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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Redefining the Career Plan, Part 1

I have recently had the opportunity to take up a sessional teaching position at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. Anyone who engages in this type of sessional or adjunct teaching in Canada knows that it is not done for the money (of which there is very little) but for the love of teaching and the opportunity to engage with bright young minds. As I have managed to navigate a successful transition away from the strict practice of law an additional benefit I receive from teaching is a steady stream of students who seek my thoughts on career planning . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Part-Time Partners and Associates – It Can Work

One of my closest friends is a senior litigation partner at one of the largest law firms in Australia. She has always worked part-time through an arrangement with her firm where she works more than full-time during hectic trial periods and then will take a few weeks or a month off during the various school holidays. I have always admired her tenacity in making this work despite some pushback from her partners when she first started this arrangement eighteen years ago.

Recently, she remarked to me that flexible work arrangements were now common at the large national and international firms . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Thinking, Fast and Slow: Avoiding Errors of Legal Judgment

Daniel Kahneman’s new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, synthesizes his life’s work as a psychologist. The book is about the systematic errors that limit human judgment.

The six-chapter section on overconfidence is particularly instructive for lawyers in helping them to assist clients to make better decisions and to make better decisions themselves. It appears that excessive optimism and overconfidence are part of the human condition. In fact, an expert’s subjective degree of confidence in his or her predictions is irrelevant to the performance of the expert.

Research has shown that, while computers are better than humans at solving problems . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Tough Lawyers

Lawyers probably work in one of the most stressful environments that exist. If they are in private practice, they have the stress of working to provide their clients the information, advice and services that the client is looking for when the client wants it. If they are in-house counsel or in the public sector, they have employers, bosses who want information, advice and strategy when they need it, not on the lawyers’ schedule. As well, lawyering is such that sometimes there does not seem to be any clocks and everything else can be put aside including family, friends and one’s . . . [more]

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The Law of the Future

It is perhaps best that I start my first column with a brief introduction about what will feature most visibly in what I write. It will help the reader determine whether to look out for the next one or not.

Our world is more globally volatile than ever; an event in one place quickly has consequences in many other places. It is more connected than ever: people, ideas, and things travel very fast. And it faces a multitude of challenges that are in different ways ‘global’. In such a world good rule systems are important. They enhance stability, trust, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

You Want Tools, Do You?

Every once in a while, someone in one of my classes asks, Aren’t there any tools for Legal Project Management?

(“Every once in a while” means every other session or thereabouts. It’s a common question.)

I answer this in three ways that I’ll share here.

“Tools” Does Not Mean Technology

First, “technology” is not a synonym for “tools.” It is at best one set of tools among many. To be specific, it is a minor set.

You can manage legal projects perfectly well without technology, and certainly without purpose-built “project management” technology. Lawyers Abe Lincoln and Clarence Darrow, for example, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The When and How of Death

The last time you purchased insurance or made a contribution to your RRSP, did you think about how long you might live? According to recent statistics, Canadian men live just over 78 years on average, while women live about 83 years. Men are expected to spend 88.8% (68.3 years) of their life in good health, compared to 86.3% (70.8 years) for women.

Most people know that how long we can expect to live depends heavily on genetics, weight, smoking status, lifestyle choices and luck, but you may be surprised to know that where you live can also be a contributing . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Are Legal Clinics the Answer? Part 2

In part one of this article series I posed the question of whether clinical legal education can provide the solution to two difficulties facing the legal profession in Canada today. These two issues include a call from the legal profession for students that are better prepared in their academic training to take on the rigours of practice and a call from the community at large for the cost effective delivery of legal services. In part one I maintained that clinical legal education could play a valuable role in preparing students for practice by providing upper level students the opportunity to . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Thought-Provoking Management Metrics (Part One)

At a recent gathering of the profession, while bemoaning the lack of demand for legal services, the pathetic state of the economy and begrudging the increasing power of clients, one discussion centered around metrics – financial and performance-oriented measures. While we are all familiar with the usual billable hour, collections, matter profitability, and so forth, this discussion provoked me to think about some of the more unfamiliar and unorthodox, but vital metrics that I believe law firm management should be looking at. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the late father of modern management, Peter Drucker, reminded us . . . [more]

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and the Women Lawyers Still Leave

A conversation I often have with partners (both male and female) goes like this. The partner tells me, “We bend over backwards to help our women associates by accommodating lengthy maternity leaves; putting on programs to help them develop business; holding events for potential female clients and allow some women to work reduced hours. But it makes no difference – the women lawyers still leave.”

These partners are correct. Despite these programs, the women lawyers still leave. They leave because these programs do not address the deeper reasons why women leave private practice either voluntarily or are dismissed by firms . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Time for Wonder Woman and Superman to Take Off the Cape

In her legal career Charlene had never encountered a challenge that stoic hard work and determination couldn’t beat. After severe abdominal pain forced her to the hospital’s emergency ward she returned to her office to finish an assignment despite the blindingly brutal pain. Months later she discovers that during this time the partner she reports to had found numerous flaws, typos and weaknesses in her work and had told her colleagues that she had grave concerns about Charlene’s legal abilities.

Charlene’s legal career as a solicitor was in ascendency before her car accident. The head injury caused her some setbacks . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

XC Skiing

by Tom Ullyett*

Cross country skiing is Canada’s sport. This is almost sacrilegious to say within living memory of the recent national celebration of hockey known as “Hockey Day in Canada”. Don Cherry would beg to differ and probably label me a wimp (until he found out that I was the penalty leader in my 9-team hockey league). But folks, really, “xc” skiing has been with us for over 100 years. Consider Exhibit A: The Montreal Ski Club started to offer xc ski trips into the Laurentians as early as 1905. To top it all off, any Canadian with Scandinavian . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law