Legal Feeds Blog
Man charged with murder of Halifax yoga instructor, Canadian Press
Hundreds contesting payments from Lac-Mégantic settlement fund, Canadian Press
A new program in Calgary offers three free hours of advice to entrepreneurs and startups, in an effort to connect businesses to legal services they need to expand.
|‘We looked at what is being offered by large firms for startups and we saw an opportunity to provide a different kind of service,’ says Karen Keck.|
The firm calls this is a diagnostic consultation, and also provides a customized legal services plan for the business based on the meeting.
“We looked at what is being offered by large firms for startups and we saw an opportunity to provide a different kind of service,” says Karen Keck, a partner in Bennett Jones’ Calgary office.
Kelly R. Ford, an associate in the Calgary office, says the program started to take shape more than a year ago. Lawyers with the firm talked to a number of startups to find out what they needed most from a law firm as they built their businesses. The result was the program.
“We’ve seen startups get poor advice at the start of their business, and it’s disheartening to see them get started on the wrong path, and we wanted to provide them with high-quality advice that will help them grow,” says Ford.
The firm has teamed up with Innovate Calgary, VA Angels, District Ventures, and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization for the program. The program was designed after consultation with more than 10 representatives from startups, accelerators, incubators, and entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurs and startups have an opportunity to come and meet with us, which really helps us to develop and foster our relationship with them. After the consultation, we provide them with a report to help guide . . . what type of legal services they may require and then a Kickstart participant is then able to retain us, and we’ll provide the services we provide to all startups,” says Keck.
Ford says Kickstart is a “customized” and “bespoke” plan for startups and entrepreneurs on how to address any potential legal concerns. The firm then makes sure its fees are cost-effective and predictable for the client.
“The diagnostic consultation, and the report, they come at no charge,” says Keck.
“If we’re subsequently engaged to provide legal services, then we provide them at predictable rate to Kickstart participants. This is really the most important aspect of our rate . . . innovators have told us how important this is, so when they know what the cost will be up front, they can assess and budget effectively to work that into their startup plan.”
“When we were setting up the program, we went out and spoke with a lot of individuals in the innovation community and asked them, ‘What do they need? What’s important to them?’ and it really is budgeting,” says Ford. “When you’re working on an hourly model, they don’t have maybe a strong sense of how much it’s going to cost at the end of the day to get what they think they need done, done.”
So far, they’ve worked with startups and entrepreneurs in the energy sector, technology, retail, and retail distribution. They’d like to see the program grow and include people like social entrepreneurs.
Keck and Ford say the current economic climate in Alberta is not a barrier to innovation.
“We see that there’s an opportunity here. I think that innovation can play a meaningful role in the province’s recovery, and we really want to be part of that, on a national scale and provincially. I think the governments are interested in this, as well, and have stressed the importance of innovation at this time for Alberta,” says Keck.
Submissions are open for the third edition of the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono, the world’s leading global pro bono survey.
|Law firms are invited to submit their pro bono data through an online survey before May 23.|
“Pro bono data matters,” says Serena Grant, the director of TrustLaw, a part of the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This is the feedback we have received from firms large and small — whether used by a pro bono co-ordinator to advocate for better resources or a firm setting up its pro bono practice and wanting benchmarks on how their counterparts have structured their practices.”
The Thomson Reuters Foundation launched the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono in 2014 to provide analysis on the key national, regional, and global trends shaping the pro bono marketplace, and to assess the pro bono participation of law firms on a country by country basis.
“Acclaimed pro bono surveys have long collected data on a national basis in markets such as England and Wales, the U.S., Australia and even in parts of Latin America. Yet, there was not a comprehensive report mapping trends and measuring pro bono engagement on a global basis until we created the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono,” adds Grant.
In Canada, Canadian Lawyer conducted the first survey of pro bono activity in this country in 2014.
Its unique global reach allows the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono to unearth relevant, yet previously unexplored trends in pro bono markets from Cambodia to Germany to Colombia, highlighting successful programs as well as identifying gaps in pro bono participation.
“Since different cultures and jurisdictions hold diverse attitudes to pro bono, we created a definition of pro bono that allows for consistent submissions globally, and that enables comparison across the findings,” explains Grant.
The TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono also recognizes the role of local law firms in advancing pro bono, especially in jurisdictions such as India, which restrict the operation of foreign law firms.
The findings challenge the conventional notion that international law firms are better resourced to commit to pro bono practices. Rather, the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono is a platform where firms of all shapes and sizes can share their experience and expertise.
The 2015 findings unveil an incredible enthusiasm for pro bono with 2 million hours of free legal support provided by the 140 respondent firms across 76 countries, and an average of 43 hours of free legal assistance invested annually by individual lawyers.
In Canada, the Index reported that fee-earners at respondent firms on average performed 14.8 hours of pro bono work in 2015. The Index compared Canadian firms with other firms across the Americas (though excluding the U.S. given the very significant resources devoted to pro bono there) and found that Canadian lawyers performed broadly the same amount of pro bono on average to their colleagues throughout the region (14.8 hours compared to a regional average of 14.6).
It is well known that Canadian lawyers have worked to promote access to justice through both legal aid and pro bono work for many years, and this has generally been conducted at a provincial level. In recent years, however, with the founding of Pro Bono Canada in 2012, pro bono in the country has become more organized on a national scale.
This year’s Index aims to explore this trend further, welcoming feedback from Canadian law firms on their pro bono service to build a more comprehensive picture of the country’s pro bono landscape. Law firms are invited to submit their pro bono data through an online survey before May 23.
“More and more around the world, barriers to pro bono are falling, participation is up, and lawyers are excited to make a difference in their jurisdictions and beyond. This sea change is happening in no small part thanks to the TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono. It is an aspirational tool for us to gauge how we’re doing, and inspires us to do more,” says Louis O’Neill, pro bono counsel at White & Case LLP, in anticipation of the 2016 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono.
Findings of the 2016 TrustLaw Index of Pro Bono will be launched July 18.
Vancouver’s Battle of the Bar Bands will feature an officially recorded lawyer band on stage June 10 at the Vancouver Commodore Ballroom.
|The Disclaimers will be one of the bands taking to the stage to raise money on June 10.|
“While we try to do original songs,” says Haberl, who will be on stage, “The reality is that is a party venue and those attending are waiting to hear well-known music. So, I try not to overload with original material.”
The battle of the bands sells out each year and annually raises $100,000 for the B.C. branch of the Canadian Bar Association’s Benevolent Society, for a total of about $1.5 million over the event’s 15 year history.
This year’s event will feature eight bands: the Disclaimers, Chris Jackson Band, the Crumbling Skulls, House Arrest, Standard of Hair, Still Living at Home, and TOAD (Too Old and Difficult). The judges will ber a mix of lawyers with musical backgrounds, members of the judiciary, and media. This year’s media judges include radio and TV personality Vicki Gabereau and CBC radio’s Rick Cluff, who will also serve as emcee.
Stephanie Hacksel, a partner in ZSA Legal Recruitment which is the chief sponsor and provides winning cups, says good support is derived from Vancouver’s legal community with law firms making donations.
There are three cups given out each year, she says. The winning band captures the coveted top trophy cup for best band, while cups are also given out honoring the legal firm and non-legal firm that made the largest donation.
Singleton Urquhart lawyer Roger Holland, who has been involved with the event since it began and is a member of the Benevolent Society’s board, says this year’s line-up of bands included old favourites but also three newer bands, one a newly-formed group out of Surrey.
The new bands add to the competitive nature of the event and make it harder to predict a winner, he says.
“I give the judges suggested criteria for the bands such as originality, performance, and crowd response,” says Holland. The judges then rate the bands on points. Each band is made up of 80 per cent lawyers or members of a law firm.
Holland says the Battle of the Bar Bands has two objectives.
“The first is to raise money for the CBABC Benevolent Society,” he says. “The second is to provide once a year an entertaining evening for the audience who turn out.”
He says the battle is a great outlet for the legal community’s creative musicians. Many have played in bands or still play in bands professionally, he says, but there are also those who are “pretty darn good and could have played in bands professionally.”
The CBABC Benevolent Society is a provider of last recourse, says Holland, as each year it provides money to lawyers whose insurance may not cover costs of a medical or personal emergency or tragedy.
Holland says there have been “horrific” stories of illness and events that have affected lawyers, such as dealing with a child with a rare disease or needing financial support for medical services.
“We routinely provide grants to a lot of deserving people,” says Holland. “We have people who fall between the cracks and this is a way for lawyers to take care of their own.”
Tickets for the event can also be purchased on an individual basis ($35 for non-lawyers and $75 for lawyers) as well.
Man shot by police on Algonquin reserve has died, Canadian Press
Has pricey Vancouver become a low-cost legal offshoring destination? It’s not exactly obvious, but if the alternative is high-cost British or American talent, Vancouver might be a relative bargain.
|Time zone, Chinese talent, cheap dollar all considerations for U.K.-based Freshfields to set up an outpost on Canada’s west coast.|
As first reported in The Lawyer, Freshfields executive partner Michael Lacovara hinted that the firm will be hiring around 30 paralegals to create a facility that takes advantage of Vancouver’s Pacific time zone and deep pool of talent.
Freshfields declined comment for this story but Lacovara confirmed over e-mail that the firm is planning to launch a hub somewhere in North America: “The demand from our clients and people means that we are now planning to establish a Global Centre in North America.”
If the hub is set up in Vancouver, it will be Freshfields’ second such facility. The first one, now employing upwards of 300 paralegals and legal assistants, launched late last year in Manchester, England.
Lacovara told The Lawyer the firm would be particularly interested in recruiting Vancouverites with Mandarin-speaking skills: “The mix of work will be relatively similar to the Manchester office, though we will get a better Mandarin-speaking capability so it’s likely some of the work will come from different parts of the firm.”
Richard Stock, a Vancouver-based legal consultant, says an offshoring facility in the city would actually be a smart move, although he doubts the firm intends to set up downtown.
“Lots of firms have done this kind of outsourcing, but there’s just no logic for this being in the most expensive real estate in the city. London firms have typically done it in suburban areas — 40, 50, 60 miles up in the Oxford area,” he says. “They could put this one out in Surrey [B.C.], or the suburbs. Richmond makes a lot of sense.”
Stock suggests by bulking up on paralegal work in the Vancouver area, Freshfields can shift away from more expensive capacity in the U.K., while simultaneously improving overnight turnaround times to South American, Asian, and west coast clients.
Moreover, as law firms move toward alternative and fixed-fee arrangements, they’re far more likely to use paralegals, whose rates are tied to the fixed fee and not billed hourly.
“If you want to compete on an alternative fee model, then having an offshore, dependable critical mass of folks to do this stuff makes a lot of sense,” he says.
There’s another important reason to choose Vancouver over other cities on the west coast, Stock notes.
“The differential on the Canadian dollar makes it really much more interesting to put it here than anywhere in the states. You’re saving 30 per cent right there.”
And while the entry of a major player like Freshfields in the “document review” space may suggest increased competition, he says Canadian firms have little to worry about.
“I don’t think it’s to compete with anything Canadian whatsoever,” says Stock. “I think they’re just looking for a swell spot that’s not the Cayman Islands.”
Montreal protest denouncing police brutality turns violent, Canadian Press
Amid revelations of offshore financial dealings involving prominent figures worldwide, the Canada Revenue Agency says it’s looking to get its hands on the leaked records to zero in on the activities of Canadian residents.
|Toronto tax lawyer Vitaly Timokhov says it’s unlikely the CRA will be surprised by what it finds in the Panama Papers.|
“The agency is actively pursuing the co-operation of its tax treaty partners and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists to obtain all of the leaked records that pertain to Canadian residents,” the CRA said.
“The Minister of National Revenue has instructed CRA officials to obtain the data leaked through the Panama Papers in order to cross-reference this information with the data already obtained through the Agency’s existing investigation tools.”
Canada is closely watching the cases of citizens found to have set up offshore companies in Panama and elsewhere and will refer cases to prosecutors if necessary, said Chloe Luciani-Girouard, a spokeswoman for National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier.
But a Toronto-based tax lawyer says it’s unlikely the CRA will be surprised by what it finds in the Panama Papers. While the agency is sure to find some cases of criminal tax avoidance, Vitaly Timokhov of Tax Chambers LLP says a significant portion of the documents will reveal either “clear stupidity” by those who don’t know the rules or those who have been taking their money offshore in “perfectly legal” ways.
While it’s possible, Timokhov says it’s unlikely those who want to set up criminal structures would go to Mossack Fonseca, which he describes as “the Cadillac of offshore firms.”
“You really wouldn’t deal with a law firm that serves governments and heads of states” to accommodate a criminal intent, he says.
Timokhov also says the CRA has the tools to track every financial transaction between Canada and any other country in the world, adding most of the information the agency needs is likely already available to it. The CRA also knows a significant portion of people who have moved their money offshore are not breaking any laws, he says.
“They know about every cent that leaves Canada. It’s a huge amount of information, I agree, and they have to use it selectively. But do they know about funds going to Panama? Oh my god, of course. Absolutely,” says Timokhov.
RBC, Canada's biggest bank, and its subsidiaries were associated with 378 shell companies registered in the Mossack Fonseca data, the Toronto Star reported.
RBC said that it worked within the legal and regulatory framework of every country in which it operates and had an extensive due diligence process to understand what its clients' intentions were.
A spokesman for federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said that “at this point, we have no reason to believe Canadian banks have acted unlawfully.”
Last month, the Liberal government last month promised to invest almost $450 million over five years to gather more information about tax evasion and tax avoidance.
Since January 2015, Canada had already been monitoring all international transfers of funds worth more than $10,000, including those from Panama, said Luciani-Girouard.
According to Timokhov, what is common are Canadian residents who purchase a property in a foreign country, say Panama, for personal use without knowing the consequences of incorporating that property.
Since the buyer’s permanent residence is in Canada, they’d typically incorporate the property in order to appoint a local nominee shareholder or director who can manage the property on their behalf, says Timokhov. When the buyer then visits Panama and stays in that property, they must pay rent to the corporation. In other words, their usage of the property counts as benefit from their corporation for income tax purposes.
“This property now belongs to the corporation. There’s provision in the Income Tax Act, s. 15, which basically tells you if you move into the condo, you actually use corporate property. You’re actually receiving a benefit from your corporation,” says Timokhov.
If the Canadian resident did not pay rent on such property, they must self-assess the benefit they’ve received from the corporation equal to the fair value of the rent they’ve failed to pay. Whether individuals who don’t do so are wilfully ignorant of the rules is of course part of the question for the CRA.
With files from Reuters.
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