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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

How Words With Friends Is Killing Scrabble… and Why It Matters to Lawyers

Everyone is playing Words With Friends on their smartphones these days.

When even my 11-year old son and my 16-year-old daughter (and my no-way-will-I-reveal-her-age wife) became addicted, I thought it time to look into the phenomenon – that, and the fact that my son whispered to his Scrabble-loving father that he needed help in a game against his mom.

Let me lay out a fact pattern:

  1. Words With Friends is similar to Scrabble – seven tiles at a time, points assigned to letters in inverse relation to their frequency in English words, a board with double- and triple-letter and double-
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Simple Steps to Support Women Lawyers Returning From Maternity Leave

Most Canadian law firms of any significant size have written parental leave policies. What many firms lack are written guidelines to assist women lawyers leaving and returning from maternity leave. As these leaves can be lengthy (up to 12 months) reintegrating back into law firm life and ramping work back up is a very daunting prospect for most women lawyers. There is often a feeling that you must figure this out on your own with no clear understanding of the firm’s expectations. This feeling of isolation can make returning from maternity leave one of the most difficult times in a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Tips for Reducing Procrastination in Your Practice

John is bored. His firm just hasn’t been busy this month and instead of the usual big transaction work all he has are small bits and pieces of corporate matters. Even though none of it is complicated he just can’t get down to doing any of it and is wasting time surfing the net instead.

Terry is deadline driven. Every day is about putting out fires and meeting last minute deadlines. He knows he should plan ahead and get to his projects done before the last minute but he has gotten use to the adrenaline rush and just can’t get . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Myth of the Visionary Managing Partner

The Strategic Planning Society recently posted on their Linkedin site the seemingly straight-forward question: “What is a good definition for vision?”

Now please keep in mind that this question is being posed within the fraternity of those who have fostered and perpetrated the belief that every organization should have a vision and that the organization’s leader should be a “visionary” – the originator of such a vision. A flurry of responses came from a community who hold titles like Strategic Planning Manager, Senior Resource Planning Manager, Head of Planning and Control, Senior Manager Strategy Solutions, Strategy Execution Advisor, Managing Partner, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Are Legal Clinics the Answer? Part 1

Before I embark on a brief exploration of whether clinical legal education can provide a solution to two difficulties facing the legal profession in Canada today, I must first make a disclosure. I am a big proponent of clinical legal education and as the incoming director of an excellent clinical program at the University of Victoria I have witnessed first hand the numerous benefits that this manner of education can have to students, the profession and the community as a whole. This experience allows me to approach this discussion not only from the perspective of a lawyer and consultant who . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Your Dog May Be Too Dangerous for Your Home Insurer

In recent years, many Canadian home insurers have begun asking questions about dog ownership and, depending on the breed, impose policy exclusions, charge extra premiums, or decline home insurance applicants. These insurers maintain lists of breeds they consider problematic. These are not dogs that have already bitten someone (although that would be a problem) or lack training, they are breeds that are believed to have an above-average probability of inflicting a serious bite injury.

At the top of the list is the American Pit Bull Terrier and related breeds such as the American Staffordshire. These dogs are banned in Ontario . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

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]

Posted in: Practice of Law

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