Commentary

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.
Monday, 07 April 2014 08:00

Making a case for pro bono

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Photo: Sara Tyson
Photo: Sara Tyson
Ask Paul Belanger if there’s a business case to be made for law firms creating a formal pro bono program and the co-chair of the Financial Services Regulatory group at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP is quick to respond. “Absolutely,” says Belanger, who co-chairs Blakes’ pro bono committee. “We’re in a war for talent. Young people want to be able to do something that is meaningful to them. You need to offer a robust pro bono program.”
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.
There’s never been a legal story in Canada that’s had the impact of the death of Heenan Blaikie. In a world of social media, constant connection, and instant messaging, we all watched the breakdown unfold almost in real time. It was the biggest law firm collapse in Canadian history and almost everyone I know is either personally affected or knows people personally affected by it.
Monday, 03 March 2014 08:00

Court fees face SCC scrutiny

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Illustration: Sara Tyson
Illustration: Sara Tyson
In April, Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin will have a chance to put her money where her mouth is on access to justice. That’s when the SCC is expected to tackle a challenge over court hearing fees, which the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia and the Canadian Bar Association B.C. branch say are unconstitutional because they impede access to justice for the middle class.
Monday, 03 February 2014 08:00

Time to embrace those disruptions

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It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. 2013 was most definitely one of the weirdest times, for law firms in Canada anyway. While I’m not drawing from any formal studies or reports, conversations with law firm leaders over the past couple of months yielded a wide variety of responses to the question, “How was your year?” The answers ranged from “our best year ever” to, as you can imagine, the exact opposite. And it’s not just Big Law showing that wide range of experience but boutiques and mid-sized firms as well. It’s across practice areas and geographic locations. All that is to say, I think law firm management is obviously starting to play a much greater role in ongoing success than it ever has before.
Monday, 03 February 2014 08:00

No end to the circus

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Illustration: Dushan Milic
Illustration: Dushan Milic
Is there no end to the Lori Douglas circus, an apparently interminable saga of personal and institutional misjudgment?
Monday, 03 February 2014 08:00

Letter: Response from Juval Aviv

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I am dismayed by being included in your October issue’s cover story by Bruce Livesey, entitled, “Hoodwinked!” about dishonest private investigators who mislead Canadian lawyers. Your reporter cited the courtroom remarks of the well-known criminal defence lawyer Edward Greenspan as he defended Conrad Black in a widely-publicized criminal case of fraud and other charges. The reported part of the case was the 2007 hearing in Chicago about Black’s potential interim return to Canada before sentencing. In this hearing, the prosecution apparently cited evidence that we had previously provided to the law firm of Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, which had acted for Hollinger Inc. in a related civil case against Conrad Black.
Monday, 06 January 2014 08:00

Inspiration to act

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In early December, Warren Winkler retired as the chief justice of Ontario. The man and his career were feted in a variety of ways including an Advocates’ Society 1,000-plus person farewell dinner that included dignitaries such as fellow Pincher Creek, Alta., denizen Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin. In advance of this splashy send-off, the society held a day-long symposium on the future of advocacy. While it didn’t address the future, so much, it was inspirational and a fitting tribute to “Wink,” who is well known for his skills of negotiation and conciliation.
Monday, 06 January 2014 08:00

The next big flameout?

Written by
Illustration: Sara Tyson
Illustration: Sara Tyson
What’s up at 40-year-old Heenan Blaikie, the law firm known for hiring former Liberal prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Pierre Trudeau? It has been shedding lawyers at an alarming rate.
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