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A Former Adjudicator Contemplates the Ontario Court of Appeal’s Mix-Up

When I first heard about the confusion around the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in Hilson v. 1336365 Alberta Ltd. (“the withdrawal decision”), I, like many others (I assume), thought, “how could this have happened?” I sat for a while as a vice-chair of the Ontario Labour Relations Board and as alternate chair of the Ontario Pay Equity Tribunal, very often on a panel of three adjudicators. I decided to track the making of a decision, as I know it, at least, to see where the mistake may have occurred. . . . [more]

Posted in: Case Comment, Justice Issues

Prescribing Technology by Law

Lately we discussed on this blog U.S. legislation appearing to validate contracts or signatures done by blockchain, by saying that ‘electronic record’ and ‘electronic signature’ under the states’ e-transactions legislation included blockchain. There was considerable thought that this was not necessary, that the conclusion was obvious (or badly wrong, if there could be a non-electronic blockchain).

Apparently this kind of legislation has been around for a long time. Here is a note (h/t Ian Kyer) about Pennsylvania legislation in the 1890s saying that typewriting was writing for all legal purposes. Could this have been previously in doubt, given that printed . . . [more]

Posted in: Technology, ulc_ecomm_list

Identity Management and Trust Services at UNCITRAL

A few years ago, the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) was reported here to be considering a project on identity management and trust services. That report outlined some of the legal and practical issues that these matters raise, and some of the options for going forward.

To nobody’s surprise, UNCITRAL did adopt a project on this topic, and its Working Group on Electronic Commerce has been considering it since 2017. A list of the principal policy documents and records of the Working Group’s discussions is here.

Recently the UNCITRAL Secretariat has released two Working Papers in . . . [more]

Posted in: International law, Legal Technology

Blockchain? Probably Not.

Most of what you are being told about the future of blockchain in the legal profession is nonsense.

Don’t get me wrong. Blockchain is very cool. And I am the furthest thing from a luddite you will find in the legal profession. I’m a part-time LLM student at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law and Department of Computing Science studying the automation of legal reasoning. I’m an ABA Innovation Fellow for 2018/2019, writing open-source software to automate analogy to prior cases. I am an advocate for the adoption of technology in law.

So I’m enthusiastic about blockchain being adopted . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Trade Agreements to Promote Electronic Commerce II

A couple of years ago I wrote a column here about using trade agreements to promote laws among the contracting states that would promote electronic commerce. The example discussed was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, then in draft form.

There have been some developments since then that may be of interest.

CPTPP

The Trans-Pacific Partnership had a bit of a bumpy ride, as President Trump withdrew the United States from the agreement before it was signed. The other parties to the negotiation made some changes to the text then signed it under the name Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Still More on Electronic Wills

Here are some further thoughts on how Canada might authorize electronic wills. Perhaps the Uniform Law Conference of Canada could use them in the mix of policy proposals when and if it takes up the topic, as it is almost bound to do sooner or later – as companion jurisdictions move towards law reform.

Speaking of those jurisdictions:

• In July, 2018, the Uniform Law Commission in the US gave first reading to its Uniform Electronic Wills Act. No further draft has been released to follow up on the discussion. The developments in that project so far are online at

. . . [more]
Posted in: Substantive Law, Substantive Law: Legislation, Technology, ulc_ecomm_list

Electronic Wills – Update

In January of this year, I canvassed developments on electronic wills in Australia, New Zealand, England & Wales, the U.S. and Canada. Since that time, the Uniform Law Commission (ULC)’s drafting committee in the U.S. has been moving the file forward. I am not aware of any law reform action Down Under, and the Law Commission of England & Wales is still thinking about it. Canada is discussed later in this column.

UNITED STATES

In late July, the ULC will give first reading to an Electronic Wills Act. The “Annual Meeting Draft” is quite compact yet covers the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Is the Blockchain Too Expensive?

For at least a year now, the magic word in technology circles has been “blockchain” – the accretive cryptographic system behind Bitcoin and other virtual currencies.

A distributed ledger

A blockchain serves as a distributed ledger, a record of transactions or other information that is secure from alteration and that operates without any central authority. Its security derives from the digital signatures required to affect the record. It foregoes a central authority by residing simultaneously on very large numbers of computers on its network (which is what “distributed” means in this context, in contrast with “centralized”.) Each such computer contains . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

Electronic Wills Down Under and Closer to Home

This column canvasses some recent developments in the law affecting electronic wills and reviews the Canadian position.

The forms an electronic will might take have been tested down under in recent years. Consider if the law anywhere in Canada would have, or should have, produced similar results.

Australia

In Yu, Re [2013] QSC 322, the High Court of Queensland gave probate to a will contained in the iPad of the deceased Mr. Yu, who had killed himself. The will was done up like a traditional will, i.e. with the heading ‘last will and testament’, and it contained many of the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

What Lawyers Need to Know About Blockchain

As I am writing this, one bitcoin is traded at about USD$17,600. In 2013, bitcoin traded at about USD$100. I thought it was a scam at the time and did not buy any. Since then I’ve changed my mind and started thinking, writing, and building about and around bitcoin and other blockchain technologies. It helped that I am both a computer programmer and a lawyer and that I had economics training. So if you are a lawyer and you missed the bitcoin rush but interested in catching up in your knowledge, read on.

Bitcoin is one way of using a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology, Practice of Law

Reliable Electronic Transferable Records

You may recall that the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) has recently adopted a Model Law on Electronic Transferable Records. An overview report made at the time is here. The text of the Model Law, along with a Guide to its Enactment, are here. Some previous attention to this project has been paid on Slaw here (2011), here (2012) and here (2016).

Transferable records

Transferable records are those that carry property rights with them, so one can transfer the property by transferring the document. Examples include negotiable instruments such as warehouse receipts, bills of lading . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology

The Mysterious Magic of Routines

This article is by Nora Rock, corporate writer and policy analyst at LAWPRO.

As a child, did you step carefully over every sidewalk crack? Tap each post of the hockey net before settling into the crease? Wear your lucky socks to every law school exam?

Even those of us who scorn superstition rely on routines and rituals for our own protection: we swallow a daily multivitamin, fasten our seatbelts, return our passport to the drawer after a trip. Routines conserve mental energy, allowing us to sidestep day-to-day hazards while saving our intellectual energy for novel or challenging problems.¹

Building routines . . . [more]

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