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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

How Toxic Is Too Toxic?

I wish some law firms could come with a warning label; associate beware.

John worked at a firm with two partners who controlled every moment of his day. A six day in the office work week was enforced. On a daily basis he had to listen to demeaning comments made about his performance heard through the paper-thin office walls. On the outside the partners were respected, acknowledged as exemplary mentors, and admired. Inside the firm they were cruel, demanding, and controlling.

This is not an isolated incident. The worst offenders often take great pains to manage their professional reputations. They . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What “Protecting the Public” Really Means

Regulators of legal services often say that their most important job is to “protect the public.” If this statement is true, then we need to consider its implications for the future regulation of the legal profession. And that starts by posing a deceptively simple question:

What exactly do we mean by, “the public”?

When you hear that term, does it summon for you the image of a Fortune 500 GC? An assistant deputy minister in the government? An experienced construction company owner? Is that who you think of as “the public”? Probably not.

Instead, you think of ordinary people. Dads, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Navigating the Early Years of Practice

The first years of a lawyer’s career are some of the toughest. These years aren’t only an important time for honing legal skills, they are also essential for navigating into areas of practice and ultimately a firm or organization that is a match for your interests, values, and goals.

In the AMP (Associate Mentoring Plus) program I run, all the mentors have worked at more than one law firm or company. Each of them has a story to tell about making career moves to work in firms, practice areas, and with clients who were the best fit for their interests, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Is Remote Work a Thing Now?

My son recently announced that the small law firm website design company he works for will be giving up their trendy office space in Vancouver’s Gas Town and permanently moving to a remote work environment. He was ecstatic, as he LOVES working from home. But my husband (a school teacher near retirement) insists that most workers prefer the sociability of a traditional face-to-face workplace and that despite expert predictions, remote work won’t be a serious thing after the pandemic. It made me wonder where law firms might fall on the scale. (I learned that the answer has significant marketing, HR, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Legal Technology, Practice of Law

4L Academy’s Mental Health Play – a Conversation With Founder Aaron Baer

Solving the mental health crisis in law requires invention and transformation.

Lawyer entrepreneurs are turning their minds to the challenge and bringing innovative offerings to the market aimed at making a difference.

Aaron Baer is one such entrepreneur, a corporate commercial lawyer who started his legal training company 4L Academy this year. 4L provides modern legal training for Canadian lawyers and law students.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Baer on June 7, 2021 – the very day 4L launched the summer pilot program.

The launch attracted lots of attention.

The response from law students was phenomenal—the summer program . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Ten Coaching Questions on the Path From Languishing to Flourishing


Thanks to Adam Grant’s May 2020 article in the New York Times, we now have a word to describe this malaise many of us are experiencing:

“Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

The opposite of languishing is flourishing.

Martin Seligman, a founding father of the School of Positive Psychology, writes in his book Flourishing that five factors together contribute to flourishing.

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishments

There is also a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Radical Solutions to Lawyer Overwork

A correspondent from Europe wrote me recently to ask if I had any thoughts about unhealthy work schedules and high billing pressures facing young law firm associates. I had assumed this was strictly an Anglo-American problem, but based on what my correspondent told me, it seems that wherever in the world there are sizeable full-service law firms, there are overworked and over-stressed lawyers inside them.

The usual expressions of concern are being made by bar associations and the firms themselves, and there’s been talk of task forces, educational webinars, voluntary programs, and so on. I told my correspondent that I . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Cure for Access to Justice Is a Just Society

Tuning in to a discussion about access to justice, we might think, mistakenly, that the big problem is how much the legal system costs. The cost of litigating a dispute is too high, it goes, and so lawyers should flatten fees, cap fees, and unbundle fees, fleeing fees like so many fleas. Only the richest (they have the money) and the poorest (they have so little they qualify for aid) can litigate, so to achieve justice for the masses we should turn to alternative dispute models like mediation and online dispute resolution. The justice system is too complicated and too . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Why Law Firms Should Care About $26m Digital Art

In March of this year, artist Mike Winklemann, AKA “Beeple”, sold a compilation of digital art for $26m through Christie’s. The artwork was comprised of 5,000 images, created daily over a 13-year period. Unless your firm is planning on investing in digital art anytime soon, why should law firms care about this sale? Because whether you are a Managing Partner or a Marketing Director, business strategy is about identifying important shifts in the marketplace BEFORE they are entirely relevant to your current business processes so you can determine if and how they might affect you and your client base in . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Solving the Associate Retention Challenge With Developmental Networks

As a coach, I am intensely interested in how we – professionals in the legal sector – can help retain young lawyers in the profession.

The young lawyers I speak with have a healthy perspective. They have the types of strengths and interests that align well with a career in law. They are interested in building meaningful and rewarding careers that also leave room for a life outside of law. I believe they are vital to helping transform the practice of law for the better.

And we need to retain them in the profession.

Too many young lawyers are leaving . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Negotiating for Yourself – the Roadmap to Follow

Jane wants to ask the partner she works with about raising her salary, but she is afraid to initiate the conversation.

John works with a disorganized partner who is a last-minute delegator. John has ideas about how he can better support the partner but doesn’t know how to raise the subject.

Why is it that speaking up and making requests can be so hard to do? Why does self-advocacy raise so many fears?

The difficulty in speaking up is often about the tension between exercising personal power and tending to our relationships.

It can seem like communicating about what’s important . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How Major League Baseball Could Transform Lawyer Development

Spring is here, so allow me to introduce you to Joshua Palacios, a young outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays who has something to teach us about the development of new lawyers.

Josh, who is 25, made great strides last summer at an “alternate training site” that the Blue Jays created for their young players when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the minor-league season. And during spring training in March, he tore the cover off the ball and made spectacular defensive plays in the outfield. Combined with strong character and leadership skills, his new productivity made him a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law