Monday, 05 August 2013 09:00 Written by Chris Pinnington, Mitch Kowalski, Alice Woolley, Coulter Osborne, Fred Headon
This 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.
Monday, 05 August 2013 09:00 Written by Charlotte Santry
|Illustration: Ashley Mackenzie|
The 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.
|Illustration: Matt Roussel|
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.
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.
|Illustration: Steve Munday|
For 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.