Features

Monday, 01 April 2013 11:31

Aboriginal law rising

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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

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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.
Monday, 04 March 2013 08:00

Making waves

Written by
Photo: Liam Sharp
Photo: Liam Sharp
When she’s not in one of her Toronto offices or at home with her family, chances are good Janet Leiper is in an ocean somewhere in the world, trying to catch a wave. “I love surfing, and I spend as much time as I possibly can doing it,” says Leiper. “There are so many great metaphors there for court and advocacy. The conditions are always changing, so you can’t count on things always being the same. You have to adjust yourself, and you have to show respect for the environment that you’re in . . . I’m always trying to encourage people to take it up, because it is such a great antidote to our lives here. When you go out into the ocean, any problem you have is gone by the time you come out.”
Monday, 04 February 2013 08:01

Betrayed, beguiled, and abandoned?

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2013_February_cl_feb_13_pg_01.jpgThe most dangerous times in any flight are takeoff and landing. The same could be said about the trajectory of a young lawyer’s career. Getting into law school, the takeoff, is risky and hard and many excellent candidates fail to take wing. Landing an articling position and subsequent job after law school may be even harder and some fine would-be lawyers crash and burn.
Monday, 07 January 2013 08:01

Discipline dichotomy

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2013_January_cl_jan_cover.jpgFew recent legal scandals have generated as much Sturm und Drang as the one caused by Winnipeg lawyer Jack King. Years ago, he tried to coerce a client into having sex with his wife, Lori Douglas, today an associate chief justice in Manitoba. This past summer, the salacious details of King’s actions were exposed during a Canadian Judicial Council hearing set up to determine whether Douglas should remain on the bench.
Monday, 07 January 2013 08:00

The ‘scourge’ of unrepresented litigants

Written by
Illustration: Peter Mitchell
Illustration: Peter Mitchell
Julie Macfarlane says the centuries-old legal cliché about people who represent themselves in court having fools for clients makes perfect sense. But the reality is record numbers of Canadians with legal cases — the vast majority when family law is involved — no longer turn to lawyers to represent them in civil matters. “I am blown away by the numbers of self-represented litigants in our courts today,” says Macfarlane, a University of Windsor law professor who is currently conducting a national research project on the subject. “I think it’s more fitting now to say that it’s the inmates who are running the asylum.”
Monday, 12 November 2012 08:01

The battle for the personal injury dollar

Written by
Photo: John Hryniuk
Photo: John Hryniuk
Prominently displayed on the web site of a legal marketing initiative called the Personal Injury Alliance are links to three one-minute long commercials featuring people who have suffered catastrophic injuries as a result of accidents. Accompanied by soft music playing in the background and showing the individuals now leading active lives despite their injuries, the video clips also include praise for their unnamed lawyers. They end simply with the person stating his or her name. Glossy, with good production values, and attempting to be inspirational, the videos are stylistically more like the athlete profiles that run continuously during Olympic Games than what they actually are: Commercials for a group of the best-known personal injury law firms in Ontario.
Monday, 12 November 2012 08:00

In-house are taking charge

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b_150_0_16777215_00___images_stories_01-CANADIANLawyer_2012_November_in_charge.jpgThe common refrain you will hear from in-house counsel these days is whenever possible they are bringing work in-house as opposed to sending it out. If they are sending work out, it’s for complex files or specialized one-off projects involving litigation, tax, or intellectual property matters. Even then, they may well be breaking down a litigation file and managing some aspects of it themselves to cut costs, sending only the most complicated aspects to external law firms.
Illustration: Matt Daley
Illustration: Matt Daley
Since British Columbia MP Russell Hiebert tabled the union dues disclosure bill, every politician and commentator with an opinion on Canada’s unique labour structure has taken it as an excuse to air their views. Every topic from mandatory dues to privacy rights has been aired — raising controversy in an area that has been relatively stable and peaceful for the last 40 years. Now lawyers are weighing in on whether this political dispute has any credence in law.
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