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Archive for ‘Practice of Law: Practice Management’

Simple Questions in Complex Situations

How many lawyers consistently use a checklist of questions to ask clients at the beginning of a personal legal matter? Many customize the checklists published by provincial Law Societies for a particular practice area, client service style or matter management process. The focus is often on quality assurance, risk mitigation and scope of work. Is there a way to include the human element too?

I attended a lecture by Atul Gawande in New York a few weeks ago. Gawande is a surgeon who teaches at Harvard Medical School, writes for The New Yorker and leads two health care organizations. He . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Practice Management, Reading, Reading: Recommended

When Waiving a Search Comes Back to Haunt You

How a client perceives a lawyer’s role in a transaction often depends on the client’s experience. At one end of the spectrum, a new homebuyer may believe that the lawyer will not only navigate the process, but will also personally shield the client from all risks. At the other extreme, a sophisticated businessperson may urge a lawyer to “rubber stamp” a deal the client has brokered. The wise lawyer will, however, refuse to be either insurer or pawn.

When it comes to doing due diligence − and specifically, making decisions about searches − the safest approach is follow the client’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Practice Management

The Trust Imperative: Part II

Last week, I published the first half of an interview with Aneil Mishra, Ph.D.. Mishra is a respected author and business school professor who studies the link between trustworthiness, leadership and organizational performance. He discussed the four main qualities of trustworthy leaders – reliability, openness, competence and compassion – and his latest research regarding which of these qualities might matter most in the current economy.

The interview concludes this week with a discussion of how law firm leaders can build trust within their organizations and how this can create competitive advantage in an era when trust in leadership seems to . . . [more]

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

The Trouble With Kerning and Spacing

Writing clearly and concisely is a goal that often eludes lawyers, especially when writing factums.

Justice Barbier of the United States District Court Eastern District of Louisiana ruled on a motion on Sept. 15, 2014 in the complex litigation surrounding the BP oil spill, In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010.

Although denying the motion, Justice Barbier commented on the response by BP, in particular in their formatting:

…the Court must address the format of BP’s opposition memorandum.

The briefing order allowed BP’s counsel to file a

. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law: Practice Management, Substantive Law: Foreign Law

The Trust Imperative: Part I

Do you trust the leaders in your organization to make decisions in the best interest of the entire firm? Do you trust them to proactively deal with important issues or prevent crises? Studies such as the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer would indicate that your answer is likely “no”.

Some of the current notions regarding trust are based on the times in which we live – a legal market that is changing as well as shrinking, record numbers of unemployed law school graduates saddled with record amounts of student debt, daily news of trust violations between business, government and society.

Some . . . [more]

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

Doing Nothing Is Not an Option

It has been estimated that a staggering 1.4 million Canadians will have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias by 2031. Lawyers of course are not immune to the effects of aging. Whether presented with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment or dementia, law firm managers need to be alert to the changes that may occur as firm members age.

Diminishing cognitive ability is something that comes naturally with aging. Normal age-related cognitive decline means that each of us will, over time:

  • Rely more on prior knowledge in decision making and less on analytical thinking;
  • Learn more slowly and need more repetition to acquire
. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Practice Management

Back to (Business) School

Ah, September. The leaves are falling, the air is crisp and most of us feel motivated to learn something new.

Stanford University offers several online learning options for lawyers and legal professionals* interested in sharpening their business skills, especially in the areas of entrepreneurialism and innovation. The videos and podcasts in their Entrepreneurship Corner are professionally produced, available for view at any time and presented by top faculty from several departments. I’ve especially enjoyed the interviews with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs such as Mitch Kapor who talk about lessons learned, developing “people skills” and learning to be comfortable with business risk. . . . [more]

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

Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Experience: A Young Lawyer Carves Her Own Path

When Carli van Maurik shares her practice philosophy with other lawyers, she’s usually met with one of two responses: raised eyebrows or enthusiastic support.

Carli van Maurik

Thankfully, most colleagues fall into the latter category.

Ms. van Maurik is a lawyer with the British Columbia business law firm Whiteboard Law. She’s based in Victoria, where she honed her legal skills at one of the city’s well known firms before branching out to follow her entrepreneurial instincts.

Most lawyers eventually narrow the focus of their practice or notice that clients could be better served by a different approach. But not . . . [more]

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

Of Snowden’s Call to Encrypt and the Role of Our Law Societies

Slaw Columnist Simon Chester recently tipped us off about another fascinating interview with Edward Snowden. Building on earlier interviews with the enigmatic NSA and CIA rogue, the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, and its intelligence correspondent, Ewen MacAskill, talked to Snowden a little over a year since his defection. The earnest 29 year-old is now an earnest 30 year-old, only seemingly much older and seemingly aging at an accelerated rate. A partway time-lapse to Noam Chomsky.

I’d watch the interview if for no other reason than to hear Snowden’s caution about the challenges facing the legal profession in this era that . . . [more]

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

Litigation Coaching by Judges

We often speak of litigation coaching for clients as a form of unbundled services, as one of the new frontiers for providing cost-effective legal services. But I’ve also identified the challenges that young lawyers have in developing the practical skills in litigation, especially given the strong emphasis in the system to resolve issues outside of the courtroom.

At the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Canadian Legal Conference in St. John’s, Newfoundland this weekend, I had the opportunity to speak in greater depth with some vendors and discovered a product of interest.

Taran Virtual Associations, a domestic legal outsourcing company who . . . [more]

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

Competence for the Low-Tech Lawyer

Is saying no to technology even an option for lawyers in modern practice? The Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s Model Code of Professional Content defines competence as follows:

3.1-1 1 “Competent lawyer” means a lawyer who has and applies relevant knowledge, skills and attributes in a manner appropriate to each matter undertaken on behalf of a client and the nature and terms of the lawyer’s engagement, including:

(j) pursuing appropriate professional development to maintain and enhance legal knowledge and skills; and (k) otherwise adapting to changing professional requirements, standards, techniques and practices.

If lawyers do not have certain . . . [more]

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

Aligning Employees Behind Firm Strategy: Getting Started

When firm leaders agree on strategic objectives, it’s time to align employees towards achieving them. As with anything with multiple moving parts, adjustments can help the system work at its best.

Last week, I discussed the difference between employee engagement and employee alignment. Engagement is what motivates people to arrive at work each morning. Alignment is what they do when they get there.

Why focus on alignment?

  • It gives everyone a purpose beyond their individual roles
  • It’s an opportunity to break down silos between groups
  • It strengthens your firm’s reputation as performance becomes more consistent and profitable

Signs of . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law: Practice Management