Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Tribunal Rules in Plain Language…Why Bother?

A user-centred tribunal process is a necessary condition of improved access to justice. But it is not a sufficient one. You also need the process codified in rules that ordinary people can understand.

Tribunal rules of procedure are meant to guide users through the process the tribunal has designed to resolve the disputes before it. If the tribunal has an adjudicative mandate, then the dispute often involves two parties, and the process is usually adversarial.

The conventional approach does not work for users

Although they are intended to guide users, the rules are not typically written for the parties involved . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Dipping Your Toes in the Automation Pool: 3 Dead Simple Tech Tools for Lawyers to Try

You can’t swing a dead cat around practice management and legal tech circles without hitting somebody talking about ChatGPT. And I know a lot of lawyers have developed a bone-deep fatigue of hearing about all things AI over the past few weeks.

I’ll admit, I am really interested in (and a bit worried about) what feels like the beginning of a sharp upward trajectory of AI’s presence in the professional lives of lawyers. Growing up watching sci fi movies in the 80s left me with a healthy concern of what will happen eventually with AI, but I also don’t think . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Technology, Practice of Law

A Catalogue of Sight

What we see defines us. It behooves us to examine this – a catalogue of sight. Let us begin this exercise with one lawyer’s day.

9 hours, Modern Commercial Architecture

Sturdy wool carpets and large marble tiles. Clean white walls and cubicle panels up to a high ceiling. Black ergonomic plastic and leather chairs. Big glass windows. Recessed lights. Glass and wood veneer table, black keyboard, monitor, and mouse. Assorted pens, a Mont Blanc, and a yellow writing pad. Right-angles and geometric shapes.

5 hours, Words

Black Arial 11 to 15 point font on a white rectangular background, perfectly . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Weeding Out Procrastination

Sam is frustrated. Having settled her big trial, she faces a pile of small tasks she is behind on. None of it is particularly challenging, but she spends hours a day surfing the net instead of getting caught up.

Chris is deadline driven. Every day runs like a fire drill of running to meet deadlines. They know they should plan to get projects started sooner but are stuck in the habit of relying on the stress of an impending deadline for motivation.

What do Sam and Chris have in common? They are both procrastinators.

Procrastination is avoiding taking action when . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

What’s the Point of Competition in Law School?

“Look to your left; look to your right. Only one of you will be here in a few years’ time.” I’m not the first Slaw columnist to be skeptical that that phrase was ever directed at first-year law students in this country. And based on my own experience, it’s nonsense: About 95% of my first-year class at Queen’s Law in 1990 graduated three years later. Getting out of law school isn’t the hard part; getting in is.

But the myth’s perniciousness points to a fundamental (and I think deeply flawed) feature of law school: its competitiveness. From Day One, . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Can AI Pass Canada’s Citizenship Test?

Artificial intelligence has been in the news since late last year when OpenAI released ChatGPT, a large language model machine learning chatbot that provide surprisingly good responses to questions. This system can write essays, draft legal documents, and produce computer code.

To get a sense of the potential, consider Canada’s citizenship test. Applicants for Canadian citizenship must pass an online multiple-choice exam with questions about Canada’s history, geography, economy, government, laws, and important symbols. The government maintains a study guide to help applicants prepare, and many organizations, including the Toronto Public Library offer online practice questions. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

Why Should Associates Stay With Their Law Firm?

While I help law firms deal with a myriad of issues, the top focus of my consulting advice in 2022 had to be Associate churn. So, here’s a two-part post on this issue. First, I want to speak to Associates who are considering leaving their firm. Next, I’ll speak to law firms about how to create conditions that will lesson Associate temptations to leave.

Last year I wrote an article for SLAW called “When Should You Leave” to help Associates understand when it makes sense for them to move firms. But today, I want to talk about why . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

To Merge or Not to Merge

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind… never mind. You get where I was going with that. And I thought my English degree would never be useful.

I’ve had several recent strategy consults with lawyers about opportunities to merge their small firms with other firms – some small, some quite large. It’s a tough decision with lots of pros and cons to sort through. I thought it might be helpful for folks considering a merger to set out some pieces of how I run the analysis.

Reasons to Merge

When I talk to lawyers about why they are considering merging, there . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Wrapping Up the Year – Ten Questions to Reflect On

December 23, 2022. Time for a deep inhale and a longer exhale. You did it. You made it through another intense year.

Life these days is always some form of crazy. Change isn’t something that you have to handle once in a while. It is now part of the rhythm of daily life.

That said, there is much that remains constant. We love, laugh, help, care, and rest.

There is also so much within our control.

Who we choose to spend time with.

Where we place our focus.

What we do to celebrate.

As you read this, take a few . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Public Speaking for Lawyers

There are three keys to public speaking: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is achieved when the speaker is convincingly credible. Pathos is achieved when the audience is emotionally moved. Logos is achieved when the reasoning presented is reasonable. Note that none of these involve the mystical calling of charisma nor haughty concepts like truth. Public speaking is a skill involving elements available to all who work on them.


Before I move to these three keys, a word on development. Great speakers do not come naturally to the calling, but through testing. The speaker must test everything, observe effectiveness, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The State of Global Legal Regulation

The annual meeting of the International Conference of Legal Regulators, held in Chicago this year, was a terrific event with eye-opening panels and thought-provoking speakers. The consensus theme was that extraordinary change is occurring on multiple fronts in the legal world, creating huge challenges for the regulation of legal services, but also real opportunities to reshape this landscape for the better.

Here are 10 observations from the two-day meeting. Some of these insights are from speakers and audience members, others are my own. All of them point to a very different future for legal regulation, one that’s coming our way . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

It’s Time to Create Your 2023 Personal Plan

Typically, lawyers work from 40 – 80 hours per week. If they are able to bill out 2/3rds of that time, they are lucky (or organized). But it could be better. The difference between billed work and the rest of that time is often wasted or at least under-utilized time. That’s because most lawyers don’t have a clear sense of what they want to achieve in a year, a month, a weak, a day. They might know generally, but wishes don’t move mountains. Plans do.

As a lawyer coach, I NEVER forget that time a lawyer spends working, learning, marketing . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Marketing, Practice of Law