Features

Tuesday, 02 July 2013 09:00

Know thy process

Written by
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

Written by
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 . . .

Written by
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

Written by
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

The gun collectors

Written by
b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2013_May_pieceoptions_web.jpgFor 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.
Monday, 06 May 2013 08:00

Trying to keep up

Written by
Illustration: Mick Couias
Illustration: Mick Couias
One day after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that text messages are private communications, the intermingling of privacy rights, technology, and the search and seizure powers of the state was again before the court. This time, the judges were asked to clarify whether a computer is analogous to a filing cabinet — one with a potentially vast amount of storage space, but a filing cabinet nonetheless. The Supreme Court decision issued March 27 in a successful appeal filed by TELUS Communications Co. and the hearing the next day in a suspected marijuana grow operation in Langley, B.C., highlighted the need for some direction to the lower courts on these issues.
Monday, 06 May 2013 08:00

Lateral thinking

Written by
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, 01 April 2013 11:31

Aboriginal law rising

Written by
Photo: Thomas Fricke
Photo: Thomas Fricke
Vancouver lawyer Thomas Isaac remembers a classroom of empty chairs when he took an aboriginal law course in the early 1980s at St. Thomas University, a small liberal arts school in New Brunswick. “I think I was one of a handful of people in the class,” recounts Isaac, now a leading Canadian expert in the field. “I don’t recall there being more than three or four or five people.” Aboriginal law was barely on the legal map in Canada at the time, he explains, despite a brand new recognition of aboriginal and treaty rights in s. 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982, affirming unspecified protections for Indians, Inuit, and Métis. “It still wasn’t a live issue at all,” says Issac, an author of 10 books on aboriginal law and leader of the aboriginal law group at McCarthy Tétrault LLP. “Academically, there was interest, but it was not affecting anybody on the ground, period.” Popular thinking at the time, says Isaac, was constitutional protection of aboriginal rights would never amount to anything because “it was sold as an empty box” to government leaders in order to make it palatable. “It was tough to find lawyers who were trained in this stuff. There were very few non-advocates — people not necessarily advocating for rights but just trying to understand them.”
Monday, 01 April 2013 09:00

Be a litigation star

Written by
Illustration: Marco Cibola
Illustration: Marco Cibola
There are many things to consider when it comes to litigation, especially for those who are new to the game. Part of it is learning from experience, however, it doesn’t hurt to get tips from some seasoned litigators. A panel of experienced counsel offered advice on what to do and what not to do during discovery, examination in chief, and cross-examination at a seminar on civil litigation at the Ontario Bar Association Institute in February.
Monday, 04 March 2013 08:00

The profession's dirty little secret

Written by
Illustration: Peter Mitchell
Illustration: Peter Mitchell
On an unusually warm and foggy Saturday evening this past December the $1.7-million home of Dany Perras was set ablaze, the third time in the space of a year an act of vandalism targeted the former Montreal lawyer. Perras, who resigned abruptly from the bar in October 2011, is under investigation by the Barreau du Québec for allegedly orchestrating a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme through his trust account. It’s been more than 16 months since the scandal that shook the Montreal legal community erupted, and the fallout is still being felt. Successfully petitioned into bankruptcy, Perras is the subject of an ongoing criminal probe and a host of legal proceedings — many of which are under court seal — launched by more than a dozen creditors seeking more than $6 million.
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