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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Women and the Imposter Syndrome

The Atlantic Magazine has another blockbuster cover story in their May edition investigating the confidence gap between men and women.

Following on the heels of Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller “Lean In”, the article examines the internal belief (held more frequently by women than men) that someday, someone will discover that despite being a senior law firm partner, they have been fooling everyone and are not competent to do the job. It is remarkable how frequently the aptly named “imposter syndrome” not only holds women back from taking on more senior roles but continues to haunt them once they attain senior status. . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

That Elusive Thing Called Justice Leadership

In a fascinating new book that has just been published, What Should We Be Worried About?, John Naughton expresses his big worry:

[W]e are increasingly enmeshed in incompetent systems – that is, systems that exhibit pathological behavior but can’t fix themselves (…) because solving the problem would require coordinated action by significant components of the system, but engaging in such action is not in the short-term interest of any individual component (…). So in the end, pathological system behavior continues until catastrophe ensues.

Legal systems can be like that: incompetent and unable to change. In this column I reflect . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

“That’S What Friends Are For”1

I live in Whitehorse, Yukon — Canada’s “top left hand corner”. Recently I was in Toronto on a business trip. When making the travel arrangements, I scheduled my departure for 24 hours after the end of my meetings so I could hook up with a few of the people I know in that great city. So, instead of departing Toronto late on a Friday afternoon and being back in Whitehorse that evening, I left on Saturday afternoon leaving the enjoyment of 7 hours of flying time to a Saturday night. This 24 hours, I thought, would give me plenty of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Setting v. Managing Expectations

Once upon a time, I represented a client (rather than managed the project) when I met with a senior project manager new to an in-progress project. He informed me that our job together was to “manage the client’s expectations.”

“No,” I replied, “our job is to meet the client’s expectations. Are you saying we didn’t set them correctly in the first place?” Given that the project already underway, he was telling me subliminally either that he thought the project was about to fail or that his predecessor had screwed up.

The difference between setting and managing expectations is more than . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

6 Steps for Small Firm Spring Cleaning

As I sit and write this column it is a warm 11 degrees in Victoria and the flowers are starting to bloom. While I realize that my colleagues in many parts of the country are still buried in snow, our thoughts on the west coast are starting to turn to spring. At this time of year I engage in an annual exercise that began when I ran my small law office and continues to this day with my consulting firm. That practice is spring-cleaning and it is a simple process that I recommend to all of my clients. While each . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

One Simple Ingredient for a Happier Workplace

Sandra asked the team of legal support staff she manages what would contribute to their motivation at work. They all told her “appreciation – being thanked when we do a good job.”

Mark , a young associate, is unhappy at his firm. One of the things bothering him about the culture is the lack of appreciation for people’s efforts.

Chelsea and her close colleagues laugh at themselves for being foolish: after all their years of practice they still hanker after an appreciative word from their partners for taking on some of the essential but non-billable work critical to the firm’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What Women Lawyers Gain From Women-Only Groups

A recent cover story in Canadian Lawyer “The Case for Ladies Only” questioned the need in 2014 for women lawyers to form organizations or hold events that are for women only. Ignoring the outdated use of the word “ladies” (which in itself shows the need to educate the profession on how women should be treated) the article raises the question about what is the best way to achieve gender parity.  

Given that women’s participation in the profession (thirty-seven percent) is still decades away from equaling that of men and that women have stalled at around twenty percent of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Managing Change Within the Legal Department – the Inhouse Perspective


The organisations inhouse teams serve are regularly required to transform themselves. If they fail to do so they do not excel, or in some cases, they fail to survive. As a result the nature of inhouse practices which support these companies has also transformed over the last twenty years. Drivers for inhouse change include globalisation of commerce and corresponding geographical expansion, cost sensitivities, and increasing regulatory requirements. In many cases, unlike the business units they serve, inhouse legal departments have adapted in an ad hoc manner by accommodating evolving business needs, rather than as a result of careful consideration, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Davos 2014 and Justice

The Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos has many layers. Business leaders meet and do deals and forge partnerships. High potential start-ups use Davos to pitch. Members of governments come to support the deal making. The President of Mongolia worked hard to bring business to his country. Another layer is pure politics. “We even met the Iranians.”, said one ambassador to me, very pleased. The do-good layer is the one in which I move. The WEF has built a formidable network of doers and thinkers around big global issues such as the environment, governance, health, and youth . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Getting to No

As lawyers, we are trained to be adversaries, but more and more we are also trained to work collaboratively. Litigation is expensive and time consuming. Alternative dispute resolution is almost always a preferred method of dealing with a dispute, and in that vein, we have all read the book “Getting to Yes” by Roger Fisher and William Ury. The book promises a:

proven strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict – whether it involves parents and children, neighbors, bosses and employees, customers or corporations, tenants or diplomats.

There is good reason this book is almost . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Microsoft Outlook and Managing Legal Projects: A Tip

As I’ve detailed in my book The Off Switch, Microsoft Outlook provides modern ways not just to communicate but to interrupt our work flow and make life harder.

For example, the new-mail sounds and desktop alerts (the blue “toasts” or translucent ghosties that pop up on a new message) may do more harm than good because they interrupt your thought processes.

So turn them off. (Go to Mail Options, which is under Options near the bottom of the File menu.)

Figure 1

People say to me, “But I need to be responsive to clients.”

Yes, you do, but interrupting . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Law Firms and the Time Crunch

Recently the NY Times reported in an article titled “Wall St. Shock: Take a Day off, Even a Sundaythat Bank of America Merrill Lynch has issued an internal memo to its junior analysts and associates that they should try to spend four weekend days away from the office each month as part of an effort to improve working conditions. JPMorgan Chase plans to increase its staff of junior bankers by ten percent to help spread out the workload to ensure that its young employees have one “protected weekend” set aside each month. No such “relief” is planned . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law