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Archive for the ‘Practice of Law’ Columns

Uprooting Noxious Habits in the Workplace

Markus is a successful lawyer who does great work for clients and who burns out assistants on an annual basis with sarcastic comments and angry outbursts. Jeffrey is a managing partner who likes to lead his firm like a drill sergeant at boot camp. 

I am on a mission to contribute to making our law firms better places to work. One of the big questions I keep grappling with is why do smart, talented, hard-working, ethical people – lawyers – make such a mess out of management? 

One of the answers is found in one of the best reads on . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Real Risk of an Economic Death

Economic Death occurs when a prolonged disability prevents you from earning a living and you have no other source of income. You are still alive, but have been become a financial burden on your family, friends and society. This can have a profound impact on you and your family’s future and for some it’s a fate worse than death. 

Think the risk is low? You may be surprised to learn that during your working years, the odds of suffering a disability are much greater than the odds of dying prematurely. According to actuarial tables, between ages 35 to 65, 3 . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

2 Txt or Not 2 Txt

About a month ago, I gave up my private practice to accept a position as in-house counsel. It posed an interesting challenge, both logistically and professionally. Logistically in the sense that I now had an office full of furniture, files, equipment and knick-knacks that had to be either dispersed or stored, and professionally in that my new employer’s industry (mining services) was almost completely foreign to me. 

It turns out that both the logistic and professional challenges are proving a bit easier to manage than I had initially thought (which is certainly a relief). However, some new issues are arising . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Are You Being Afflicted by Strategy Viruses?

In these past months I’ve been very busy facilitating the strategic planning process for a number of major firms. In every instance the firm has selected a number of well-intentioned partners to serve on their Strategic Planning Committee. And in nearly every instance I have witnessed these Committees, at some point in the process, being inflicted with one of a number of disabling symptoms of what I have come to label as ‘strategy viruses.’ Here are six of the most common:

Inside In

This is the tendency to focus on ‘what we do’ and not on ‘what the client . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Coach John Wooden, Project Manager

I was talking with a friend recently about legendary basketball coach John Wooden, who passed away at the age of 99 this month. My friend worked in close proximity to Wooden in the early 70s, when UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) was unquestionably the best college basketball team in the world, completing an unprecedented and unequaled streak of seven consecutive (US) national championships.

He told me a couple of stories that bear on project management.

Building From the Ground Up, Starting With the Socks

He said Coach Wooden spent the first five minutes of the first practice each year . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Without Prejudice vs. Solicitor-and-Client Privilege

Law is a vocation where every word counts; each word has a meaning. However, in almost all correspondence with lawyers, the words “without prejudice” or “confidential and legally privileged” are present. With the ever-growing use of email, it has become standard to include a confidentiality notice at the end of your message, just below the signature. Do we really know the meaning of the words we use though?

“Without prejudice” has been used by British courts for over 100 years. According to an article by Ronald D. Manes, Solicitor/Client Privilege, it originates from the solicitor-and-client privilege which was “established by . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

The Quiet Canadians

I read the quote more than a month ago and I still can’t quite get it out of my head. It appeared in a brief item by Julius Melnitzer at the Legal Post blog, and I’ll take the liberty of reproducing it in full here (emphasis, as they say, added):

Pfizer, whose general counsel has created the Pfizer Legal Alliance to manage its external counsel relationships, has brought the concept to Canada, and is seeking bids from Canadian firms. The pharmaceutical giant has limited its US representation to 19 firms, which may indicate that it is looking for only

. . . [more]
Posted in: Practice of Law

Are Younger Lawyers Willing to Work as Hard as Partners?

One of the most common complaints I hear from partners – especially those in the boomer generation – is that younger associates today are not willing to work as hard as partners. This leaves many partners frustrated at not getting the support they need and working even longer hours to ensure that the client’s work is completed on time.

When I talk to younger lawyers about this, they are equally frustrated by what they see as unreasonable demands from senior lawyers and a lack of acknowledgement about how hard they are working. So what is contributing to this generation gap? . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Living With Imperfection

I’m a litigation lawyer who practices in Calgary. I was called to the bar in 1997 and I have practiced at two firms in two different provinces. I’m also a board member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Legal Profession Assistance Conference, Saskatchewan’s Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, and Alberta’s Lawyer Assist Program. I know of many individuals who have a better work-life balance than I do.

I’m told work-life balance is properly understood to be a healthy prioritizing between “work” (ambition and career) on the one hand and “life” (family, pleasure, and leisure) on the other. My failings at achieving a . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Printer/Scanner/Copier/Privacy Violator?

I’ve been a sole practitioner for the last 7 years. Of the main office supply issues that continually crop up, chief among them are (1) paper, and (2) printer cartridges. Now, I’m fortunate in that I don’t practice in an area that has huge demands for document production (I’m thinking primarily of the family law/real estate law domains, whose demands for paper keep the forestry industry alive). Nevertheless, I go through a fair amount of paper and cartridges.

Like most small offices, I engaged in the “ink jet vs. laser” debate a number of years ago and, like most small . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

5 Things Everyone Should Know About Employee Insurance Benefits

I recently met a new neighbour who told me he was the corporate counsel for a large company. When I explained my insurance connection to the legal profession, he quickly responded with “I have all the insurance I need through my benefits at work.”

Before he could turn and run, I assured him I would not preach the virtues of buying insurance (unless he wanted to listen), but let him know I thought it was extremely important to have his coverage reviewed by an insurance expert to ensure he is adequately protected. In my experience, most people who rely on . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law

Rules of Engagement

Whether working with a practice group, an executive team or the members of some firm’s strategic planning committee, I continue to be struck by the dysfunctional behavior that is often present in group meetings. I don’t know why I continue to be surprised. Working together in groups in not a natural, comfortable or easy thing for many of us to do.

What I have come to learn is that the very best market-performing groups, in the best firms, have established for themselves some written guidelines by which all members have agreed to abide – and often, each partner in the . . . [more]

Posted in: Practice of Law