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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Leaving the Leader

“People don’t leave jobs they leave leaders.”

This comment came at the end of a training session with leadership coach Troy King and it stuck with me. In all the discussions I have sat in on, overheard and read in the legal press about the retention of associates never have I heard this idea put forward with such blunt clarity.

I take everything Troy says with consideration. As a Master Certified Coach, and Canadian Coach of the Year in 2010 he is pretty much a Yoda of the coaching profession. I decided to call Troy up to learn more about . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

New Year’s Resolution for Overwhelmed Women Lawyers With Kids

The newspaper reported on the Labour Day weekend that September is one of the busiest months for family lawyers. Tense spouses see the kids back to school and finally call their lawyer to initiate legal proceedings that were put on hold over the summer.

Most of us are conditioned to think of the Tuesday after Labour Day as the start of the New Year. For years, the return to school meant new teachers, friends, courses, crayons and even new clothes. January 1st, stuck in darkest winter seems to be the wrong time of year to think about fresh . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Thoughts on Legal Consulting

Studying or writing about your peer group can be a daunting and sometimes professionally hazardous task. For evidence of this, consider well-respected consultant and legal futurist Richard Susskind whose early work “The Future of Law” was met with considerable skepticism and even derision in some legal circles.

Despite the hazards, inherent in such an endeavour I could not help myself recently but to accept such an assignment that tasked me with the performance of an analysis and the development of a framework for the engagement of consultants in an industry in which I myself am a consultant. The task for . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Who’s Insuring Your Insurance?

The possibility of losing any portion of your benefit due to your insurer’s insolvency has probably never crossed your mind. Why should it? After all, we live in a country with a carefully regulated and stable financial services industry. As a result, I think it’s unlikely that your insurer will become insolvent. However, there is a risk, albeit a very small one, and it has happened three times.

In 1992, Les Coopérants became the first Canadian insurance company to become insolvent. This was followed by Sovereign Life in 1993 and Confederation Life in 1994. This affected over 1.1 million Canadian . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Confronting the Underperforming Partner

I witness this same scenario play itself out, time after time, and we never seem to learn.

Imagine this: The practice group leader or managing partner has their attention drawn to the fact that one of our beloved partners is underperforming. This leader knew that the particular partner was underperforming. It didn’t come as a shock. But they were content to let the situation drift without resolution, rather than have to confront the ugly reality of the circumstances. But today we have the facts thrust before us and now something must be done.

Our devoted leader, unaccustomed to having to . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Swapping Decision Trees for River Logic

My experience to date with legal knowledge engineering has consisted of using decision trees to automate legal documents in a field known as document assembly. I have never done hard coding or played with expert system shells. Indeed, there are not many of them to play with. The only ones I am aware of are those developed by Neota Logic (formerly Jnana) and RuleBurst (since acquired by Oracle).

So it was interesting to meet Dr. Pamela Gray, a legal knowledge engineer from Charles Sturt University, and her son Xenogene Gray, a computational physicist. Together they have developed a legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Charity Begins at Home

A newly minted partner that I know, was hit with the realization that while she has a robust group of clients, she can no longer look to her firm to send her work as they did when she was an associate. Lisa knows that developing new business is now completely up to her. She also now has a responsibility to make sure that associates in her medium-sized firm are given sufficient work that they too are profitable.

When Lisa looks at her marketing plan, it includes all the right activities. She regularly contacts existing and old clients. She gives client . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Purpose and Place of Pro Bono

The most recent Canadian Bar Association annual meeting just wrapped up in Halifax, and while I missed this one, I attended many previous editions (more recently called Canadian Legal Conferences) while with the CBA. 

At each CLC, I came to notice, Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin’s keynote address could always be counted on to include a call for the legal profession to do more pro bono work. I suppose the fact that this is an annual request from the chief justice indicates that it’s not generating the results she might like to see. 

But it does illustrate the fact that . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Going From a 2 to a 4

I’m watching a sailboat from my deck.

It’s a sunny day and there’s some wind, just a perfect day for sailing. As a picture, it looks idyllic. Call it a 10 on the idyllic-scenes rating scale. 

It’s Metaphor Time

I used to race sailboats, an amateur pastime at which I became reasonably adept. I can see that the person helming the sailboat isn’t very skilled. His (or her) sails are poorly trimmed, and he’s steering neither a straight nor terribly effective course. He rolled up his sails 30 seconds after I took the picture and turned to what sailors call . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Time Out

When you’re a sole practitioner, you sometimes feel as though you always have to be on the job; never more so than when you first start out in your own office. The worry that you’ll miss the call or e-mail of that “potentially very important client” can be a powerful motivator to be near the computer or smartphone on a constant basis.

Here’s a secret: when that “potentially very important client” is looking for you, more often than not they’ll call back. Usually, the only people who think that lawyers need to be available all day/every day are other lawyers. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

3 Introductory Steps for Small Firm Succession

The issue of succession for small firms and solo practitioners has received a significant amount of attention of late in Canada. The attention stems from a demographic reality that sees the majority of lawyers in many provinces in the country in excess of 50 years old and a general recognition that a substantial amount of these lawyers have not adequately planned for succession. Concerns regarding succession are especially poignant for small firms and solo practitioners who often suffer from a lack of resources to address succession issues but who are the most at risk for negative consequences due to an . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

If a Disability Prevents You From Working, What Happens to Your Business?

As a self-employed lawyer, you are directly responsible for your business expenses. So what would happen if a serious accident or illness prevented you from working?

Just because you can’t work doesn’t mean your business expenses suddenly stop. You’ll still owe rent, equipment lease payments, and utilities. In addition, you probably have employees with families who depend on your ability to pay a salary on time. 

You’ll need money to keep the doors open and the lights on so you have something to go back to when you recover. If it looks like you can’t return, you’ll need to cover . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law