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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Law School as Vocational School

My fellow slaw columnist Jordan Furlong has written a number of articles over the past few years about the shortcomings of legal education (the latest of which is here). The New York Times has also added to the debate with a recent article entitled “What They Don’t teach Law Students: Lawyering”. One of the themes floating around has been to partially return law school to its roots as a vocational school.

I had the occasion to think about some of these ideas recently when a move to Australia led me to requalify as a lawyer in a different system. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Training the Stressed Lawyer

by Cheryl Canning*

I was recently engaged in a discussion about the importance of resiliency in the workplace. The topic intrigued me. I had never really thought of resiliency as something that would be a necessity in the workplace. In my mind it was more about the ability to cope with personal crises. Through a series of recent events however, I came to appreciate its importance in all aspects of life, and I have developed my own theory as to how to build up one’s resiliency. My theory has not been tested or proven through scientific study. It is . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Partial-Attention “Multitasking”

Teaching a seminar not long ago, I commented that texting while driving was a clear example of the failure of multitasking. A very bright senior lawyer said, “But sometimes you have to.” (Even her workaholic colleagues looked askance at that!)

No, you don’t have to. Ever.

You know it’s a bad idea, right?

It’s easy to recognize in this example that a texting driver is dividing her attention, paying attention sometimes to the cars around her and attention at other times to her smartphone. Perhaps the text message does require only part of her attention (though even that’s unclear, according . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

CPD and the Presumption of Competence

I visited my local Service Ontario office recently to do something the government requires of me every five years: renew my driver’s license. Fifteen minutes, a few signatures and a couple of photographs later, the deed was done, and I received my new license by registered mail a couple of weeks afterward. Couldn’t have been easier.

I did have to prove a number of things before I could get my new license, mind you. I had to bring in my passport and birth certificate, attest in good faith that I was a citizen of Canada, that sort of thing. Interestingly . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Law Firm Partnerships and the Retention of Women Lawyers

The retention of women in private practice continues to be a challenge. Although women now form the majority of graduates from law school, they leave the profession at much higher rates than men. The BC Law Society reports that 36 per cent of women leave the profession in their first five years in practice compared to 22 per cent of men.

Over the years, many women lawyers have tried to convince law firms to adopt broader alternate work arrangements or entry requirements into partnership but have found law firms very difficult to change. When change has not happened as quickly . . . [more]

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An Extra Pair of Hands – Virtual Assistants for Busy Professionals

The days run by so swiftly it seems like the world is spinning faster and time has compressed. Everyone I speak to feels this same rush as summer disappears into winter in the blink of an eye. So much to do and so little time to do it, has become a theme of our collective days. One way I tackled the challenge was to literally employ an extra set of hands. I hired a virtual assistant, Mary-Lou, and that decision changed my life for the better.

What’s a virtual assistant?

A virtual assistant is an administrative professional and business owner . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How Good Is Your Disability Insurance Policy? Ask Yourself These 4 Questions.

Disability insurance is the most complicated type of personal insurance you can own. Even experienced insurance agents can find it challenging, so I pity the poor lawyer that attempts to find enough time in the day to read and understand their policy.

If you’ve read my prior columns, you already know that there is a huge financial risk of going without disability insurance. As a result, it’s extremely important understand how your disability insurance will pay a benefit in the event of a claim. Without getting into too many details, here are 4 questions you should ask about your disability . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Women on the Bench

The Globe and Mail reported recently (November 12, 2011) that only 30% of judges appointed by the Conservative government since 2006 have been women. (So far in 2011 just under 20% of appointments have been women.) This is a significant decrease from the last year of the Liberal government when 40% of their judicial appointments were women. A spokesperson for the Justice Department stated that the number of appointments reflects the number of female applicants.

In the past, it has been argued that the number of female federally appointed judges (32% in total) has been similar to the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

On the Subject of Strategic Focus

This post has its origins in a particular incident that compelled me to share some further thoughts with the firm’s managing partner.

Dear Managing Partner:

In our strategic planning committee discussions of earlier this week, we heard from one senior partner about the importance of capitalizing on an opportunity to open a new office in another State. He informed us about this lawyer he knew who could bring us a $2 million book of business. I asked how that would augment or support the firm’s core area of industry strength. We learned that it had nothing to do with the . . . [more]

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Introduction to Risk Management for Law Firms

It could be argued that from the time that students first enter law school they are being trained as de facto risk managers. Students are typically asked in their exams to “spot the issue” and spend hours learning the various legal pitfalls (ie: risks) that may face future clients. In practice lawyers continue to play the role of risk managers as they are called upon to manage and minimize the risks that clients face in their daily business operations. Despite this considerable grounding in working with risk and counseling clients on methods to minimize and avoid risk, seemingly very few . . . [more]

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There Is Life Outside the Office – Surviving the First Few Years of Practicing Law

The push towards the importance of work-life balance began during orientation week of my first year at law-school. Work-life balance (or study-life balance as it was back then) was emphasized as integral to surviving law school, and pursuing a healthy successful career. I recall one professor recommending that students should treat law school like a “9 to 5 job”. He suggested that students should spend the mornings and afternoons tackling classes and readings, so that they could use their evenings to unwind, socialize and pursue their favourite hobbies. I took my professors advice, recognizing that there were days that I . . . [more]

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Take Charge of Your Day

For many lawyers, their workdays could best be described as chaotic, out of control or constant crisis management. They arrive at the office with no clear plan about how they are going to spend the day but just let the day unfold responding to each email or phone call as it appears. While their day may be productive and billable as this is all work needing attention, the feeling that all they are doing is putting out fires can be very frustrating.

Over the long term this type of crisis management means that matters requiring blocks of time do not . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law