Commentary

Monday, 01 September 2014 08:00

Profits don’t preclude professionalism

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The Canadian Bar Association released its report on the future of the legal profession last month. It is absolutely worth the time to read the whole thing (which is at cbafutures.org). The report’s full title: “Futures: Transforming the delivery of legal services in Canada” gives you a pretty broad hint that it’s a wide-reaching document examining many areas of practice and regulation. It touts innovation, flexibility, and choice as the necessary ingredients for the future health and growth of the profession. The report is one of the most potent recipes for a New Legal Universe that has come from any legal association or governing body in this country, or even in North America.
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_Standard_photos_neillmay.jpgHarry Truman famously had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said: “The buck stops here!” Certainly this is not what Harry meant, but a buck is not worth now what it was during his presidency. Truman probably would not recognize how political responsibility has evolved either. What has not changed, though, is the visceral appeal of that slogan, and how it speaks to a leader’s assumption of responsibility. Its simplicity, however, masks an important consideration: just because it is courageous, comforting, and evidence of strong leadership for an institution’s ultimate directing mind(s) to assume responsibility, it does not always mean in all cases responsibility should rest there. (My children often point out to me when I identify issues like this I express them in a manner as confusing as the message in a fortune cookie, which I could accept until the characterization was recently refined to say this would only be the case if the fortune cookies were baked large enough to house the pompous verbosity of an old lawyer. Ouch.)
Monday, 04 August 2014 08:00

The highlight of the summer

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I say this every August, but this is my favourite time of the year at Canadian Lawyer as we present the annual Top 25 Most Influential. The Top 25 process starts early in the spring with the call going out for nominations. This gives me a chance to reach out to last year’s honourees as well as touch base with leaders of law organizations and firms around the country, who almost always have some peers with wonderful achievements to highlight. This year, I was extremely pleased the first nomination that came in, after I sent out an editor’s note in our weekly Canadian Legal Newswire, was from a lawyer in Washington State who had a colleague he worked with in Canada and felt she was worthy of nominating.
Monday, 07 July 2014 08:00

A new and exciting frontier

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2014_July_Bob-Rae.jpgIt’s an exciting time to be a lawyer, and an even more exciting time to be practising aboriginal law.
Monday, 07 July 2014 08:00

Everybody need apply

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It seems the federal government has pissed lawyers off again, this time over who’s applying for spots on the federal bench. “I was just so pissed off,” Avvy Yao-Yao Go, a well-known social justice activist and lawyer, wrote in the Toronto Star after Justice Minister Peter MacKay made comments at a recent Ontario Bar Association meeting that women and visible minorities aren’t applying for judge jobs and that’s why they’re under-represented on the bench. He reportedly also said a woman’s bond with her children might also be the reason few would apply for judicial positions on the federal “circuit courts” where they may be forced to travel away from family (say for a week in another big city or something crazy like that).
Monday, 02 June 2014 08:00

Making it rain money

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2014_June_BackPage.jpgI am a dominant, driven individual who likes to act independently and is reasonably extroverted, according to the McQuaig Institute of Executive Development Ltd. Among my traits, I am an assertive, goal-oriented individual, who is ambitious, works best under deadline, finds pressure exhilarating, and seeks variety in a job.
Monday, 02 June 2014 08:00

Standing up for the chief

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The legal profession in Canada by no means speaks with one unified voice. Nothing brings a community together, however, like a politically  motivated attack on one of its most respected leaders.
I’m going to suggest Stephen Harper had no idea the hornet’s nest he was stirring when he publicly characterized as “inappropriate” and “inadvisable” a phone call Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin made to the government regarding a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
Monday, 05 May 2014 08:00

The SCC bench is hot!

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Illustration: Jeff Szuk
Illustration: Jeff Szuk
A “hot bench.” This titillating expression has nothing to do with sexual allure or erotic practices. It refers to a court where judges frequently and aggressively interrupt lawyers with questions. In the United States there’s even a TV show starting this fall called Hot Bench, produced by Judy Sheindlin (who makes $45 million a year for her court show Judge Judy). At least one real judge is leaving the real bench to join the cast of Hot Bench, further evidence the worlds of entertainment, law, and politics are becoming one big playground.
Monday, 05 May 2014 08:00

Knocking down hurdles

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As Canadians come out of one of the worst winters in the history of ever, you can smell spring in the air; you can feel a palpable change in attitude as we expose our lily-white skin to a little warmth and sunshine. Like the crocuses that push up through the semi-frozen ground to herald the new season, dire economic reality appears to be the fertilizer for change in the legal profession.
It was a tough choice not to write about the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision denying Stephen Harper’s appointment of Justice Marc Nadon to the top court. It has so many juicy elements: politics, Quebec’s unique role, the Constitution, the quality of legal drafting, good and evil (well maybe not, but maybe yes). But others, and I mean practically every pundit in the country who knows how to spell Supreme Court of Canada, has had their say, so I’ll move on.
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