On a cold February morning in Ottawa, the sidewalks and grounds in front of the Supreme Court of Canada building are almost empty. A single person is directing pedestrians who do walk by, to stop temporarily. Not for security reasons, but so a colleague can shovel snow and ice off the roof of a government building next door. That very Canadian inconvenience is one of the only signs of activity outside the courthouse. Inside the building, it is also relatively quiet, as the court was not sitting. The judges are working at crafting upcoming decisions and preparing to interview applicants the following week for coveted law clerk positions.
|Illustration: Martin O'Neill|
|Illustration: Jeannie Phan|
Monday, 02 February 2015 08:00 Written by donalee Moulton
Over an 11-week period, five lawyers from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP frequently found themselves sitting in a Montreal courtroom listening as the horrors of Concordia University student Lin Jun’s murder were recounted in grisly detail. They also watched as those horrors unfolded on screen in a video made by convicted murderer Luka Rocco Magnotta. When not sitting in court as counsel to the Lin family, the BLG team were meeting to review evidence — including the video — and discuss the case in detail. “It was hard to acknowledge this was real. We’re used to seeing violence on TV, but we know it’s fake. You need to reconcile that one human being did this to another,” says Amélie Gouin, an associate in BLG’s corporate commercial litigation group in Montreal.
|Illustration: Matt Daley|
|Photo credits: Guy Paul Morin: Alan Dunlop - Toronto Star; David Milgaard: Rick Eglinton - Toronto Star; William Mullins-Johnson: Lucas Olenuik - Toronto Star; Robert Baltovich: Colin McConnell - Toronto Star|
|Illustration: Peter Mitchell|
It appears to have become the new norm. Not a week seems to go by without a report about a data breach. America’s largest bank, JPMorgan Chase, is one of the latest high-profile victims, and it is still reeling from this summer’s cyber attack that compromised 76 million household accounts — the equivalent of 65 per cent of all U.S. households — and seven million businesses. Law firms are far from immune. An American multi-state criminal firm discreetly filed a report in late June with California authorities, the first U.S. state to adopt data-breach notification legislation, after a hard drive containing backup files for one of the firm’s servers was stolen from the locked trunk of an employee’s vehicle. Closer to home, hackers three years ago compromised the security of seven major Canadian law firms involved in BHP Billiton’s proposed takeover of Saskatchewan’s Potash Corp. Law firms are often seen as a weak link in the cyber-security chain.
The momentum has been growing slowly for years but it seems in-house counsel are ready and want to trade in the billable hour model for something more progressive. Responses to the 2014 Canadian Lawyer Corporate Counsel Survey indicate there is a growing interest within the in-house bar to changing the conversation when it comes to negotiating billing options with external law firms.