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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

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

An Effective (And Maybe Even Useful) Recurring Status Report

In my previous article, I detailed a series of reasons why traditional, scheduled (e.g., weekly or fortnightly) status/progress reports provide low value to clients. Project managers, of course, already know that they’re a royal pain to produce.

Today, I’ll describe an effective status-report format that’s easy to produce, valuable to the project manager as well as the client, and useful to (most of) your clients. Clients might even read it. [1]

It’s called the 3×3 (“three-by-three”).

It consists of three headings, each with no more than three bullet points:

  1. Progress This Period
  2. To-Do Next Period
  3. Action Needed/Alerts

For some . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Smelling the Roses

A few days ago, my forty-five-year-old sister-in-law died at 3:52 am, with cancer ravaging her body. She and my brother-in-law were best friends, boon companions and soul mates. My sister-in-law leaves behind a bewildered husband and three children. Twelve weeks ago, she was a happy woman with no cares, a great family and a wonderful husband. Today she is dead.

This is not an uncommon story, as one in three of us in Canada will be affected by cancer in some form or another in our lives. What is uncommon is that by and large we do not seem, as . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Polycentric Conversations and Rules to Keep Them Going

Four weeks ago I was in Abu Dhabi, at the annual meeting of the Global Agenda Councils of the World Economic Forum. The Council on Rule of Law, which I chair, issued a report on the fast increase of governance outside purely state structures that is aimed at dealing with complex transnational issues such as human rights, labour standards, the environment, cybercrime, health, and corruption. Situations where the state is not enough. There’s a lot of that kind of governance around when you start looking for it and it will increase. Many examples of transnational, multi-stakeholder governance flounder. Why? At . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Protecting Privacy in Your Legal Practice

In April I wrote a column in which I posed the question “Are lawyers paying enough attention to privacy?”. Based on some high profile privacy breaches and extensive discussions with practitioners that I have met and worked with in the past, my unfortunate conclusion to the question was, no. As I mentioned in the previous post, I believe that this state of affairs largely arises from the deep history of protection of confidentiality within the legal profession and the mistaken notion that protection of confidentiality equals protection of privacy and ensures compliance with the relevant legal requirements that surround the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Biggest Time Waster – Procrastination! Why Do We Do It? and What Can We Do About It?

It’s a Tuesday afternoon at a law firm somewhere in Toronto. John is reading the Huffington Post on-line. He feels stuck. Unmotivated. With no pounding deadlines this week he just can’t get around to doing the important but not urgent work on his desk.

Tina in Vancouver is also stuck. She’s so stressed out and anxious about the deadlines she has to meet that she is frozen. Her inner dialogue is about how hopeless she is, and useless, and the worst lawyer ever, and under this harsh litany of criticism she is immobilized.

Frank in Calgary has some urgent client . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

7 Tips for Paying Less for Your Life Insurance

If you’ve never given much thought to your life insurance, there’s a chance you’re paying too much. Here are 7 tips that could help you save thousands on your life insurance costs.

1. Your excellent health could qualify you for discounted rates

Most insurers can offer discounted life insurance rates to applicants with a combination of much better than average medical test results, no family history of serious diseases, and healthy lifestyle choices. Commonly referred to as Preferred or Elite, these lower rates are subject to strict underwriting rules. As a result, most people can’t qualify; but if you do, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law