline to leave work at the office and enjoy my family time. I checked my phone in the evenings, but unless an email was a ‘true” emergency, I didn’t respond to it or think about it until the next morning when I went to the office. I told younger lawyers to train their clients and colleagues not to expect immediate responses from them . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What Is Blockchain and Why It’s Important for Law Practice

You have probably heard of blockchain. If you didn’t, I am sure you’ve heard of bitcoin. There is a chance you have also heard that blockchain or bitcoin are the next big thing. I believe that blockchain is the next big thing, and the purpose of this essay is to explain why and to show blockchain’s significance for lawyers and law practice.

Blockchain is an escrow of conclusive transaction evidence. That’s it. Don’t worry about hashes, blocks, distributed ledger, encryption and so on for now. Those are implementation details. All you need to know as a lawyer, a banker, a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

No Votes in Justice — Plea Bargaining and Wrongful Convictions

At the expense of justice, governments improve the cost-efficiency of the criminal justice system but thereby weaken the safeguards against wrongful convictions. Doing so makes more money available to be spent on more politically profitable areas because there are no votes to be gained by improving the criminal justice system. This is a summary of part of a published article that develops this theme: that poor resources given the criminal justice system, increases the probability of wrongful convictions in these ways:

  1. Prosecutors’ method of plea bargaining changes so as to produce more guilty pleas which increases the probability of wrongful
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Think Again – Avoiding Communication Pitfalls

Nothing causes trouble in legal practice quite like communication failures. As Ian Hu from LAWPRO reminded us in his Slaw post last month, communication are the number one source of malpractice claims.

Honing proactive and effective communication skills has significant positive implications for everything from delegation, to the quality of your legal work, to your marketing and business development efforts.

With this in mind, focusing on improving your communication practices at work is probably one of the best investments you can make in your career. Where to start is quite simple, with your thoughts.

I work with many lawyers on . . . [more]

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Justice Needs and Satisfaction in Ukraine and Uganda

What do Ukraine and Uganda have in common, besides the U at the beginning of their name? An elaborate justice needs and satisfaction survey was just done in both countries. The Ukraine results were presented on 1 March. The Uganda results on 14 April.

First, some observations to put this in a wider context.

I hope such surveys are a trend. They should be. The UN has announced that it will hold its first ministerial meeting in July to review progress regarding implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are, of course, mostly interested in Justice Goal 16. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A Proposal for Automated Online Dispute Resolution, Part 1

This essay proposes a set of draft standards for automated online dispute resolution (AODR). The drafts I propose here are for transactional disputes, and specifically for AODR that generates arbitral awards in the millions of claims for debt and breach of contract. This proposal does not consider AODR for torts or disputes with non-AODR-compliant evidence or claims.

The AODR promise is simple and a little mind-boggling:

  • Take millions of claims out of the court system.
  • Reduce cost of dispute resolution (pre-enforcement) to zero.
  • Increase speed of dispute resolution (pre-enforcement) to infinity (limited only by bandwidth and machine capacity).
  • Give a
. . . [more]
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It’s a Law Firm, Not a Love Song: It Can Carry on Without You (For a Week or Two)

“(T)o build my career is to make myself indispensable, demonstrating indispensability means burying myself in the work, and the upshot of successfully demonstrating my indispensability is the need to continue working tirelessly.”

That’s journalist Ryan Avent talking about why he’s reluctant to do something that would help his personal life even though it would have a minimal effect on his professional one.

His circular argument will sound very familiar to lawyers. In a business where success is measured by the billable hour, busy-ness is the key to upward mobility. No one wants to miss a step on the career path . . . [more]

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A Failure of the EDRM Model

The Electronic Discovery Reference Model has become something between a standard and an idée fixe in the e-discovery world.

One of the models the EDRM organization propagates is the EDRM Project Management Framework (courtesy EDRM.net):

Superficially, this looks terrific, hitting all the right buttons. Project management itself, wonderful. Communication, check. Plan before you execute, great. Change management, woo-hoo!

But… how does it measure up against the real world?

The main problem with diagrams of this sort is that they attempt to map that real world by eliminating complexity and complications rather than by providing patterns or techniques that support beneficial . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Think Again – Improved Productivity Starts Here

Have you ever noticed how your thoughts can really trip you up?

There are all kinds of tricky thoughts that can get us into trouble. Here are five versions of one simple I’ll get around to it later thinking trap that has major implications for our productivity:

I need a dedicated block of time for this task.

There’s not enough time for it now.

I will find time for it when I am not so busy.

That’s too big a project to start right now, and it’s not due right away anyway.

I just don’t have the capacity to deal . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A New Way to Oppose the Admissibility of Records

Soon, the very procedures used to produce a National Standard of Canada (an NSC) upon which the electronic records provisions of the Evidence Acts depend, will create another way of opposing the admissibility of records. That will undermine litigation based upon records, particularly criminal prosecutions. So you’d think the federal Department of Justice would be rushing to protect the Crown’s case. Well read on, then think again.

In regard to best evidence rule issues, admissibility of electronic records requires proof of the “systems integrity” of the electronic records management systems (ERMSs) in which the records are recorded or stored; see . . . [more]

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A Talk With the Prime Minister

One of my highlights at Davos this year was a closed meeting with the newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. We were with a small group of international civil society organisations from the field of human rights, rule of law and peace. The meeting was held under the Chatham House rule so I will not disclose what others or the PM said. Nothing in that rule however prevents me from telling you what I contributed.

Each time I am at Davos I marvel about how many great ideas for solving global and national challenges I come across. Poverty, education, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law