Legal Feeds Blog
The New Year could bring a steady increase in hiring for Canada’s legal landscape, according to a new survey.
|Sara Lutecki, division director of Robert Half Legal, says in-house legal departments are looking to take on more work themselves.|
“In-house legal departments especially are looking to take on more of the work themselves as opposed to outsourcing. Because of that law firms have to be more competitive to offer more,” says Sara Lutecki, division director of Robert Half Legal.
“So they want the top talent with each… it’s a lot harder for them to retain that top talent. So that’s why they have to add a little bit more.”
The survey canvassed 150 lawyers in hiring positions, half of which are employed at law firms with 20 or more employees and the other half are in-house lawyers at companies with more than 1,000 employees.
Of those surveyed, 48 per cent said they expect their organizations will maintain and fill vacated positions. Only 12 per cent said they expected a freeze on hiring and three per cent said they expect a reduction in positions.
The survey also found most new job opportunities are expected to come from litigation. When asked which practice area lawyers think the most new jobs will come from, 31 per cent of respondents said litigation and 26 per cent said corporate law.
The survey found respondents expected 14 per cent of the new legal jobs would be in real estate.
Lutecki says a rise in in-house legal departments taking on their own insurance defense likely accounts for some of the increase.
Warren Bongard, president and co-founder of ZSA Legal Recruitment, says the survey is fairly consistent with what he expects to see in the coming year, but he does not think the rise in litigation positions will come at big firms.
“I see more alternative options to getting litigation done,” he says.
Both Lutecki and Bongard say they expect a higher increase of real estate jobs than is reflected in the survey because of the ever-booming real estate industry.
“There’s been a shortage of well trained real estate lawyers in the country,” Bongard says.
The survey also found that 55 per cent of lawyers said finding skilled legal professionals is somewhat or very challenging. A further 33 per cent said they were concerned about losing lawyers to other opportunities in the next six months.
This may sound like welcome news to young lawyers looking for a job, but Lutecki says they have found most firms hiring are looking for highly skilled lawyers with at least five years of experience in areas such as commercial litigation and insurance defense.
“The one trend that we have seen firms do is hire on a project basis and that is to see what needs they have and if they do have an opening for a permanent position. I have had a lot of more junior lawyers start out in roles like that,” she says.
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The provincial governments in British Columbia and Alberta announced several judicial nominations this Tuesday, with the majority being women.
|Patricia Stark, a criminal defence lawyer who represents the mentally ill, was appointed as a judge at the Provincial Court of British Columbia.|
Provincial Court of British Columbia Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree announced seven new provincial court judges, including a family law lawyer, a civil litigator, three Crown counsel, a public prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer. Four of the seven appointed judges are women.
In B.C., the provincial government appoints Provincial Court judges on the recommendation of the B.C. Judicial Council, which reviews applications, conduct interviews and approves candidates. When an opening is available, the chief judge sends the attorney general a list of approved candidates who are eligible for appointment to that region.
Patricia Stark, a criminal defence lawyer in Vancouver, will be assigned to the Fraser Region with resident chambers situated in Surrey, B.C. She joined the Ministry of Justice in 1992 and served as Crown counsel until 2002, and then became a sole practitioner. She has represented the mentally ill before the courts and the B.C. Review Board.
Cathaline Heinrichs, a family law sole practitioner in Kelowna, B.C., will be assigned to the Interior Region with resident chambers in Kelowna. Since 2000, Heinrichs has worked in adoption, child protection, advocacy for special needs children and family, and separation and divorce in both provincial and supreme courts.
Cassandra Malfair, a Crown counsel in Prince George, B.C., will be assigned to the northern region with resident chambers in Prince George. Malfair has experience in insolvency, constitutional, and regulatory cases in both securities and insurance. She held positions in two firms in private practice in Vancouver and Calgary before joining the Ministry of Justice in 2007.
Susan Mengering, a Crown counsel for the Ministry of Justice primarily in Prince George, is also assigned to the Northern Region with resident chambers in Prince George. Since 2003, Mengering has served as Crown counsel for the Ministry of Justice and initially prosecuted cases in Fort Ware/TsayKeh, Mackenzie, Valemount and McBride.
Brian Hutcheson, a litigator at Swift Datoo Law Corporation of Courtenay, B.C., will be assigned to the Vancouver Island Region with resident chambers in Courtenay. He has practised a mix of family and civil litigation, including mediation and negotiation.
Peter LaPrairie, general counsel for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada in Vancouver, will be assigned to the Fraser Region with resident chambers in Surrey, B.C.. He served as a federal prosecutor for more than 20 years.
Lynal Doerksen, administrative crown counsel in Cranbrook, B.C., will be assigned to the Interior Region with resident chambers in Cranbrook. He has practised in many areas of litigation, including family, employment, commercial, personal injury and criminal and has appeared before all levels of court in B.C. and Alberta.
Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General in Alberta, announced the appointment of two new judges, including a family and human rights lawyer and a crown counsel, both of whom are women.
In Alberta, candidates for Provincial Court appointments are first screened by the Alberta Judicial Council and then interviewed by the Provincial Court Nominating Committee, which provides its recommendations to the minister of justice.
Julie Lloyd was appointed to Edmonton Provincial Court, Family and Youth. Lloyd practises family and human rights law, including advancing legal rights for members of Alberta’s LGBTQ community. She was legal counsel at Legal Aid Alberta’s Legal Services Centre in Edmonton, a member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and an elected bencher of the Law Society of Alberta.
Michèle Collinson was appointed to Provincial Court, Edmonton Region. She worked at the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, most recently serving as the co-ordinator of the High Risk Offenders Unit in Specialized Prosecutions. She has also served as an assistant chief crown prosecutor and lead counsel for the Criminal Justice Division of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.
“Julie Lloyd and Michèle Collinson exemplify dedication to public service and the very best of Alberta’s legal community,” said Minister Ganley in a press release.
When it comes to office holiday parties, it’s best if the only thing that’s lit is the Christmas tree.
|Natalie MacDonald of Rudner MacDonald LLP says employers and employees should remember holiday festivities are extensions of the workplace and all policies still apply.|
This is just one piece of advice to help both employers and employees make it through the annual holiday office party.
“Tis’ the season!” says Natalie MacDonald of Rudner MacDonald LLP. She says it’s important that both employers and employees understand their respective roles at the company Christmas party, and don’t lose sight of the fact it is an extension of the workplace — professionalism, courtesy and respect still apply.
“We’ve come quite a ways from the Mad Men days where people were swinging from chandeliers and photocopying private body parts. Now we’re hopefully becoming a more respectful workplace and with it there are obligations on both ends,” she adds.
MacDonald says social host liability is something employers need to pay attention to, noting their role is assessed in terms of what they have done to minimize liability and to maximize safety for the employee.
In her book, Extraordinary Damages in Canadian Employment Law, MacDonald talks about cases where the courts attributed a duty of care to the employer to provide a safe and healthy workplace, and the courts’ willingness to use a broad application of the definition of workplace.
“The concept of social host liability has been applied to the employer in a few cases, where the employer was responsible for providing the employee with alcohol, while in the workplace. In some cases, the damages have been extensive, as the courts have recognized the need to apply principles of personal injury,” she writes.
A 2002 case, Hunt (Guardian of) v. Sutton Group Incentive Realty Inc., is a good example of the concept of social host liability, she says, adding it is applied where the employer is responsible for providing alcohol at the workplace, or at an office party wherever the location.
In Hunt, an employee consumed alcohol during an open-bar afternoon office party on the employer’s premises and no one was designated to monitor alcohol consumption. After the party, the employee and some colleagues went to a pub for more drinks. She attempted to drive home and was involved in a car accident.
The trial judge found Hunt 75 per cent responsible and her employer and the pub 25 per cent jointly and severally liable, with damages assessed at over $1 million. The trial judge said the employer “should have foreseen or anticipated that some employees would stop for a drink on the way home” and that, as her employer, Sutton Group “owed her a duty of care.” The trial judge also noted, “the worsening of the weather added to the employer’s duty” and that duty was not discharged by offering cabs to the employees generally and Sutton Group should have “insisted on her leaving her keys at the office or on her taking a taxi” or should have called her husband to pick her up.
On appeal, Sutton Group argued that even if it had been negligent for allowing Hunt to leave the party intoxicated, their negligence was not the direct cause of the accident due to Hunt’s trip to the pub and consumption of more alcohol there. While the Court of Appeal agreed, they overturned the trial judge’s decision on procedural grounds, namely that the trial judge's discharge of the jury from hearing the case upon grounds of complexity and publicity. A new trial was ordered.
A 2009 case, van Woerkens v. Marriott Hotels of Canada Ltd., stands as a warning to employees. A man, who had worked for the Marriott for 22 years, was terminated for cause after engaging in inappropriate conduct at the company’s holiday party. A senior manager tasked with supervising the party failed to regulate alcohol consumption — in himself and others — and engaged in “sexually suggestive” dancing. Van Woerkens also condoned an after party with more drinking, where he inappropriately touched a female subordinate and then denied his behaviour when his employer investigated his misconduct later.
The court found the Marriott had just cause to fire van Woerken — that by engaging in physical conduct of a sexual nature with a subordinate employee at a time when she was highly intoxicated, it amounted to an abuse of power. His persistence afterwards in asking if she would pursue a sexual relationship with him amounted to sexual harassment. The court also found the plaintiff’s dishonesty during the investigation was sufficiently serious to erode his employer’s confidence in him.
The trial judge wrote in the decision — which has a section titled “The holiday party and its aftermath" — that “the plaintiff consumed alcohol to the point where it impaired his judgment and affected his behaviour that evening. His consumption of alcohol showed very poor judgment when he was one of two senior managers responsible for the supervision of the holiday party. That lack of judgment and its consequences, all contributed to Marriott’s loss of trust and confidence in the plaintiff.”
MacDonald says not becoming inebriated is rule No. 1 for employees and on the part of the employer, ensuring a safe route home. Employers should see it as “a given that some will drink to excess.”
Other do’s and don’ts for employees include dressing appropriately and behaving “as if your boss is watching.” Be mindful of your reputation — and remember all workplace policies, like those relating to harassment, still apply at holiday events.
“We need to be mindful of the fact that attending the office Christmas party is not a license to go wild,” MacDonald says.
A non-profit organization that had issued layoff notices to staff and was moving offices after hitting funding challenges has received funding from the Ontario government and the Law Society of Upper Canada.
|Russell Silverstein, co-president of Innocence Canada, at an announcement the organization will receive a significant funding boost for the next three years, after financial woes.|
Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Law Society of Upper Canada Treasurer Paul Schabas announced that Innocence Canada will receive $900,000 over the next three years to sustain its operations.
Innocence Canada — an organization that helps wrongfully convicted people challenge their convictions and advocates for greater public awareness around the issue — had stopped taking applications from people seeking help in September.
“This infusion of financial support allows us to go back to where we were, and run our operation fully,” said Russell Silverstein, a criminal defence lawyer who is co-president of the organization.
“We were going to become significantly scaled down. That would have compromised our ability to service our clients. The tension is off now, the pressure is off, [and] we can go back to where we were several months ago and chart a new course for the future.”
Silverstein was at Innocence Canada’s Peter Street office for the announcement with Naqvi and Schabas, where details of the funding were revealed.
For the next three years, Innocence Canada will receive $300,000 per year from the government and the LSUC. The Ontario government will provide $275,000 per year, while the LSUC will provide $25,000 per year.
For the last eight years, the organization had been operating with about $580,000 per year. Before the announcement, it fell short when it came to meeting that amount.
“This is a wonderful gift to our clients, those who are in jail, having been wrongly convicted, who we strive to help and have been striving to help for 23 years,” said
Silverstein. He said the financial support from the government “marks an important change in the culture of access to justice.”
“We pledge to take this grant of $300,000 per year for the next three years and devote it to the continuing work we do, which is to work for the exoneration of those who have been convicted of crimes they did not commit,” said Silverstein.
The organization, which was formerly known as the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted, is the only full-time non-profit organization that delves into potential wrongful convictions by using tools like private investigators and forensic pathology testing, independent of educational institutions and government.
Innocence’s Canada executive director Debbie Oakley recently told Law Times lawyers from across the country participate in pro bono work for the organization, says Oakley, with an estimated $3.5 million worth of work taking place annually.
She also said there were still 85 cases Innocence Canada was handling that are under review, including 16 where they believe innocence has been established.
“The simple reality is that despite our collective best efforts, we sometimes do get it wrong,” said Naqvi. “That is why it is so important to have an organization like Innocence Canada as part of our justice system. It is an organization that advocates for those who are all but forgotten by society.”
Naqvi said the funding will be provided to the organization for things like reviewing cases and for advocacy.
“Our justice system has great strengths. It is not, as we well know, infallible,” said Schabas. “The ever-present possibility of error makes it especially important to support those who represent citizens who may have been. . .wrongfully convicted of crimes.”
Silverstein said despite the infusion of funding, there will be changes.
“We intend to reorganize our process nonetheless to seek to make us as efficient as possible, change some of the ways we deal with our incoming cases, and continue to rouse public support so we get more financial support from the private sector, from individual donors, so that we don’t become dependent on government money forever,” he said. “. . .We’re confident that over the three years, we can achieve that.”
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