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Archive for ‘Practice of Law: Future of Practice’

NSA Dragnet Ensnares Law Firms

The most recent Snowden revelation, as reported by the New York Times, has revealed that even law firms have become ensnared in the NSA’s ever-growing communications dragnet.

The top secret document, leaked by Edward Snowden, reveals that a US-based firm was targeted by the NSA over the period of time it represented Indonesia in trade talks with the US government. Controversial FISC court rulings grant the NSA permission to monitor the communications of Americans, even communications within the scope of attorney-client privilege, provided those communications are deemed to have intelligence value and are with foreigners.

Given these revelations, US-based . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Practice Management, Technology, Technology: Internet, Technology: Office Technology

Employment Law Updates for 2014

The employment law landscape is expected to change over a number of key issues through 2014. Some of these changes provincially in Ontario follow changes initiated at the Federal level.

Changes to the Employment Insurance Act under Bill C-44 to s. 12 of the Act which now provides up to 35 weeks of EI benefits for parents who have taken time off work to provide support or care for critically injured or ill children.

These provisions were mirrored in the Canada Labour Code for Federally regulated employees through a coordinating amendment under the Bill to s. 206.1.

Changes were . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Substantive Law: Legislation

In Heenan’s Wake – Lessons?

From my discussions with insiders, it appears that the carnage from the dissolution of Heenan Blaikie continues as professional administrative staff (IT, HR, marketing, support staff, etc. ) are left in limbo as to what will happen to those not moving with the mass exodus of lawyers to other law firms.

There have been allegations that the dissolution was not managed well by the firm’s executive team. From the descriptions I have heard, it very much seems like an “every man/woman for his/herself” situation with panicked lawyers desperately calling around for a job while support staff were left to watch . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous, Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Practice Management

Lawyers, Law Firms and Exceptionalism

Commiserating on the demise of giant Canadian law firm Heenan Blaikie in a Letter to the Editor to The Globe and Mail of February 7, 2014, retired lawyer Stephen Barker took issue with referring to the legal profession as the “law industry.” He adds that most “industries” have low standards of public service. 

This is not new news. The law industry, is in fact, an industry; every industry has its own peculiarities.

More importantly, every industry is subject to the laws of economics (laws of supply and demand, market cycles), competition (and competitiveness), and the 4-stage marketing cycle. The fourth . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Marketing

The Future of Expert Shopping

There has been quite a bit of controversy in the past few years about the use of experts in court, the appropriate role of experts in assisting judges, the subject matters upon which experts may testify and the ever-present problem of experts being hired by parties yet having to remain neutral in the search for the truth.

Recently, this issue has been debated outside legal circles. In the wake of high profile crimes such as that of Guy Turcotte who killed his two young children in 2009, the media has grabbed hold of these questions and asked how it is . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice

The Practical New Face of Summary Judgment Motions

On January 23, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in the case of Hryniak v. Mauldin, in which it signaled a fundamental shift in the way that summary judgment motions are to be handled in the Province of Ontario.

A scheduling decision, released last week by Justice Brown of the Commercial List in Toronto, provides the first insight as to how summary judgment motions may be changing on a practical level.

Justice Brown noted, correctly, that it is conceivable that parties may end up having to make up to three appearances in connection with motions . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Practice Management

Do We Need “Meet and Confer” Rules?

One of the ideas that surfaced in the lively discussions at the OBA’s Civil Litigation program which I co-chaired last week, was the importance of “face time” between counsel, as a means of improving communication, reducing hostility and keeping lawyers focused on the efficient and economical resolution of disputes.

The view was expressed that counsel sometimes adopt a tone in emails that they would not use in person. Someone has described this as “courage from a distance”.

At the break I was introduced to a California practitioner in the audience who informed me that the rules of procedure in that . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice

Roy Heenan Claims Bean Counters Killed the Firm Culture

I suspect we will all be talking about Heenan Blaikie for a while, on Slaw and elsewhere.

Both Mitch and Gabriel have weighed in on this some more already, so I’d like to add here to my previous post on the subject and my brief interview with Drew Hasselback in the Legal Post.

Much of the commentary has tried to figure out what went “wrong.” Hasselback’s most recent article suggests that it was not strictly financial,

Just a month ago, things were looking good. Billings had hit a near-record $35-million for the month of December. And the full-year financial

. . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Practice Management

Requiem for Heenan Blaikie

Listening to Roy Heenan give his spin on the demise of his law firm, I couldn’t help but hear the strains of Elton John’s “Funeral for a Friend” in my head.

It will be some time before the full back story of this debacle will be known. But in my view, Heenan Blaikie died from a combination of greed, poor management and failed leadership wrapped together in an antiquated business structure ill-suited to “more for less” client demands in a marketplace gradually filling with non-traditional competitors.

As I have said repeatedly, the Canadian legal profession is now entering the . . . [more]

Posted in: Miscellaneous, Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Practice Management, Technology

Heenan Blaikie May Be Toronto’s Canary

The national law firm of Heenan Blaikie is expected to make a huge announcement this week. We’re not quite sure what the details of the announcement it, but it will likely involve some form of restructuring, merger or dissolution of the firm.

Although we have several Slaw contributors who are this firm I expect they are unable to comment on this publicly. Yet it’s a big enough event that it will invariably lead to further discussions about the legal market in Toronto in years to come.

The rumours started on Thursday with the departure of several partners to other Bay . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Future of Practice

What Will Tomorrow’s Lawyers Do?

There are lots of ways to stop being a dinosaur – there’s no need to wait for the meteorite.

Corinne Mucilli made the point in the latest CBA Futures Twitterchat on the topic of new forms of lawyer employment for the emerging legal market.

Host Jordan Furlong of Stem Legal encouraged participants to discuss whether the dominance of “lawyer jobs” is coming to a close, and to provide examples of future lawyer employment before offering up this mind-blowing opinion: “As far as I know, there’s no richer potential resource for new lawyer employment than the latent legal market. Create a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Future of Practice

A Full and Equal Voice

Why is it still so common to see a panel predominantly made up of middle-aged white male lawyers on the dais at a legal conference or CPD session? I noted this again at a legal conference I attended last week. Of course, there were exceptions – the panel of women in corporate counsel positions and the Aboriginal law panel, for example – but shouldn’t a gender balanced, diverse panel of speakers now be the rule, rather than the exception?

These questions have been roiling about my mind since last fall, when I read the numerous, thoughtful comments to my Slaw . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training: CLE/PD, Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Marketing