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We interrupt your regularly scheduled law practice for this massive disruptionThis is not your father’s Oldsmobile, as the classic television commercial went. The same can be said about the practice of law. Running your law firm — big or small, Main Street or Bay Street, local, national, or global — ain’t what it used to be. In the last few years, tremendous economic factors have been pushing and pulling the practice in all directions in Canada and around the world. While there has been much talk and many reports on dusty shelves about changes necessary to the legal profession, one senses there’s been a shift recently to a point where action has become unavoidable.
Illustration: Ashley Mackenzie
Illustration: Ashley Mackenzie
Unco-operative behaviour by parents fighting legal battles isn’t unusual, but a “remarkable” ruling has determined it can amount to “family violence.” British Columbia’s Family Law Act, which came fully into effect in March 2013, defined “family violence” for the first time under provincial law, to cover a range of psychologically, emotionally, and physically damaging actions. The definition of “family violence” is “the one area where B.C. is ahead of any other province in terms of its legislation,” asserts John-Paul Boyd, family lawyer at Aaron Gordon Daykin Nordlinger LLP.
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 09:00

Building consensus

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Photo:Colin Rowe
Photo:Colin Rowe
Canada’s chief justice chooses her words carefully as she reflects on how she would like history to remember the McLachlin court. “I would hope that I’m seen as a competent jurist who did her best to decide cases that came before her as well as she could and conscientiously,” offers Beverley McLachlin. “I would hope with respect to my role as chief justice, I’m seen as having presided over a productive, respected court.” In keeping with her no-nonsense style, she adds she is not one “for shopping lists for the court, bucket lists for my life.”
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 09:00

The expectation gap

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The expectation gapThe growing gap between the “unrealistic” pay expectations of associates and the salaries law firms are prepared to offer them is highlighted in Canadian Lawyer’s 2013 Compensation Survey. Among the survey’s 553 respondents, the average salary for a first year associate has fallen to $66,000 — a nine-per-cent drop from last year, which had already seen a five per cent year-on-year decline. At the same time, a slightly greater number of firms are setting annual billable hour targets for associates: 49 per cent of respondents, up from last year’s 44 per cent. Targets range from 650 to 1,850 annual billable hours, with an average just over 1,400.
Tuesday, 02 July 2013 09:00

Know thy process

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Illustration:Matthew Daley
Illustration:Matthew Daley
When Dean Scaletta became director of litigation for Manitoba Public Insurance in 2009, he was astonished to learn the company didn’t have a retainer agreement for the lawyers it hired to defend hundreds of auto insurance claim cases across North America each year. Litigation — often minor, but sometimes costly and complex when fatal accidents are at issue — is the Crown corporation’s core business. Yet until 2009 it simply sent case files to outside counsel along with a letter saying, “Send us your bills.”
Monday, 03 June 2013 08:03

The race to the bottom

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Illustration: Matt Roussel
Illustration: Matt Roussel
Some law firms are so determined to attract new business they will go to lengths that confound even the most seasoned legal observers. Perhaps one of the most extreme examples took place last year when an Am Law 50 firm successfully undercut — by a staggering 80 per cent — a bid made by an similar sized competitor firm, tentatively agreeing after tough negotiations to provide substantial litigation services for a mere US$350,000.
The implausible situation prompted Dan DiPietro, chairman of the law firm group at Citi Private Bank, to ask his interlocutor to repeat the numbers to make sure he did not miss a digit. Certain law firms have gone even further, and reportedly submitted bids of zero dollars in auctions to obtain work for insurance giant Marsh & McLennan Companies.
Monday, 03 June 2013 08:00

Privileged, I presume . . .

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Illustration: Kim Rosen
Illustration: Kim Rosen
It all started with a simple question to a lawyer: Who is paying you?
Monday, 03 June 2013 08:00

The going rate

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2013 looks set to be a crunch year for Canadian law firms. While many increased their fees in 2011 and 2012 to reflect spiraling overheads, there now seems to be a broad recognition the market cannot tolerate further successive price rises.
Monday, 06 May 2013 08:00

Lateral thinking

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Illustration: Steve Munday
Illustration: Steve Munday
It was news that hit Bay Street with a bang. In late February, a group of lawyers from Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP’s mining group crossed over to Bennett Jones LLP, effectively gutting FMC’s mining practice just a month before it was to officially join with SNR Denton and Salans LLP to create a new global law firm with 2,500 lawyers and 79 offices around the world. “That was a big deal,” says Carolyn Berger of legal recruitment firm Marsden International. “It was a great, great thing for Bennett Jones — just unbelievable. I think they’re a great group and it was a good move for them. They wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t.”
Monday, 06 May 2013 08:00

The gun collectors

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The gun collectorsFor the past nine years, Toronto criminal defence lawyer Edward Sapiano has been actively seeking out and retrieving illegal arms and encouraging others to do the same. As the founder of an organization called Piece Options, Sapiano and a group of fellow lawyers retrieve illegal guns from their clients and turn them over to the police. The idea of helping remove weapons from the streets came to Sapiano in 2003. He wondered at the time if there were other lawyers crazy enough to join him, and if so, could they collect and possess illegal firearms without getting arrested? The answers to these questions were yes and he sure hoped so.
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