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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Exploding Some Law School Myths

We’ve spent the last few decades building up a series of myths about legal education. I’d like to take a moment to deconstruct a few of them.

1. The law school from which a lawyer graduated is a relevant and reliable indicator of his or her quality.

This is the pedigree myth. Law firms for years have used “law school reputation” as a handy shortcut to avoid the hassle and expense of actual hard-nosed assessments of a candidate’s qualifications and potential. I’ve met lawyers from schools at the “top” and the “bottom” of the traditional rankings, and I’ve not . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A Recipe for Law Firm Innovation in 2011

The next and most important area for innovation in law firms is not in the way we bill time, structure compensation or in the technology we employ. It is in turning our attention to maximising the output of – in the words of Hercule Poirot – our little grey cells.

Achieving and sustaining excellence takes strategic and practiced use of our biological resources. Work life in the modern law firm is a marathon not a sprint. Developing practices to sustain our energy and maximise our mental effectiveness means we will get more value out of every hour at the office . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A Single Step

Many years ago I took an excellent time management course for lawyers that was put on by our local Continuing Legal Education Society. The instructor had many good tips on how to manage a busy lawyer’s day. I went back to my office filled with enthusiasm that finally I was going to feel a sense of control over my life. I diligently experimented with many of the suggestions from the course. However, despite my best efforts, I did not manage to successfully implement a single one of the instructor’s recommendations.

My assistant was less than pleased when I tried to . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Signal What You Value as a Leader

One of the more profound things I’ve learned, that I try to pass along to new leaders, be they managing partners or practice heads, is to “act like you are on stage at all times, because you are!” Everything you do and say will send messages, set tone, establish expectations, and communicate direction about what is of priority to you. With that in mind, you need to carefully orchestrate what symbolic acts you may want to execute to create a lasting impression and convey what you stand for. In other words, you need to always think through:

Where You Spend . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

New & Improved! for a Limited Time Only!

One issue that comes up when you’re starting (or developing) your own practice is the question of how – or indeed, whether – to advertise. We’ve all seen our American colleagues’ ads on television (and laughed, or groaned, or gasped), and everyone always checks out their own colleagues’ ads in the Yellow Pages every time the new book comes out. But how do you decide what it is that you’re going to do when it comes to letting the public know that you have an office and would be more than happy to have them come and see it?

Our . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Great Investments and Fancy Yachts….it Must Be RRSP Season Again!

Nothing marks the beginning of the year like RRSP season and a plethora of mutual fund ads boasting performance with imagery that suggests you could be sailing a fancy yacht as a youthful retiree. 

Don’t get me wrong, the possibility of excellent investment performance and becoming the captain of your own expensive yacht sounds great, but many of these ads overlook the significance of the fees associated with mutual fund investments. It suggests to me that companies that don’t emphasize the competitiveness of their fees have something to hide.

You may have heard a few years ago that a study . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Regulatory Barriers to Virtual Law Practice

As an active participant in the eLawyering task force of the American Bar Association, I have volunteered to compile a list of the types of regulations that inhibit the growth of virtual law practice. In a world plagued by access to justice issues, these regulations add to the cost of operating a virtual law practice and can make it economically unfeasible to do so, particularly for solos. I am not advocating the wholesale demolition of ethical rules but I would like to point out areas of regulation that need to be rethought in the modern context, as they are impeding . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Black Law Student Association – a First for the University of Montreal

It is widely recognized by educational institutions that associations provide a very positive influence in the lives of students. Other than making students feel as though they are not alone in what can be a stressful environment, being a member of an association has many advantages, such as making valuable contacts and meeting other people who obviously share the same interests.

The Black Law Student Association of Canada (BLSAC) is an association that is committed to supporting and enhancing the academic, professional and networking opportunities for Black law students. As Omar Ha-Redeye, a fellow Slaw member, once said in a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Fight Back Against the Darkness

Last month I wrote about the recent birth of my second son as being a happy reminder to keep things in perspective and to maintain balance in my life. With the winter solstice approaching later this month, this is perhaps the most important time of year to make balance a priority. Darkness is depressing. Going to and from work in the dark makes us feel as though we’re living in a cave. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a clinically recognized phenomenon, particularly for those of us living far from the equator. Added to that are the complexities of the holiday . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Accuracy, Precision, and T-Shirts

How precise are the following statements?

  1. The Canadian public debt as of 15 December 2010 was $275,872,478,414.44 CDN.
  2. Canadian hourly-billing lawyers worked an average of 2043.96 hours last year.
  3. Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista hit .26 in 2010.

One answer: They are each precise to two decimal places.

Another answer: They are precise to 14 figures, six figures, and two figures, respectively.

I hereby state that I looked up answers to all three items before writing this column. So which of them do you believe? 

Chances are, based on precision alone, you believe one of them. No one knows . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Your Client Is Not Your Enemy

When I talk with people in the legal marketplace about alternative fee arrangements, I often hear two common objections. Interestingly, one is raised by lawyers and the other by clients. 

Lawyers say they don’t want to offer fixed fees because they figure that the client, having bought what is essentially an unlimited amount of legal services, will then deluge the lawyer with phone calls, emails, and tasks of varying complexity, burying the lawyer in work for which he or she will never be compensated. Clients, on the other hand, say they don’t want to accept fixed fees because they figure . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

“He Who Is His Own Lawyer Has a Fool for a Client” – Legal Adage

Lawyers love to armchair quarterback the trials of others. We strategize, we second-guess, we substitute our own brilliance for the wit and experience of learned trial counsel. It’s our professional equivalent of Tuesday Morning Football.

However, on the rarest of occasions, there comes a time when a legal strategy is just so outrageous that our armchair quarterbacking risks incurring hoots of derision.

I’ve been reading about a particular trial for the past few weeks (yes, it’s now, at the time I’m writing this, in week 6 of what could be a 9 or 10 week trial). I believe, officially, that . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law