Joel Kennedy sat down with a road map after being called to the Ontario bar in 1974. Raised in the burgeoning city of Brampton, Ont., he wanted to pursue a more relaxed lifestyle and was looking for some direction. He focused his gaze on the low-key and lush northern part of the province, and after a few calls to friends found an opening in the scenic town of Parry Sound. He has been there ever since. “It’s a good life,” says Kennedy. “I can look out the window here and see my boat in the water and sneak away early if I want to.”
By the time you read this, the highest court in the land may have already ruled on a landmark case involving the country’s humblest workers. If and when the decision does come, it will bring relief to the many labour experts who have been waiting as eagerly as teenagers anticipating the launch of the next iPod. “I think it may be the most important case in Canadian labour law in a century,” says Roy J. Adams, professor emeritus of industrial relations at McMaster University and the Ariel F. Sallows Chair of Human Rights at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law. “The implications are absolutely huge.”
Jordan Weisz is the kind of lawyer who has kept Canada’s legal aid system afloat for the past two decades. About 80 per cent of the clients who come to his doors each year have a legal aid certificate in hand. Yet they represent less than half of his revenue. As a senior practitioner, he qualifies for Legal Aid Ontario’s top tariff rate of $106.90 per hour. But LAO is forced to make do with a fixed amount of funding each year regardless of demand for services. To cover the shortfall, it restricts the number of hours for which lawyers are compensated, regardless of what may be required for a proper defence.
The last 10 years have seen a phenomenon sweep through the family law community in the form of collaborative law. The hallmark of that movement has been that lawyers are only retained for the purpose of negotiating a settlement, and if that fails to eventuate, the parties have to find new counsel to litigate the matter. The collaborative approach turns away from aggressive, adversarial behaviour and favours interest-based negotiations. While collaborative family law is growing exponentially and has almost acquired mainstream status, it is very much in its infancy in estate law. Practitioners all over the country extol the concept as an excellent fit for estate matters. Why then are so few estate lawyers actually doing it?
The Université de Montréal law faculty’s Centre de recherche en droit public drew the ire of lawyers across the globe in 1996 when it launched the CyberTribunal project. The groundbreaking venture was the first to offer consumers an exclusively online mediation and arbitration platform to settle disputes with online vendors. Many lawyers were appalled by the brazen experiment in managing disputes between parties that would never come face to face and, perhaps more to the point, not pay counsel to help generate a settlement.