As the law school year winds down across the country, Canada’s medium and large law firms begin preparations for the annual legal rite of passage — articling. That’s when hordes of lawyer wannabes, fresh out of torts and civil procedure, disperse across law firms, and anxiously seek to dip their toes in the legal waters.
While no lawyer was ever affected by the stringent reporting rules in the federal government’s money-laundering legislation that some said would turn them into “agents of the state,” last month’s unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada has literally set lawyers apart from other professionals on this front.
Is it just me or have the last couple of years heralded ever-increasing pressures on legal technology in our firms, whether large or small? And they don’t seem to be any cute, simple pressures either — they’re a bunch of competing tensions that constantly threaten to throw us off-track.
The great debate of 2014 was the future of articling. That issue has by no means been resolved; the Law Society of Upper Canada’s experimental alternative to articling has yet to prove itself worthy. As the first group goes through the Law Practice Program, there are definitely differing points of view on its value. But only time will tell how well prepared those LPP students will be to practise but also how those students will be accepted and valued in the profession compared to colleagues who went through traditional articles. Stay tuned on that.
As you may have already noticed when you picked up this issue of Canadian Lawyer, we’ve refreshed our look. It had been quite a few years since we updated the design of the magazine, so have given ourselves a makeover for the new year.
The annual Canadian Lawyer Corporate Counsel Survey in this issue has a strong focus on alternative fee arrangements. AFAs are what everyone — law firm management, in-house counsel, law associations, legal consultants, and anyone else who cares about the business of law — is talking about. The thing is, while everyone is talking about them, few can actually pinpoint what an AFA is. Is a discount an AFA? Some say yes, and some say no. Is a flat fee an AFA? Same thing. “What some people put in the category of AFA doesn’t actually create incentives for efficiency. That’s when I question whether they are truly changing the landscape and should they be called AFAs?” says Peter Gutelius, assistant general counsel at RBC, in the “Seeking alternative arrangments” story about the survey.
A generous amount of this month’s issue of Canadian Lawyer is dedicated to technology and the law. Technology in its various forms and permutations have and continue to transform legal practice and while this issue began with a plan for a special report on e-discovery, it organically morphed into a much wider discussion — one or all of which are going on throughout the profession.
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.