|Kevin Dane says growing in-house capabilities with large corporations is leaving law firms to do more niche work and that requires firms to be more innovative in the way they seek clients.|
Wildeboer Dellelce is a corporate business finance transactional firm based in Toronto while Moodys Gartner Tax is based in Calgary but has offices across Canada and Buffalo, N.Y.
“We have a number of law firms we refer business to that are also not full-service firms, but this is more structured in that they [Moodys] are making a commitment to be in Toronto on a regular basis and we’re making a commitment to be in Calgary on a regular basis,” says Kevin Dane, chief operating officer with Wildeboer Dellelce LLP.
Moodys Gartner provides tax advisory, planning, dispute resolution and compliance services for individuals and businesses with interests in Canada, the U.S. or both.
“We’ve agreed to introduce our clients to their lawyers and accountants and likewise they’ve agreed to do the same,” says Dane. “They deal with a lot of high-net-worth individuals who need cross-border tax advice, and behind those types of individuals are generally corporations and companies, so we see a natural opportunity to be introduced to some of their clients and vice versa.”
In early January, Moodys Gartner announced it was also entering a “collaborative agreement” with Andersen Tax. That relationship is a two-way referral agreement in which Moodys Gartner will join numerous other global tax practitioners as part of Andersen Tax’s international association of member firms, Andersen Global.
Dane says the arrangement with Moodys is a way of responding to the way the business of the profession is evolving and how firms can retain specialized work.
“The legal profession is undergoing significant change,” he says. “Growing in-house capabilities with large corporations are leaving law firms to do what I would say is more niche and novel work and that requires us to be more innovative in the way we seek clients that can get value from our service,” says Dane. “This is a way of doing that.”
The two firms will continue operating as separate entities and Dane says there is no intent to go further than the alliance they announced March 8.
“We’re both very happy with the state of our business, but we feel that together we can do more than we can apart,” says Dane.
“We have been servicing our clients in Toronto for a long time and this alliance with Wildeboer Dellelce will only strengthen our ability to serve those clients. Our firms offer quite different, yet complementary, services and we look forward to a long-lasting and fruitful relationship with Wildeboer Dellelce,” said Kim Moody, director, Canadian Tax Advisory at Moodys Gartner, in a statement.
“Our alliance with Moodys Gartner helps to reinforce our strong tax foundation by adding another layer of private client and U.S. and cross-border tax expertise. It also represents a significant milestone in our goal to be a service leader in Calgary, one of Canada's largest financial centres. The alliance also allows our firm to extend its services into Western Canada generally and Edmonton and Vancouver specifically. We are very excited to work with Moodys Gartner and to connect with existing and new contacts in these very important geographical markets,” said Perry Dellelce, managing partner of Wildeboer Dellelce, in a statement.
|Roy Heenan, co-founder of Heenan Blaikie LLP, passed away Feb. 3. (Photo credit: Toronto Star)|
Norm Bacal, who was national co-managing partner for 16 years at Heenan Blaikie, was first a student in Heenan’s labour law class at McGill Law.
“That’s how far back we go,” says Bacal. “But I only got a ‘C’. The running joke in the firm for years after I was hired into the tax department was that I would never have to do any labour work and Roy would never have me.”
While he had only spoken with Heenan once in the last couple of years, Bacal says when he heard the news about his death he felt a “great sense of loss” for the person who had been a major influence on his life.
“Roy and Peter changed my life and sent it in a particular direction,” he says.
Montreal lawyer Karen Rogers also started her career with Heenan, working with him from 1990 to 2014.
“In one word, he was a passionate person and his passion was in the law, in advocacy, for his clients, the firm — and you could feel it,” says Rogers, now a partner at Langlois LLP and chairwoman of that firm’s litigation group. “As a young lawyer and even growing up with him, there was this enthusiasm and need to do the best of your ability. What he built at Heenan, he believed a lot in people and working as a team with respect and not only the lawyers but the support staff and to appreciate the value of the whole team.”
Rogers recalls Heenan giving speeches at the firm emphasizing that it was the “kindler, gentler firm.”
“That was very important to him,” she says.
Bacal, who also “grew up” at Heenan Blaikie, recalls Roy Heenan as another kind of teacher, saying he learned a lot from him about how to approach people.
“He cast a giant shadow because he was a big personality, but on top of everything else, he was a real gentleman, always. There are so many aspects to him as an individual and so many lessons that he taught that I think he did without meaning to teach.
“Part of what Roy taught I’m not sure he was even aware he teaching,” Bacal says. “He was charming and it didn’t matter who you were — whether it was the receptionists, the hostesses, Fidel Castro, he treated you the same way,” he says.
Heenan Blaikie became known as a firm that offered a different climate for lawyers to practise law and be treated differently. It rose to fame as having one of the top labour and employment practices in the country.
“He was a brilliant jurist and will always be remembered as such in the labour community,” says Bacal.
Rogers also worked with co-founding partners Peter Blaikie and Don Johnston. She recalls the firm having a mandate to not just work for big clients but do smaller files and help less fortunate clients — something that mattered to Heenan.
“I think he could have worked anywhere and he didn’t want to do law for money, he did it because he enjoyed it,” she says. “When you’d go to court, you’d see him running down the hallway in his gown — he was a passionate person who didn’t necessarily do things the way lawyers generally do things. He felt if you did well and excelled at what you did, the rest would fall into place.”
When the firm collapsed in 2014, it was “extremely hard” for Heenan, Rogers says, adding that for her even today it’s “difficult to understand.”
“The firm folding was not about the majority but the minority who did not necessarily get along, which caused the whole thing to happen. It wasn’t a financial issue. I was a partner at Heenan and I didn’t anticipate it, to be quite frank, and I’m pretty sure Roy didn’t anticipate it either,” she says. “It was probably one of the biggest deceptions of his life.”
Heenan will also be remembered for his role in the Canadian arts world. Rogers remembers the art in the Montreal office and how Heenan decided where each painting would go.
“He built, possibly single-handedly, the reputation of a number of Canadian artists, simply by the volume of Canadian art he bought over the years,” says Bacal. “He found many unknown artists and held on to their works until they became known.”
Bacal has written a book about the fall of Heenan Blaikie called Breakdown: The Inside Story of the Rise and Fall of Heenan Blaikie, which will be released Feb. 28.
As a leader, he was described as unique. “Even his detractors loved him,” says Bacal.
Visitation for Heenan is today at the Kane & Fetterly Funeral Home in Montreal. A funeral service will be held tomorrow, Friday Feb. 10, at 1 p.m. at St. George Anglican, 1101 Stanley Street in Church in Montreal.
Are law firms really innovating or is it all talk? That is a common debate in the profession these days and Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP has just launched a new challenge to move beyond the noise to what they hope will be real measurable innovation.
|Carla Swansburg’s team at Blakes is working with Law Made to develop a new product that they hope can be used by Blakes, clients and possibly other law firms.|
“There is a lot of … talk about how law firms aren’t really doing anything,” says Carla Swansburg, who is the director of practice innovation, pricing & knowledge at Blakes. “I think this is a really good example [of how] some law firms are actually … taking the steps to do stuff that is a little bit different, and a little innovative, but haven’t necessarily historically talked about it a lot.”
Swansburg’s team at Blakes is working with Law Made, a legal incubator in Toronto, to develop a new product that they hope can be used by Blakes, clients, and possibly licensed to other law firms.
Blakes went through an extensive internal discussion about what kind of end product they wanted to see with the challenge, to avoid the endless brainstorming with no tangible results that can occur in “hackathons” and other initiatives meant to spur innovation.
“We are kind of bypassing that route and saying we are going to go out there, we are going to frame the problem, invite solutions and then actually, hands on, roll up our sleeves, and work with the people who are building the tool, to create something that is not necessarily marketable but really gives us a tangible solution that we have helped design,” says Swansburg.
Blakes provides applicants with business requirements to ensure they know what is expected. Swansburg says the solution needs to be “…taking a pre-defined set of legislative provisions, so on a topic for example like consumer credit, and finding a way to automate the creation of reports around changes.”
The reports would need to track relationships between regulations and keep up to date by using a technology solution like machine learning, artificial intelligence or natural language processing to collect this information and provide clear, structured and actionable reporting on regulatory changes.
Blakes and Law Made will provide the winning entry with free legal advice from Blakes, mentoring from Law Made and a paid internship that includes work space and a stipend for up to six months.
Swansburg says she expects entries to come from the startup community, and that some initial applications have already come from Canada and the U.K., with some expressions of interest from the U.S., including a law school centre for law and technology.
There will be a two-step process, with the first round of applicants whittled down to around two to five finalists by a jury from Blakes, Law Made and client and industry participants.
Once the finalists are selected, they will make their pitch to a different jury and this will likely involve a beta test of the interface and an evaluation of the user experience.
They expect the winner to be notified in the late fall of 2017.
While Blakes will not necessarily have equity in the final product, Swansburg says that will depend on “what others come up with.”
Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP has partnered with professional services firm PwC Canada for the provision of e-discovery services, the firm announced today.
|Vera Toppings, partner in Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP's litigation and dispute resolution group, says efficient delivery of e-discovery services is ‘top-of-mind’ for law firms.|
Prior to the arrangement with PwC Canada, Faskens dealt with e-discovery on a “case-by-case” basis, which was often more costly and less efficient for clients.
“We would go to the market and solicit quotes from different providers, analyze them, then go back and forth with the providers, and then go back and forth to the client,” Toppings says.
“We were dealing every time with different people in the marketplace — sometimes you don’t have responses from everyone right away, or they aren’t able to provide all the same types of services you may want to be able to offer to the client,” says Toppings.
She notes the pairing is more of a contractual arrangement than a formal partnership.
The e-discovery services will be scalable to any level of client demand and will offer improved predictability of costs. Faskens clients will have access to PwC Canada’s specialists who can share e-discovery industry best practices.
This move follows McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s acquisition of Wortzmans earlier this month, and Toppings says if there seems to be a trend that’s fueling these moves, there’s a good reason for it.
“I think it’s an issue that’s front-of-mind for a lot of law firms,” she says, noting it’s becoming more necessary to be in “the best position possible” to provide these services to clients.
“The expectations on clients, and of course their counsel in guiding them through the process, are very high. I think for that reason lots of firms are thinking about what’s the best way that we can provide this service to our clients and ensure we are advising them and offering them the best options possible for navigating what has become a more complex, involved and risky proposition because the courts have really set high expectations for how these processes will be managed and for the consequences that can flow from doing it improperly.”
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP said on Wednesday it has launched a technology-based platform to support coverage of corporate deals and hired five people to help with the process.
The team will be based in Ottawa and led by Natalie Munroe, who returned to Osler this year after spending a few years at Canadian lender Bank of Nova Scotia as senior legal counsel. She has previously worked with U.S. law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York and London, as well as Osler in Toronto.
Faced with increasing competition and digital disruption, law firms have been responding with strategies that leverage technology.
Under the platform, the team will support mergers-and-acquisitions and corporate finance transactions, but it will branch into other areas as well, Munroe said in an interview.
The team, which is called Osler Works — Transactional, is expected to grow, she said. The five-member team includes four lawyers.
"Clients are putting a lot of pressure on law firms to make changes to the way they practice. This model is put out there by Osler to respond to those needs", Munroe said.
Ottawa was chosen because Osler has a presence there and the city is a relatively lower-cost location, she said, adding that the team will use a number of technology-driven applications for its functions.
Every organization in law needs a data strategy, says Daniel Martin Katz.
|Associate law professor Daniel Katz says mapping out processes can help law firms become better predictors of risks, outcomes, how much certain types of litigation will cost and how long certain matters will take. (Photo: Alex Robinson)|
The associate law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law says law firms can be better predictors of their services if they capture and analyze their data.
“We care about data because we want to be able to predict things,” Katz told the Emerging Legal Technology Forum presented in partnership by Thomson Reuters and MaRS LegalX in Toronto Tuesday.
Doing things differently was top of mind at the conference, where lawyers, startups and legal tech enthusiasts came together to talk about how technology is changing the legal industry.
Katz said there can be a huge difference between what a legal process is and what a law firm thinks that process is — and data can help illuminate that gap.
“As you begin to collect data, you find out there are steps in this process you don’t even have reflected in your process,” Katz said.
Pursuing such strategies will likely have to be done in incremental steps, as partners will likely want to see a return on their investment before fully committing to the process. One step is creating a process map, in which all processes being carried out within a firm are identified, linked and logged.
Mapping out such processes can help firms become better predictors of risks, outcomes, how much certain types of litigation will cost and how long certain matters will take.
Data can also help in e-discovery and transactional work by predicting relevant documents and contract terms, Katz said.
All of this in the end allows firms to better express the value of their services to clients, he said.
“You can’t say how great your services are with no real measure of what you’ve actually accomplished. It doesn’t work,” Katz told the audience.
The conference also featured a panel discussing legal analytics systems that are mining data both inside and outside of firms. Startups and companies that are mining legal data outside of firms seek to provide accessible statistics to clients based on math and the vast amount of unstructured legal data that exists.
Toby Unwin, chief innovation officer at Premonition LLC, said the transparency such services can provide will have a big impact on the legal industry.
Premonition is a Florida-based company that mines the data in legal documents in order to rate lawyers based on factors that include outcomes and the length of trials.
Unwin noted that lawyers belong to one of few professions where the less efficient you are, the more you get paid. He added this might be a reason that legal tech has not moved forward as fast as other technological sectors have.
He said that some firms also bluff about what their success rates are, but services like the ones his company provides can change these things.
“Every great change will come from transparency,” he said.
An Ottawa man who battled two of his former law firms in court is celebrating the decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal to have his fee agreements with the firms reassessed.
The ruling in Clatney v. Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP stemmed from the settlement of a personal injury claim that Mark Clatney of Ottawa had reached in July 2013 for $800,000.
Clatney had been seriously injured in a crash in March 2008, and pursued a personal injury claim with Bertschi Orth Solicitors and Barristers, before switching to Quinn Thiele Moneault Grodzki LLP.
Justice Gloria Epstein said:
At the heart of the appeal lies the importance of public confidence in the administration of justice and, in that context, the court’s supervisory role over the appropriate compensation for legal services.”
Bertschi Orth handed Clatney a bill of more than $117,000 for its work on the claim, and Quinn Thiele initially told Clatney it was owed more than $305,000.
According to the ruling, Clatney asked for a release of $50,000 from his settlement, but ran into problems after trying to get $50,000 released, and ended up paying Quinn Thiele $210,000 and Bertschi Orth $100,000.
“He noted that his acceptance came in the light of Quinn Thiele’s confirmation that the $50,000 could not be released as a result of the Charging Order and that a failure to accept the $210,000 offer would lead to an assessment hearing with consequent costs and delay,” said the ruling.
Epstein said Clatney was “vulnerable” when he entered into the fee agreements with the firms, and outlined other issues Clatney was facing.
“He was permanently impaired by the brain injury he suffered in the car accident. He was under intense financial pressure. The appellant did not have independent legal advice when such was clearly called for. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the legal services rendered by both firms,” said the ruling. “He terminated his retainer with Bertschi Orth and, when it came to resolving the firms’ fees and disbursements, the appellant expressed his frustration with Quinn Thiele. Finally, at the time the Fee Agreements were entered into, detailed accounts had not been rendered by Quinn Thiele.”
Epstein also noted Quinn Thiele “misled the appellant by providing erroneous legal advice” and “exerted pressure on the appellant to settle.”
“In these circumstances . . . the protection of the appellant’s interests and the public’s confidence in the administration of justice demand that the Fee Agreements be reopened and an assessment be ordered,” said the ruling.
Paul Auerbach, a partner with McNally Gervan LLP who acted for Clatney in the Court of Appeal process, told Legal Feeds he is “pleased” with the ruling.
“The decision reflects a very thorough analysis of the circumstances leading up to the consent order,” he said. “The decision is a clear reaffirmation of the role of the assessment process in maintaining public confidence in lawyers and the legal profession.
“It also makes clear that agreements between lawyers and their clients will be reviewed by the courts where the circumstances require it.”
The appeal court directed that all costs, fees, charges, and disbursements relating to the case be assessed and ordered $10,000 be paid to Clatney for costs of the initial application and $15,000 for the appeal.
Clatney — a corporate account executive who lost in job in 2010 — said “for the past eight years I have faced one of the most difficult experiences of my life.”
“We are gratified by the Court of Appeal’s decision and the assessment process can now get underway. This is all I ever wanted,” he said, in a news release.
Darryl Singer, a litigator with Singer Barristers, who was not involved in the case, said: “It appears that the Thiel firm used the client’s financial desperation to extract a settlement for itself, and the appeal court appears to have felt that it needed to step in and ensure that the client was not deprived of his right to an assessment just because he was in dire need of the money.”
William Hunter, who represented Quinn Thiele, did not have any comment.
As Pride month kicks off in many parts of the country, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP unveiled a new policy to accommodate transgender employees.
|Laleh Moshiri says BLG wants to ‘create an environment of true inclusion.’|
The firm previously had other policies, such as one on anti-harassment, that refer to gender identity and gender expression, but did not have any stand-alone policies dealing exclusively with transgender issues, says Laleh Moshiri, BLG’s national director of diversity and inclusion.
“We wanted to create an environment of true inclusion,” she says. “We thought there were enough unique issues that this merited a stand-alone policy.”
The new policy, which rolled out mid-May, provides guidelines to employees and management as to how they can support and respect transgender colleagues. The guidelines include instructions on what to do when there is an employee who wants to transition and how to support that individual.
In addition, the policy deals with how to accommodate new applicants who may be transgender. It recognizes that each individual’s needs are different and that their privacy should be respected, says Moshiri.
The policy makes it clear as well that transgender employees are free to use whichever washroom corresponds to their gender identity or expression.
“We wanted to make that known to everybody else at the firm as well,” says Moshiri.
She says the timing was right for BLG to implement this policy as trans issues have been in the news a lot recently.
In May, the federal government introduced bill C-16, which would assert human rights for transgender people.
Debates have also been raging in the United States surrounding an ordinance, passed by the city of Charlotte, N.C., that would ensure a transgender person’s right to use the bathroom of their choice. The ordinance was struck down by the state legislature, which is now in a legal battle with the federal government.
“Trans issues have been receiving a lot of attention of late – whether it is stories of high profile transitions, Netflix shows, or debates around washroom usage,” she says.
“As we build a diverse and inclusive workplace at BLG, we thought it was important to develop a plan for supporting and accommodating trans individuals.”
The company has also installed single-access washrooms in its offices across the country in order to better accommodate transgender people. The signs on all the washrooms have been changed to indicate they are “all-gender restrooms.”
Moshiri says the company has not had someone publicly transition since the guidelines have been introduced, but when someone comes forward, the company will be ready.
“Part of this is we really wanted to have thought about all these issues in advance so that when we’re actually faced with them, we’re not reacting,” she says. “It was important to give it all thought.”
A new law firm study says it’s likely Canada will enact laws to combat genetic discrimination. Genetic discrimination is an issue that’s increasingly come to public attention, after huge changes in medical practices and technology.
|A new report from BLG says legislation on genetic discrimination is ‘likely.’|
“The tremendous and increasing power of research tools related to the human genome are increasing the potential for genetic information related to individuals to be deployed for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes,” says Graham, the head of BLG’s national life sciences group.
“[T]here is a concern that science, which leads to the generation of this additional personal information, is not adequately protected in existing laws and could be used to prejudice individuals in the workplace and insurance environments without adequate controls or protections being established.”
The report covers areas including outsourcing, procurement and cybersecurity, cyber risk management, and the Canadian Competition Bureau’s new update of the Intellectual Property Enforcement Guidelines.
Genetic testing — which the report describes as “the analysis of a person’s chromosomes, genes, or gene products (proteins) to identify the presence of specific traits” — is accessible to Canadians interested in learning more about their predisposition to certain health issues, or for diagnosis.
“Although the long-term ethical and legal consequences of genetic testing for employment matters, insurance contracts, and preventive medicine and treatment are not yet fully known, cases of alleged genetic discrimination have been emerging in different parts of the world, prompting calls from concerned citizens for government action,” says. the report.
It also notes the federal government’s “protection against genetic discrimination act” died last year, as a result of the federal election being called.
The report says a bill that includes criminal sanctions for discrimination was passed in the Senate to prevent genetic discrimination and has gone to the House of Commons.
“At this point in time, the timing of federal legislative changes is uncertain,” says Graham. “If the current bill is adopted in its current form, it may not be necessary for parallel or complimentary provincial legislative changes.”
It’s important to note that new rules have effects for the insurance industry, which is usually governed by laws at the provincial level, states the report.
“Although provincial human rights codes may already provide some protection for individuals from genetic discrimination, they also include some exceptions that may allow automobile, life, accident or sickness or disability insurance providers to make distinctions based on an applicant’s age, sex, marital status, family status, or physical or mental disability,” says the report.
“A discriminatory practice in insurance may be justified on reasonable and bona fide grounds — in other words, if it is based on accepted and sound insurance practices and if no practical nondiscriminatory alternative exists.”
The report says insurance providers do not now require genetic testing to provide insurance but do ask people who want insurance if they’ve been tested in the past, and, if so, to disclose the results.
“The insurance industry has expressed concern that insured persons who learn, after taking a genetic test, that they are at high risk for a genetic disease could knowingly take out policies for large amounts of additional coverage without insurers being aware of any increased risk,” says the report.
Order could be restored at the Ontario Superior Court’s overstretched fee assessment office, thanks to a decision yesterday from the Divisional Court that relieved the court of sole jurisdiction to handle those files.
The Divisional Court’s ruling contradicts another one released by the same court in 2014. Jane Conte PC v. Josephine Smith shocked the system when it said all lawyer fee disputes must be resolved at the Superior Court. Prior to the 2014 ruling, those matters could be dealt with at the Small Claims Court.
A more liberal interpretation of the Solicitors Act, Justice Michael Dambrot’s decision in Cozzi v. Heerdegen, says the Small Claims Court has jurisdiction to deal with claims arising from simple retainers. Dambrot says only contingency fee arrangement accounts need be assessed by the Superior Court’s assessment office.
In Conte, Justice Ian Nordheimer pointed to a little-known section of the Solicitors Act, which states all claims for non-payment must go to the Superior Court.
“Partly because of that decision, a very significant jam was created,” says Toronto lawyer Ben Hanuka of Law Works PC. “Everything had to be diverted through this narrow pipe [at] the assessment office.”
In an endorsement written early this year, Superior Court Justice Sean Dunphy said the delay required to get an assessment hearing is “unacceptably long.” But in the same ruling, Dunphy dismissed requests by Toronto intellectual property law firm Gilbert’s LLP for an order that two clients pay outstanding bills arising from undisputed retainers.
Essentially, the issue at the centre of the chaos is poorly drafted legislation, according to Hanuka. He says, s. 17 of the Solicitors Act might could, technically, be read to suggest that every written agreement for legal services must get a blessing from the Superior Court before a payment can be made.
“The problem is that it’s almost nonsensical,” Hanuka says, adding Dambrot’s decision in Cozzi is “the only way forward.”
After Nordheimer wrote Conte, paralegals like Frederick Goodman, who went the Small Claims Court to resolve lawyers’ fee dispute matters, could no longer do those jobs as paralegals don’t have standing at the Superior Court. This morning, speaking from the Small Claims Court, Goodman says he’s “back in business.”
“This decision . . . restores our ability to pursue claims for lawyers in the Small Claims Court for unpaid accounts but only in so far as those [accounts] which are not contingency fee arrangements,” says Goodman .
With files from Michael McKiernan
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