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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

AI and Legal Ethics 3.0: Looking Beyond Professional Conduct Rules and Towards Independence of the Bar

Following ChatGPT’s public release in November 2022, there has been growing discussion about how generative AI intersects with lawyers’ professional obligations as found in codes of conduct. I published some early thoughts on this topic in Slaw.ca (see here and here). Several Canadian law societies have now also published guidance. Providing this sort of information is essential, in my view, for building needed tech literacy in the profession, particularly as AI becomes increasingly integrated into common tools that lawyers already use on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we have already seen that appropriate AI use by lawyers is not inevitable . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

How Long Should the Articling Term Be?

Most of the semi-permanent controversy concerning articling revolves around whether it should be retained as a requirement for lawyer licensure, and if so, how the profession can ensure there are enough articling opportunities for all licensure candidates. Rarely discussed, but relevant to both inquiries, is a simpler question: How long should the articling term last?

It’s revealing that there’s no single answer to that question. Currently, most Canadian jurisdictions impose a 12-month or 52-week articling period, which may include time spent in a bar admission course. In Ontario, however, the articling term is ten months long, and in British . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Potential for Reducing Claims With Plain Language

The focus of my career has shifted from primarily creating legal information for those without legal representation to now include risk management and loss prevention for lawyers. This expanded focus has also broadened my view on the importance of plain language for our profession. The benefits of a plain language approach for self-represented litigants are clear, but it also offers the potential of reducing claims risk for lawyers and their clients.

As noted in the recent Slaw article by Jennifer Leitch, NSRLP Executive Director, “Thinking Like a Non-Lawyer: When Plain Language is Not Enough[i], there is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information, Practice of Law

Setting Your Law Firm Administrator Up for Success

In the first two years since launching their small law firm, Partners John, Amy, and Andi have experienced an unexpected degree of success. Time has passed quickly as they’ve dealt with new clients and engagements. However, they’ve realized that the administrative workload has become overwhelming, taking up valuable time and energy. Gathering in their conference room, surrounded by paperwork and to-do lists, they agree it’s time to hire a Law Firm Administrator.

Introduction

We’ve developed a simple guide to aid you in hiring your first or next Law Firm Administrator. While a capable Law Firm Administrator can alleviate a substantial . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Risk Management Revisited (Again): Navigating the Frontier of AI Regulation

I am very happy to be writing for SLAW again after 10 years of absence. I ended my time with SLAW in 2014 writing about general practice management issues and return in 2024 with a specific focus on risk management for artificial intelligence. My last column was posted in 2014 and bore the title “Risk Management Revisited”. In that post I briefly discussed the value of risk management for law firms and set out some basic steps that firms could take to begin the risk management process. I also observed at that time that “[u]nfortunately, in my experience, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Describing a Police Shooting: A Lesson in Legal Writing

There are a lot of ways to characterize any event, and a good lawyer can use language to describe a situation and also advocate for their client. I learned from experienced colleagues who were teaching students this skill. The example my colleagues used was drawn from a tragic event nearby: a police shooting of a person who had not yet harmed others but who was behaving erratically and had brandished a weapon.

My colleagues used two documents from the case. The first was written by a pro-police advocate who described the scene and the confusion and fear felt by the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law

Law Firm Failures — the New Normal?

Legal service is a business. Run it that way.

Many law firms are successful by accident.

Anyone who knows anything about traditional law firm structures knows they are perilously fragile. It doesn’t take much to bring them down.

Up until this latest debacle—the 2024 collapse of Minden Gross—Canada’s highest-profile law firm failures were Heenan Blaikie in 2014, Goodman and Carr in 2007, and Holden Day Wilson in 1996.

Canadian law firms are not alone in this plight. For example—and this is only a small sampling—lawyer exits and merger failure brought down U.S.-based Stroock & Stroock & Lavan at the end . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Awakening the Sun

I recently read about an interesting concept about reframing one’s point of view.

It stated that if you wake up with the sun, you are still asleep. However if you awaken the sun, then you are truly awake.

I had to read it a few times to actually understand it’s meaning, but then I realized that what this means, is that the way our day develops is completely up to us.

If we set an intention for the day to unfold in a calm and peaceful manner, knowing that we are fully capable of dealing with whatever challenges may arise, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Governance Reform and Lawyer Independence in Canadian Legal Regulation: Examining British Columbia’s Bill 21

Earlier this month, the government of British Columbia introduced Bill 21, the Legal Professions Act. This bill amalgamates the Law Society of British Columbia and the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia into a new corporation, Legal Professions British Columbia (LPBC), while also creating a licensing and regulation structure for paralegals. It could be the most consequential development in Canadian legal regulation in more than 100 years.

The British Columbia legal profession’s leading organizations (the Law Society, the Canadian Bar Association’s BC branch, and the Trial Lawyers’ Association of BC) strongly oppose Bill 21, with the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

Effective Use of Visual Aids in Mediation

The use of demonstrative or visual aids at mediation is more widely accepted by lawyers and mediators since the legal profession began its rapid embrace of technology. Arguably, the pandemic accelerated this implementation. The technology adoption started with the exchange of electronic mediation briefs, improved access to scanned documents, and the use of video software, like Zoom and Teams. Now, counsel more commonly use Power Point or slides and electronic documentation in their introductory remarks, and present demonstrative aids in their Mediation Briefs to bolster arguments by visual communication.

Through technology, counsel can now utilize a variety of demonstrative aids . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution, Practice of Law

Remembering Attorney General Roy McMurtry

The Hon. Roy McMurtry had a stellar career, serving as Chief Justice of Ontario, Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League, and Attorney General of Ontario. When he passed away in March, many of the tributes rightly focussed on the critical role he played in reaching “the kitchen accord” which led to the patriation of the Constitution with the enactment of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, section 35 and the notwithstanding clause. Other tributes noted his participation in the landmark case of Halpern v. Canada (2003), which legalized same-sex marriage.

Because McMurtry . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

Governments: A2J Is Mostly Your Mess to Clean Up

It’s easy to blame lawyers for the failure to provide people with accessible and reliable legal solutions. But truthfully, I’d place only about a third of the responsibility for the A2J at the feet of the legal profession.

Lawyers’ contribution to the access failure in Canada falls into two broad categories:

Regulatory: Lawyers elected by other lawyers constitute the great majority of law society Benchers who have consistently blocked expanding the supply of legal services providers beyond the legal profession.

Commercial: Lawyers in private practice charge fees that are beyond most people’s financial capabilities, both in terms of amount and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law