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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

The Fundamental Problem With “the Rule of Law”

Keep your eye on a fascinating project underway in England & Wales, where the Legal Services Board (overseer of all legal regulators there) has launched a “programme of work” devoted to ethics, professionalism, and the rule of law. These are subjects overdue for a critical reconsideration, given how much the world has changed in the last 15-20 years, and other countries certainly will benefit from the LSB’s work here.

It’s worth taking note, however, of the tone of the LSB’s early forays into this topic. A blog post from the Board’s regulatory policy manager, which makes several excellent . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How Law Firms Create (And Should Deal With) Difficult Partners

Recently, I became addicted to watching episodes of “Super Nanny”. It’s not because I wanted to learn how to manage my own children – they’ve long since grown up and are very good contributors to society thank you very much. And it’s wasn’t for variety. The episodes are formulaic: they all contain little hellions that, in the course of the show, go from Tasmanian devils to relatively decent human beings.

After some contemplation, I realized that I was drawn to the program as one coach watching another, and an expert one at that. I was learning from her style, choice . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Attending Law School in a Global Pandemic: Reflections on Competency in the “Pandemic Class”

In the 2020-2021 school year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced law schools to shift from deeply traditional in-person pedagogical methods to fully online learning. To say the least, students entering law school in 2020 (the “pandemic class”) had a markedly different law school experience than their pre-pandemic counterparts. From a lack of in-person learning to the challenge of blended work-life spaces, how did attending law school in a global pandemic affect the competencies of students in the pandemic class? Researchers will likely explore this complex question in the years to come. In the meantime, here are some reflections from one soon-to-be . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Legal Education, Practice of Law

A Letter From the Daughter of an Over-Stimulated Immigrant

“What does it say? I don’t understand”. Children of immigrants are no stranger to this expression. Especially in circumstances where their parents are scrunching their foreheads to understand legal documents laced with technical complexities. Often, these children are the primary point of contact between their parents and professionals, which ultimately makes them responsible for translating and relaying technical information on behalf of their parents who lack native fluency. It is not uncommon to hear of children as early as six years old reading and translating demand letters, financial statements and court documents for their parents who do not understand the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week, Practice of Law

Re-Imagining the Notion of “Pride” in the Legal Profession

The Path to Pride

The year is 2001. The legal profession in Ontario is in disarray after several law students at the University of Toronto’s law school were caught fraudulently altering their grades to secure prestigious Bay Street summer positions. Many of these students were disciplined. Yet, in the eyes of the legal priesthood, this also necessitated a macro-level response.

Accordingly, some of the profession’s best and brightest were corralled together under the leadership of the then-Chief Justice of Ontario, Roy McMurtry, to define the elements of professionalism for lawyers. Understandably, the Advisory Committee on Professionalism, as it was . . . [more]

Posted in: Law Student Week, Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

From “a History of Exclusion” to “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion”: What May Have Gone Wrong in the Pursuit of the New Notion of Professionalism

Today, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (“DEI”) practices have become indispensable in almost every legal workplace. DEI practices aim to promote a new notion of professionalism, one where individuals from all walks of life enjoy fair treatment and full participation. “Merry Christmas” has become “Happy Holidays”. Profiles of Black and Asian-looking lawyers surge during Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month. Rainbows are slapped onto logos before the pride parades. Land recognitions are performed before major events.

However, do these actions mean this new notion of professionalism is working well?

Where It Starts: DEI as a Departure from a “History of

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Posted in: Law Student Week, Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

How to Ruin a One on One Meeting

A number of years ago, my boss told me he wanted to have a one on one meeting. He was leaving the organization shortly, and he had never done a one on one meeting with me except on my request, so I knew something was going down.

We sat in his office guest chairs, across from one another, as was his habit. He said he wanted to touch base before he left the organization, and then the meeting began. It turned out to be largely a recitation of my flaws and missteps as an employee over the years we worked . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Chaos of Changing the Bar Examination in the US

The U.S. Bar Exam is a high-stakes gamble for would-be lawyers, and a school’s pass rate is a rather high-stakes marker of a law school’s success in creating lawyers. In the next three or four years, the bar exam will be changing in most U.S. jurisdictions, and this creates a number of opportunities for innovation and opportunities for chaos.

Why is the exam changing? The National Conference of Bar Examiners puts it this way: “Set to debut in July 2026, the NextGen bar exam will test a broad range of foundational lawyering skills, utilizing a focused set of clearly identified . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Practice of Law

Values, Culture, and the Flourishing Law Firm

Is 2023 the year you start to think more clearly about the culture you are creating at your firm?

When I started my career in legal services in the late 1990’s law firm culture was something amorphous that no one quite had a handle on.

Sometimes a prospective hire would ask – what is your law firm culture? And the answers would include such things as we get together every Friday afternoon for drinks in the boardroom. We work hard and play hard.

In truth, most firms had no real sense of what their culture was all about nor why . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

How Do We Stop the Churn?

This is the second of a two-part series regarding Associate churn. My earlier post focussed on the Associate. This one focuses on the law firm.

The other day, an international client of mine thinking about re-entering the Canadian marketplace asked me why there was so little loyalty in Canadian law firms these days. He was referring to the amount of lawyer churn in most law firms. I don’t believe this issue is limited to Canadian firms, but the question made me think back over my past 30+ years in law firms and how things have changed.

What’s the Value

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Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law

Don’t Just Change the Rules, Change the Game: The Rules Overhaul and Ontario’s Legal Ecosystem

It has been nearly six months since Chief Justice Morawetz called for an overhaul to Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure. One hopes that the delay in starting the process means that change will be more fundamental than a simple rewriting of the Rules. As I wrote shortly after the Chief Justice’s speech at the opening of the courts in October 2022, tinkering with the Rules will not address the access to justice crisis that has been staring us in the face for decades.

Since the changes to the Rules in 2010, cost and delay have simply increased. The principle . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

The Last Bencher Election? Governance Reform Is Coming to Legal Regulation in Canada

Next month’s Bencher elections at the Law Society of Ontario likely will mark a turning point in the regulation of legal services in Canada.

As you’ve probably heard, this is the first Bencher election in Canada to feature rival factions of candidates seeking office, each with political and governance views deeply hostile to the other. I have no idea what the outcome will be; but I believe the damage to the Bencher election model has already been done. One way or another, major (and overdue) changes are coming to the governance of Canadian legal regulators.

The sight of lawyers and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law