Last month, the Access Pro Bono Society of B.C. organized Pro Bono Going Public, a free legal advice-a-thon with volunteer lawyers doling out legal advice in several local parks to those unable to afford legal services. The now-annual B.C. event is one of many pro bono activities running across the country. Pro bono legal work has become widespread, from Big Law to law school, and it’s a great way for lawyers to give back as well as get the chance to practise types of law they may not otherwise be involved in. All of this is good.
For this month’s cover story, we convened a panel of experts on law firm management with representatives from firms of different shapes and sizes as well as lawyers and non-lawyers. We gathered in Toronto in late June to discuss the hottest topics — vexing issues, even — on the minds of law firm leaders. Some of them resonated across all the firms, including that of transparency within the firm. Law firms are partnerships and one thing everyone at the table agreed on was the need for openness, particularly the sharing of financial information and strategies. That doesn’t mean everyone has to know how much everyone else makes, but being open about how it works so everyone from articling students to senior partners feel they understand the system, where they fit into it, and what to expect.
My favourite aspect of putting together Canadian Lawyer’s annual Top 25 Most Influential is receiving nominations for it. Some nominators are very brief, providing simply a name and one or two other bits of information. Others wax poetic for hundreds of words describing the work and accomplishments of the person whose name they have put forward. But no matter how they come in — and I urge readers to keep their eyes open for the request for nominees next spring — I’m always impressed by their variety and quality.
In 25 years of writing, I have interviewed thousands of lawyers, in private practice and in-house. What strikes me about in-house lawyers is they think differently than their private-practice counterparts.They see their primary task as risk managers and they ask two key questions: how can I help my company and what value does the legal department bring?
|Illustration: Dushan Milic|
|Illustration: Scott Page|