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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Me, Myself and I

Although two of my columns have already been posted on this blog, I never really officially introduced myself to the readers. As the youngest columnist in the Slaw family, I’d very much like to share my background and the road I travelled to date on my professional journey! 

The Early Years 

My story begins in the summer of 2002 when I left my family and moved to Montreal from Haiti to begin my postsecondary studies. I immediately enrolled to College Jean-de-Brébeuf and quickly developed a particular affinity for science and the law. This affinity for both those fields would stay . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Real Life Trumps Everything

As a lawyer who has been heavily involved in my Provincial Lawyer Assistance program and with the CBA’s National Legal Professionals Assistance Conference, I have travelled all over Canada and even ventured into the United States to either speak to, or hear others present, on the topic of lawyer’s wellness. Many of these discussions focus on our collective need to achieve a healthy work-life balance. This isn’t surprising, given the consuming nature of our profession and its demands on our time, mental and emotional energy. Employing our well-trained critical eye on the intricacies of other people’s conflicts can be exhausting. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Ramp Metering, Call Waiting, and Legal Projects

What do call waiting and ramp metering have in common with legal projects?

(Ramp metering refers to stoplights on highway entrance ramps that space out merging traffic during busy periods.)

No, it’s not that some people want to sue over them.

Rather, they require a balancing of competing interests to function most effectively. They also hark back to the urgent-v.-important equation.

Call Waiting and Individual Choice

Call waiting involves three parties but leaves the choice in the hands of one.

Personally, I detest call waiting. In effect, the person at the center says, “I don’t know who’s calling, but they’re . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Aussie Rules for Lawyers

I recently migrated to Sydney, Australia with my Australian-born wife and our three children. Australia’s remote location seems to allow a freedom to experiment without the pressure to conform to U.S. or European norms that one experiences in a country like Canada. Or perhaps Australia is simply, as a friend calls it, a “nation of iconoclasts”. In any event, I have observed over the years that regulatory change related to the legal profession in the common law world begins in Australia and then moves around the globe, first to the UK, and finally to North America. As a newly . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Billing Targets: Are They Driving Women Lawyers Out of the Profession?

Recently a male partner said to me that while practicing law in a firm has always been more challenging for women, he believes that today it is almost impossible. This bold statement surprised me – not because I am unaware of the many challenges that women lawyers face but because I look at how far we have come over the past 30 years and cling to the hopeful belief that progress is being made.

When I remember how challenging it was for women to obtain articles or be kept on as associates with the assumption that women would leave as . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Your Call Is Important to Us

“When it comes to customer service,” James Surowiecki noted in an insightful New Yorker column last month, “it seems people are unhappy no matter what side of the counter they’re on.” Surowiecki’s article describes how the only ones more miserable than those who provide front-line customer service these days are those who receive it: neither the buyer nor the seller values or enjoys the post-transaction relationship. 

The reason is pretty simple: during the recession (and, Surowiecki points out, even more so during the boom that preceded it), companies slashed customer service because it was little more than a cost center . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Gender Compensation Gap

There is a commonly held myth that the gender gap in partner compensation is due to women billing fewer hours and spending less time on client development due to their greater responsibilities at home. This myth has been exploded in a recent study [PDF] published by The Project For Attorney Retention and sponsored by the ABA Commission for Women in the Profession.

Amongst other findings, the report states that factors that work against women partners include the lack of women on compensation committees where bonuses and compensation criteria are set; the lack of transparency around compensation criteria; the lack of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Mortgage Life Insurance: 3 Things You Need to Know

While you were signing the paperwork for your mortgage, did a bank employee ask you to consider purchasing mortgage insurance protection? You were probably told “…it will pay your mortgage if you die…just a few medical questions… it’s inexpensive…”. While that person may have had the best of intentions, he or she probably lacked the training needed to make you aware of important contractual details and how these compare with other insurance protection options. 

Here are 3 important things you should know about most mortgage insurance policies: 

1. You do not control the benefit

In the event of your . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

To Quote the Donald: “You’re Fired”

My experience in private practice – and from my conversations with other sole practitioners in smaller markets, it was a common one – was that it was, at times, a roller-coaster. Billings were often feast or famine. To compensate, lawyers can develop a thick skin when it comes to dealing with difficult clients. Our tolerance level went up just for the sake of regular billings.

Another experience that I occasionally enjoyed – and again, from my conversations with other sole practitioners in smaller markets, it was a not uncommon one – was that it was good to terminate the relationship . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Getting From Surviving to Thriving

Ever feel like you were falling behind in all the important areas of your life? As the pace of work shifts into high gear in September it is all too easy to get trapped in survival mode – just working to make it through each day and pushing aside your own personal priorities and objectives. 

I have had many lawyers tell me they feel they are failing at both their jobs in life – as parents and as lawyers. These professionals are men and women from different firms and different parts of Canada. One thing I know for sure is . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Advice for Those in Support Positions

I happened to have had lunch with a new marketing professional recently. I spent some time briefing her on the strategic project that I was doing with her firm. During our discussions she asked if I might have any advice for her, given that I’ve spent three decades working with law firms and this was her first foray into professional services.

Now, I’ve heard from a number of business development professionals about how they spend far too much of their time having to justify their existence at their firm; how no one knows or appreciates the contribution that they are . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The 2.0 Law Practice

Despite the advent of Smartphones (Blackberry, iPhone, etc.) and the many ways they facilitate our lives (i.e. we can now start a car, open a bank account, receive and send e-mails, read the news, etc.), the legal profession still seems to be behind on technology. Although the technology is clearly available, we unfortunately fail to take advantage of its full potential. We have all the tools and gadgets necessary to practice the law from our own homes, without ever even having to physically meet a client or go to court. In fact, the virtual world is less costly, greener, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law