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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Access to Justice Alarm

I want to raise an SDG 16.3 alarm and appeal for Canada to lead. Let me explain. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute the 2030 development agenda of the world, adopted by the UN’s heads of state and government in September 2015. All efforts on development are coalescing around these goals. Goal 16 is to promote “peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development”, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels”. Which is huge. So it’s broken up into 13 targets. My focus is on access to justice. This is target 16.3, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Falling Short on Legal Ethics

I was speaking with someone the other day about whether and to what extent there were any ethical implications of lawyers’ use of artificial intelligence.

Those implications could theoretically range from minimum application (in what situations is it effectively malpractice not to use AI) to maximum application (where does a lawyer’s use of AI cross the line by substituting algorithmic outcomes for human judgment). It was all very interesting, and I plan to touch on some of these topics when I join a panel on March 2 in Toronto at the Canadian Bar Association-Federation of Law Societies of Canada Ethics . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

China’s Judicial Independence and Modern Art, and LSUC Becomes LSO

China is making slow but steady progress toward what western countries consider to be judicial independence (see authorities listed below). I asked a judge in Beijing (my wife assisting as interpreter) his views of the judiciary’s state of independence. He said that they have considerable independence but some cases involve other authorities.

Paralleling that, but apparently at a faster pace is the liberalization as to what is permitted in modern art. A few years ago we went to the 798 Photo Gallery of modern art in Beijing’s fashionable 798 Art Zone, located in Dashanzi, Chaoyang District of Beijing . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What Lawyers Need to Know About Blockchain

As I am writing this, one bitcoin is traded at about USD$17,600. In 2013, bitcoin traded at about USD$100. I thought it was a scam at the time and did not buy any. Since then I’ve changed my mind and started thinking, writing, and building about and around bitcoin and other blockchain technologies. It helped that I am both a computer programmer and a lawyer and that I had economics training. So if you are a lawyer and you missed the bitcoin rush but interested in catching up in your knowledge, read on.

Bitcoin is one way of using a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology, Practice of Law

Justice Innovation Lessons of 2017

What did 2017 bring? Lots of hard work, but was the dial on justice innovation moved?

Let me briefly beat my drum again why I we must ask this question every year; ministers of justice, chief justices, MPs, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, justice NGOs, tax payers, voters, and revolutionaries.

The past few months, the organisation I run, HiiL, put all the data that it has collected on justice needs and experiences the past four years together. Almost 70.000 voices. Twelve countries. Africa, the Arab world, and Europe. A new Trend Report based on this data will come out in the first . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Access to Justice: “We Have Seen the Enemy and He Is Us”

[articles cited without authors are mine]

Lawyers remain the passive victims of the benchers[1] that we ourselves elected to be the law societies’ managers, instead of demanding that they get busy solving the problem of unaffordable legal services (“the problem”). The benchers are to regulate the legal profession so as to, “maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law,” and, “facilitate access to justice,” and, “to protect the public interest,” being, for example, among the express duties of LSUC (the Law Society of Upper Canada),[2] being duties expressly set out in legislation such as . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

November has set in, along with its cold blustery weather and long dark nights. Inside, it’s a busy time of year for law firms and legal departments. This combination of a lot of work and not a lot of daylight hours can be quite a downer.

When our mood drops, our thoughts follow in a negative turn. That’s why my topic for this month is don’t believe everything you think.

Waking in the morning darkness and thinking of the pressures of the day, we might start ruminating on our failings.

At the end of a long day when we . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

A Proposal: The Legal Council of Elrond

After about 20 years of studying the Canadian legal sector, I’ve reached a couple of conclusions:

  1. The Canadian legal system is in the process of breaking down.
  2. No single group within the Canadian legal community can fix it.

To the first point, I’d cite the following:

. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

New Edition of “A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting”

The fourth edition of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting (MSCD) has just recently been published. It is a must-have reference work for any lawyer who is interested in proper contract drafting, in other words, for any lawyer who drafts contracts. The author is well-known drafting expert Professor Ken Adams, who has been speaking and writing about these issues for a number of years. His blog, on the Adams on Contract Drafting site, is an excellent source of commentary on a great many contract drafting issues, including ones that, for space limitations, are not addressed in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law

CBA Wellness Hosts 14th Annual Wellness Workshop

CBA Wellness hosted its 14th annual Wellness workshop this past weekend in Winnipeg. The workshop is designed to provide training and resources to lawyer assistance program representatives from across the country. This year, the CBA Wellness Board of Directors decided to expand the scope of the workshop and include an outreach session for local lawyers as part of its ongoing effort to engage the legal community in wellness issues. The outreach session was titled Addictions, Recovery, Reckonings and featured Michael Bryant, an Ontario lawyer and former Attorney General for Ontario. Michael’s story is compelling; he detailed his personal struggle . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Efficiency for Whom?

About sixty years ago, a few intersections held a few traffic lights like the one illustrated below.

Look carefully.

Not only is the green on top, but note the glow – on top! – of the red signals telling cross traffic to stop.

In other words, for, say, east/west streets, green took pride of place, but for north/south streets, red was uppermost.

Needless to say, this would have been confusing for distracted drivers. Luckily, there were no cell phones or onscreen maps back then… but the streets teemed with hundreds of station wagons filled with screaming kids. And of course, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Putting the Brakes On: The Wisdom of Procrastination

Josh is procrastinating and he knows it. He’s never done one of these applications before and, without knowing exactly how to proceed, he keeps pushing the work to the bottom of the pile.

Alex has been asked to do a piece of research on a question that is so open ended she knows that getting a comprehensive answer is an exercise in hopelessness and will take a mountain of boring hours of work.

Josh and Alex are procrastinating, but not in the way we usually associate with the word.

Procrastination is putting off what needs to get done. We often . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law