Legal Feeds Blog
- E-filing for Small Claims Court is ‘just the beginning,’ says Naqvi
As some of the province’s top judges and lawyers convened in downtown Toronto for the Opening of the Courts ceremony Tuesday, chief justices took the opportunity to call for the modernization of Ontario’s court system.
“We know that the bar would like to increase the efficiency and ease with which you can file materials electronically and to improve the convenience with which you can make remote appearances,” said Strathy, who serves as the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal.
Chief Justice Heather Forster Smith, of the Ontario Superior Court, said modern court administration and courtrooms are needed in order to make the judicial system more efficient.
“We urgently need the technology that can expedite the administrative and important steps in all areas of the court’s work,” she said.
The provincial government expanded an e-filing pilot in the spring for the Small Claims Court, but critics have said this was a mere baby step in the provincial court’s overly cautious move away from the paper-based system.
Making the court more efficient through digitized systems is all the more pressing after the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Jordan, chief justices said.
The decision set strict timelines on the amount of time a trial could be delayed.
“If judges and registrars could access case management information in the courtroom, if judges could issue signed orders from the courtroom, if judges and the bar could access legal research with Wi-Fi from the courtroom, if reliable teleconferencing and video conferencing were available in at least principal courtrooms, if all of these tools were available to our judges across the province, I’m certain that we could generate efficiencies to consistently meet tighter deadlines,” Smith said.
In his remarks to the chamber, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi reaffirmed the provincial government’s commitment to further digitizing the courts.
E-filing for the Small Claims Court and other technological advances are “just the beginning,” he said.
“Each of these initiatives are working to make our justice system more accessible and user friendly. I’m confident that by continuing to collaborate, to share ideas and information, we will be able to continue modernizing the delivery of justice services in our province.”
The Ministry of the Attorney General has a modernization division, which is spearheading technological court advances, Smith said.
Strathy said the courts are also working in partnership with the Ministry of the Attorney General on reviewing technological innovation.
“I know the Attorney General and his staff at the ministry recognize this need and I express the hope that resources will be provided to address that,” he said.
Strathy also touched upon the urgent need for the province to tackle the disproportionate number of aboriginal people who are incarcerated, as well as expanding the Unified Family Court system.
The appeal court chief justice was optimistic that technological advances would be coming to the courts sooner rather than later.
“We are reviewing our options for technological improvement and we hope to make substantial changes in the coming years and I would say the near future,” Strathy said.
Gun rights activists sue Couric over documentary edits, Canadian Press
Global firm Norton Rose Fulbright LLP has acquired British Columbia regional firm Bull Housser Tupper LLP.
The merger, which was announced yesterday, adds Bull Housser’s 90 lawyers and a Vancouver office to Norton Rose Fulbright’s stable of more than 3,800 lawyers globally, with 575 in Canadian offices including Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.
|Norton Rose Fulbright managing partner Charles Hurdon says the move completes the firm’s coast-to-coast coverage for clients in terms of the major markets in Canada.|
For Dal Bhathal, managing partner at The Counsel Network, this move is a further indication of change in the legal profession and a sign of the importance for firms to focus strategically on their development.
“It’s no longer going off that they’ve been around for hundreds of years and have strong relationships, you really have to ask where is the business going and who do we want to become? For some firms, like Bull Housser, that may be more of an international approach, which is great, and for others it could mean they want to consolidate more at home or streamline the services they’re providing.”
Bhathal adds that if Bull Housser wants to play on a bigger playing field, “then absolutely this was a good move for them.”
Janet Grove, Bull Housser managing partner who will remain managing partner of the Vancouver office, says the move got unanimous support from the partners, and when the staff and associates were notified, they were “very excited, which is not always the reaction you get, but we’re very pleased.
“It’s still important to have strong local, regional industry expertise, but more and more we’re finding that business is going global, business is going borderless,” Grove says. “Our clients are [going global], too, so we want to be able to meet the needs of our clients not just today but over the next decade, and we think the best way to do this is to be able to help them wherever they go.”
She says the two firms have complimentary areas and that they each bring their regional expertise, which is an added benefit for clients. Her firm offers knowledge of the market and industries that are key to the B.C. market, and joining forces with Norton Rose Fulbright “allows us to meet the full needs of the client, however they are moving or growing.
“This is adding an office in a key market, this is not about reducing who we are. In fact, we’re looking at this for growth,” Grove says.
Charles Hurdon, managing partner of Norton Rose Fulbright, says the move completes Norton Rose Fulbright’s coast-to-coast coverage for clients in terms of the major markets in Canada.
Hurdon says his firm has worked with Bull Housser closely over the years and knew they’d get along.
“We’ve got the right partner in a market we really wanted to be in both for our Canadian clients and for our global platform,” he says, noting that Bull Housser is a well-established firm with more than 125 years in the market. “We were very attracted by their history, by their strong ties to the community and by their practice.”
Bhathal says the merger is good news for the Canadian market.
“Canada is now more on an international playing field, so that’s a good thing — Canadian firms are getting more prominence on the world stage,” she says.
The merger will take effect Jan. 1, 2017, and Hurdon says they don’t anticipate any significant changes, and “certainly nothing structural.”
- More than 200 lawyers across Canada participated in survey
|Shelby Austin says legal process 'outsourcing is certainly here.'|
The survey — done by CorbinPartners and Taran Virtual Associates — is based on the opinions of 247 lawyers from across the country, including those who work in firms, corporations or the government.
“It was always the question; we know legal process outsourcing is expanding leaps and bounds internationally, but what’s happening in Canada? And we did find that it is a core strategy for . . . a significant component of the legal industry here,” says Jon Purther, president and chief operating officer of CorbinPartners.
“We found that’s especially true with corporate and government counsel. We learned that those who are using this strategy are quite satisfied with it, they were motivated by the idea of being able to access quality and specialized resources. They wanted to be able to focus their time on their core business, and by outsourcing, would allow them to do so.”
Lawyers did the survey from May to July 2016, and they were invited to participate through legal associations such as the Canadian Bar Association and other provincial law bodies.
Forty per cent of survey respondents indicated they currently use LPO for work in their firms or departments. Of those who use LPO, 51 per cent said they used it for legal consultation or opinions, 37 per cent said they used it for agency work, 37 per cent said they used it for trial/appellate work, 36 per cent used it for legal research, 28 per cent said they use it for clerk/paralegal support and 24 per cent said they use it for document review or e-discovery.
Respondents using LPO also indicated they were pleased with the results, with 41 per cent saying they were “somewhat satisfied” with their most recent provider of LPO services and 45 per cent saying they were “very satisfied.” Nine per cent said they were “neither satisfied or dissatisfied,” with three per cent saying they were somewhat dissatisfied and two per cent saying they were very dissatisfied.
The remaining question, says Purther, relates to non-users of LPO.
For example, the survey indicates that “most of those not using LPO are not considering it for current or future business.”
“The primary obstacles include concerns over the quality of the work and their existing ability to use in-house resources or hire as needed,” according to an executive summary from the report, made available to Legal Feeds.
While 40 per cent of respondents are using LPO, 52 per cent said they were not currently using LPO, and eight per cent didn’t know or couldn’t say if it was in use.
“They were uncertain or firm that they weren’t going to be using this strategy, and when we tried to understand why that was the case for those who weren’t, again, a lot of uncertainty — uncertainty about the quality of the work, concerns about losing control of the business, concerns about confidentiality, having in-house resources that could do it so that they didn’t feel the need to outsource. And I think that for legal process outsourcing to really have the jump, it’s going to need to convert those who are not using it to try to use it,” says Purther.
Shelby Austin, a partner with Deloitte LLP and the national innovation and growth leader for the financial advisory practice, says, “Outsourcing is certainly here.”
She says the survey validates a trend that outsourcing isn’t about cost but about specialized expertise, particularly when it comes to being “conversant in technology.”
“For example, in e-discovery, it’s not just about the people, but it’s also about harnessing predictive analytics and efficient technologies. Similarly, in diligence, again, we’re seeing the use of more advanced technologies, in combination with labour arbitrage, to provide a full set of services to clients,” says Austin.
The full study is not available online, but a news release describing it is available on the CorbinPartners web site.
An interim report by retired justice Douglas Cunningham examining Tarion Warranty Corp. has left some with lingering concerns.
|Former justice Douglas Cunningham’s review outlines concerns he has identified over a perceived conflict of interest arising from Tarion’s dual role as adjudicator and warranty provider.|
In Nov. 2015, the provincial government announced the former associate chief justice would lead a review of Tarion — a not-for-profit corporation that is mandated under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act to regulate new home builders and provide warranties on the houses they build.
The review was also set up to examine the legislation and ultimately make recommendations to improve Tarion’s consumer protection, transparency and governance.
The review outlines concerns Cunningham has identified over a perceived conflict of interest arising from Tarion’s dual role as adjudicator and warranty provider.
Other issues the report tackles are accountability and transparency, as well as governance, as there is a perception its board of directors is builder dominated and motivated to favour the construction industry.
James Davidson, a condominium lawyer who participated in the review’s consultations, says he would like to see an independent body created to carry out Tarion’s dispute resolution function.
“The big problem is that Tarion is not independent. It should be independent. They’re in a fundamental conflict of interest,” he says.
Davidson says Tarion’s role as an insurer makes its interests in line with builders, but it is also an adjudicator for warranty claims.
“So it’s not in Tarion’s interest to have those claims honoured. So it’s just a fundamental conflict right there.”
The interim report also offers some potential solutions for the problems identified.
These include placing some or all of Tarion’s functions in separate organizations, introducing multiple warranty providers and diversifying the composition of Tarion’s board. None of these were finalized recommendations.
Cunningham says he met with more than 200 individuals in the consultation process, but Karen Somerville, president of advocacy group Canadians for Properly Built Homes, says she worries the review did not sufficiently consider input from consumers.
“While a number of key issues are included, we remain very concerned that there was woefully inadequate consumer input in this process,” she says in an e-mailed statement.
Cunningham, however, says that having Tarion’s perspective was an important part of the review.
“This whole thing is about Tarion, so I needed to have their perspective and I’ve got it,” he says.
“But I’ve also received the perspective of the consumer advocates, the building industry and all of the other various stakeholders.”
Somerville also notes that the internal document mentions confirming Tarion’s communications strategy as a “next step.”
“Why is the ministry concerned with Tarion’s communications strategy related to this interim report? Meanwhile, consumers are still in the dark,” Sommerville says.
“In the past, the ministry has repeatedly said it is ‘working with Tarion,’ — rather than overseeing Tarion and protecting consumers,” she adds.
“It appears that the interest in Tarion’s communication strategy is another example of the ministry continuing to work with [or] protect Tarion, rather than focus on consumers and consumer protection.”
Christine Burke, a spokeswoman for Minister of Government and Consumer Services Marie-France Lalonde, says this step in the document was about making sure questions about the report were referred to Cunningham.
“The ministry wants to ensure that Tarion has a plan to refer questions about the content of the report to the appropriate party (i.e. Justice Cunningham),” she says in an e-mail.
The government originally announced a final report would be due out by June 2016, but it later revised those deadlines, causing advocates to decry the longer process in Cunningham chalked the altered deadlines up to the shear size of the task at hand in the review. He says the original deadlines were simply not realistic.
“I don’t think of it as delay. I look at it as a more fulsome review than was anticipated,” he said before the report was released.
Cunningham is asking for feedback on his interim report by Oct. 14.
A final report is expected by the end of the year.
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP has nabbed the former general counsel at CBC as strategic adviser and counsel in its securities and capital markets group.
|Former general counsel of CBC, Maryse Bertrand, has joined BLG.|
Maryse Bertrand was general counsel and vice president, real estate services, legal services and corporate secretary at CBC/Radio-Canada from 2009 to 2015 and an M&A partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP for 20 years before that.
Bertrand says that she was in discussions with a number of law firms after having just completed a Master of Science in risk management at New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business this spring.
“It is all about the clientele that you have and the nature of the work that you have and BLG was the best fit,” she says.
She is looking to apply her knowledge of M&A that she acquired while in private practice in her new role, while also drawing on her experience in risk management and governance from the CBC.
“As general counsel at the CBC, I was very much in charge of risk management. I handled a fair amount of matters.” One of the high-profile matters Bertrand dealt with at the CBC was the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, as well as “a couple of less high-profile ones that were just as important for the organization.
“I enjoyed my time at the CBC, I spent almost six years there, so I really really enjoyed that. It gave me a whole lot of respect for public service. A lot of dedicated people who work very very hard for, compared to the private sector, less money, and sometimes frankly less recognition, so there are a lot of things to be done, there are a lot of challenges, and I like that.”
Bertrand left the CBC last year to complete her master’s degree, and having advised on governance while sitting on a number of company boards in her time at the CBC, she says she “decided that I would pursue that on a full-time basis as opposed to doing that part-time.”
While at the CBC, Bertrand was responsible for three business units: real estate and health, safety and environment portfolios of CBC/Radio-Canada in Canada and abroad, the legal department with offices in Montréal, Toronto and Ottawa and the Corporate Secretariat. She chaired the CBC’s national crisis committee and managed compliance with access to information and privacy laws.
In fact, managing crisis seems to be a theme throughout her career. Bertrand says the financial crisis was partly what prompted her to leave her private M&A practice in 2009 at Davies to join the CBC, as she guessed the work would not be as interesting in the short term.
“In terms of M&A work, you can only imagine that it was pretty boring [post-crisis] as compared to the previous 10, 15 years that had been absolutely amazing. My assessment at the time, which I think was probably right on, was that it would take many many years for things to actually come back to any sort of interesting level.”
With her experience at the CBC managing crisis and her masters in risk management, she anticipates advising BLG clients on governance as well as traditional M&A.
Bertrand says risk management is a new growth area.
“From a governance point of view, being a corporate director is getting professionalized, if I can put it that way. Shareholders, institutional investors, are asking more of corporate directors, quite rightfully [so]. They are asking them to be more proficient, to focus more on a number of more strategic areas, compensation being one of them, but risk is also very much at the forefront since the [financial] crisis in particular.”
“It is a pleasure to welcome Maryse to the firm,” said Sean Weir, BLG’s national managing partner and CEO, in a press release. “She has successfully advised private and public companies on a broad range of corporate issues with outstanding commitment to client service. Her impressive track record is an inspiration for senior leadership and rising stars.”
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