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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

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 Ignoring the outdated use of the word “ladies” (which in itself shows the need to educate the profession on how women should be treated) the article raises the question about what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

Three Things Keeping Alternative Legal Service Arrangements From Reaching Critical Mass… and How You Can Capitalize on Them


Over recent years, there has been much ink spilled about “Alternative Billing Arrangements”. Generally we focus our attention on the mechanics of common structures, such as volume based discounting, contingency arrangements, flat fee billing, success fees or secondments. Intuitively, this approach seems logical and mirrors how such initiatives are often jointly approached by inhouse and external counsel teams, but it is flawed. As a result, we unknowingly restrict ourselves from unlocking the full benefits of such endeavours, and in turn, the use of alternative legal service delivery models has not reached critical mass.

The Challenge

The challenge for inhouse . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Hey Superwoman, Superman, Take Off the Cape (Part Two)

On Christmas Eve, instead of happy dreams of sugar plums and nutcrackers I tossed and turned in bed battling inner demons that were determined to remind me of all my apparently innumerable short comings. 

I was sick with a flu that left me weak and unable to carry out my fabulous plans for holiday entertaining. Adding insult to injury, I was left curled up on the couch clutching my cup of camomile tea and watching others sip from that bottle of California Cult Classic wine we had been saving.

Holiday photos this year feature me with tangled hair and dark . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Law Society of BC Recommendations May Have Significant Implications

On December 6, 2013, the Benchers of the Law Society of British Columbia unanimously approved in principle, three recommendations that, if implemented, have the potential to significantly alter the future legal services landscape in the province.

The recommendations were contained in the final report of the Legal Service Providers Task Force, a group formed by the Law Society in the fall of 2012. The mandate of the task force was to examine issues relating to the question of whether the Law Society of BC should regulate only lawyers, or whether they should regulate all legal service providers in the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law