The Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure has proposed changes to the Customer Service Standard and Integrated Accessibility Standards regulations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). If approved, the changes will be enacted on July 1, 2016, and take immediate effect.
This proposal includes incorporating the Customer Service Standard into the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation and making changes to requirements of the Customer Service Standard (see details below).
As a result, O. Reg. 429/07 Accessibility Standards for Customer Service and O. Reg. 430/07 Exemption from Reporting Requirements would be revoked since the substantive content of these regulations would now be incorporated into the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR).
In addition, the proposal recommends technical/administrative changes to the IASR to clarify some of the requirements and make it easier for organizations to implement them.Proposed customer service standard changes include:
This also means that all references to a “provider” of goods and services will be replaced with “obligated organization” to match the other accessibility standards.
This means organizations with 20–49 employees would continue to be required to establish policies, practices and procedures governing the provision of goods or services to people with disabilities (as required under Section 3 of the Customer Service Standard). However, these organizations would no longer be required to prepare one or more documents describing their policies, practices and procedures or to provide these documents upon request (as currently required under Section 3.5).
Proposed changes regarding class structure would be reflected in the requirements for private and not-for profit organizations under the following sections of the Customer Service Standard:
This change would enhance the method used to prove that the animal is trained to be a service animal and is not a pet. It also allows the service animal to be recognized through indicators or visual cues such as a vest or harness, without staff having to ask for a document from a health professional. The change would also expand the range of people who can provide documentation confirming a person’s requirement for a service animal to any “regulated health professionals” from the more specific “physician or nurse.” Furthermore, it changes the term “letter” to “documentation” to be more inclusive of the types of documents that a health professional may provide (e.g., form, template or letter).
Every person must be trained as soon as practicable. Organizations must provide training on any changes to its accessibility policies on an ongoing basis.
Obligated organizations must ensure that their feedback process is accessible to persons with disabilities by providing or arranging for the provision of accessible formats and communication supports upon request.
It is further proposed that language be added to the feedback section that is similar to the language in the policies, practices and procedures section of the Customer Service Standard which states that when communicating with a person with a disability, a provider shall do so in a manner that takes into account the person’s disability. This would align language and terminology with the Information and Communications Standard, reduce inconsistencies and simplify requirements.
It is proposed that an organization be required to provide accessible formats and communication supports upon request to a person with a disability. These must be provided in a timely manner and at a cost that is no more than the regular cost charged. It is also proposed that the current provision that organizations and people with disabilities “agree upon” an accessible format be replaced with the following requirement: Organizations must consult with the person making the request to determine the suitability of an accessible format or communication support.
The ministry would like the public and interested stakeholders to provide comments on the proposed changes by December 31, 2015.
The Accessibility Standards Advisory Council/Standards Development Committee developed its final proposed revisions to the Customer Service Standard after considering public feedback collected between March 3, 2014, and May 22, 2014, based on the committee’s initial proposed revisions.
It may sound like a lot of substantial changes, but I expect if they are enacted, they will make it easier for organizations to manage their accessibility obligations under the AODA standards. However, there will likely be another confusing transition period as we figure out who has to do what and by when.
To help manage the changes, the government has set a seemingly reasonable implementation date of July 1, 2016, and proposed transition periods, where appropriate. This date falls between the upcoming accessible employment standards and communications deadlines on January 1, 2016, and the following 2017 deadlines. Nonetheless, there may be little time between the enactment of these changes and the July deadline, and obligated organizations should consider reviewing their accessible customer service policies and progress soon.
I wonder what this will mean for the government’s accessibility enforcement program. One accessible customer service blitz is underway at large retailers. Will the government delay further blitzes until after any transition periods are over? We will be watching this with interest!
The attorney-client relationship is one of varying degrees of collaboration, depending on how involved your client chooses to be, how sophisticated they are in legal matters, and the type of case.
But no matter how sophisticated your client may be, certain decisions lie with the client and some are within the discretion of the lawyer. Here is a rundown of where the authority lies.Model Rule 1.2
Allocation of authority between you and the client begins with a quick look at ABA Model Rule 1.2. A rather wordy rule, it says that as to the “objectives of the representation” the attorney shall abide by the client’s decisions. As to the means by which those objectives are pursued, you should consult with the client. Model Rule 1.2 goes further than its vague language of objectives versus means and explicitly states, “A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decision whether to settle a matter.”When the Ball is in the Client’s Court
There are two main decisions your client has sole discretion to make:
Other decisions are generally considered means to achieving objectives and within your discretion. However, any authority can be altered by a contract. With large institutional clients who come to retain counsel with a list of standard terms and conditions, your authority may well be curbed. Other clients may negotiate specific terms of engagement as well.
The authority to make certain choices becomes somewhat muddied with a highly involved client, especially a lawyer-client. This is not because the ethical rules vary, but because the relationship is a bit more complicated. Lawyer-clients come up frequently with institutional clients where in-house counsel is the client contact and in legal ethics cases where lawyers are respondents or defendants; they can also be the client in any other matter where an individual is the client, as lawyers do have lives too.
Lawyer-clients and other highly involved clients often want to make decisions attorneys are used to making on their own. For instance, a lawyer-client who is a civil trial attorney may have a lot to say about which court to file in, which discovery mechanisms to utilize, or what strategy to take when attempting to negotiate settlement in their own personal injury case.
These situations become more of a client-relationship dilemma than an ethical one, since the impacted decisions are ones you get to make. In order to work well with a highly involved client, you have to set the boundaries and work cooperatively with the client. Although you have the authority under the ethical rules to make choices on the case, if the client wants more involvement, the relationship could sour.
Clearly laying out each party’s rights and obligations can help ensure your client relationships run smoothly.
Featured image: “Pretty young woman making a decision with arrows and question mark above her head” from Shutterstock.
Who Decides What in the Attorney-Client Relationship was originally published on Lawyerist.
In case you hadn’t heard, Donald J. Trump wants to make America great again. How? Well, according the man himself, by doing smart things, having a great plan and getting the best and most capable people to do smart things, all while working with, around or straight through those who would stand in the way. It will be fantastic. It will be amazing. Very classy and really, really great.
I’m going to offer some thoughts on legal careers. Taking a page from Trump’s playbook, what I won’t offer are links, references or any verifiable support or justification for what I say. Feel free to disagree with my assumptions, arguments and prescriptions. That’s on you. I will just sit back and bask in Trump-ian certainty and confidence that I’m right. It’ll be great. Really, really great.
The status quo is terrible
Law school tuitions are sky high. Bar exam pass rates are plummeting. Many graduates can’t find jobs to service their crushing debt loads. Many who do find work are faced with precarious employment, lower wages and poor training. And in the latest twist, even those with the golden ticket to Big Law (i.e., Bay Street, AM100, Magic Circle, etc…) are confronted with clients increasingly preferring to direct their legal spend away from subsidizing associate training and toward robots, outsourcers, in-house counsel services and (what we used to call) accounting firms. Turning to mid- and late-career lawyers, the future won’t hold a candle to the past as market forces will put the squeeze on small and big law alike as clients demand and pursue more cost effective solutions to their legal issues. I hope you enjoy being a contractor to LegalZoom or an outsourced resource to the Wal-Mart legal department.
Why would anybody want to be a lawyer? Any honest assessment will tell you the financial prospects are bleak and worsening. We won’t even get into challenges like the outrageous working hours and higher than average risk for mental health issues and substance abuse problems.
I’ll tell you why people want to be lawyers.
Because it’s a great job. A fantastic way to make a living and to make a life. You meet cool people and do cool things. Half the best shows on TV are about lawyers (by the way, when is season 2 of Better Call Saul?). Why wouldn’t you want you be a lawyer?
For all the complaints and all the problems, tens of thousands start their JD or LLB studies every year, and orders of magnitude dream of being in their place.
Any career that has people climbing over each other to enter is a great one.
Want to change the status quo? Then change the way you look at things.
Gates, not a yellow brick road
Law school, licensing and getting hired as a lawyer – these are gates, not a road to anywhere.
Do you want to know why so many people, including lawyers, are so down on the idea of a career in law? It’s probably because somebody told them that being a lawyer was a safe, defined and profitable path.
There are things you need to do to become a lawyer, so you’ve got to get through the gates. After that, there is no path and no map. Stop looking for it and complaining that you can’t find it. You are on your own. If you want to believe your legal career can be great, you’ve got to handle that part yourself.
Oh, by the way, even those gates are becoming less important. It’s not just the people going around the gates or those trying to take them down from the outside, plenty of us who have cleared the gates are trying to create more openings.
For anyone that thinks today’s gates are a permanent fixture, here’s a thought experiment:
Consider the current model of legal training, employment and regulation. How far back do you have to find a time when things were quite different? With that in mind, what logic allows you to believe that today’s mode of operation will or should hold well into the future?
At some point in our history, we did things differently. At some point in our future, we will do things differently. Unless we believe we are currently on the one true path to enlightenment (or that we have already achieved it), then no aspect of our current models is sacrosanct or immutable, and there is no inevitability to retention of any particular feature or attainment of any particular goal.
A defined path across a field will only develop and hold if we limit how people access the field and we dictate where they are going. Expand the entry points and eliminate the destinations, and eventually there will be so many criss-crossing paths that there may as well be none.
I’m not trying to get all Neitzsche here and suggest none of it matters, my point is that every last participant is either pushing or pulling in some direction and none of us can completely anticipate the direction or the speed in which we will travel. The only certainty I can offer is that the cycles of change (from the way it was, to the way it is, and on to the way it will be) will accelerate as internal (students, law schools, law societies, courts, firms) and external (clients, governments, competitors, technologies, humans with legal rights and interests) players and forces increasingly take it upon themselves to own their role and seek to influence their future.
How to make a great legal career
Don’t shed a tear for the good old days. They never existed. Exceedingly few participants actually had a common experience along the pre-law, law school, and professional road.
Don’t plan as if the future will resemble the present. There are simply too many variables beyond your control.
Pick a short time frame over which you can plan and pursue goals with some confidence, and a slightly longer time frame to populate with aspirations that can serve as a beacon to give you hope and validate the choices you make in the short-term.
Focus on skill development.
Imagine yourself finding professional fulfillment in a variety of different places and roles.
Find mentors and supporters.
Be a mentor and supporter.
Not every job is going to be great, but when you create and own your personal definition of success, you can make your legal career great again.
As you know, there is a tremendous amount of administrative work involved with running a law practice. Products like Clio and Xero are gaining traction with today’s law firms because they help streamline and organize time-consuming processes involved with functions like billing and accounting.
But another area of running a law practice that is particularly cumbersome and that deserves a lot more attention is client intake. Intake has not been diagnosed as a problem area by most firms, but it should be. If you care about case management, why shouldn’t you care about intake management?Client Intake Is Broken
Intake is a very important part of the client lifecycle – it’s an integral part of the law firm “sales process,” and the method through which all the necessary information is gathered in order to resolve the legal matter.
The problem is, most firms do not have a systematic intake process in place, making client intake high-friction and inefficient. Sound familiar? Well you’re not alone. For most firms, intake consists of a lot of back and forth communication, which gets scattered across multiple intake forms, email threads, calls, Post-it notes, Excel spreadsheets, etc.
The lack of organization makes it hard to keep track of everything, and when stuff inevitably slips through the cracks, it results in lost revenue, increased expenses, frustrated parties, and even potential malpractice claims down the road.
The worst part of it all is that you can’t bill clients for any of the hours spent during intake, which means the most inefficient area of your practice is actually costing you the most money.4 Reasons to Rethink Intake
Improving your client intake process can save time, reduce hassle, and prevent stuff from slipping through the cracks. Here are four ways that establishing a systematic, technology-driven client intake process can benefit your law practice:1. Better Organization and Workflow
Most firms currently still use manual processes for client intake: handwritten notes; logging data into spreadsheets; sending PDF forms and documents to print, fill out, and scan; and lots of emails back and forth.
Using software to manage this entire process will help you be much more organized and drastically reduce wasted time. It will also minimize the number of clients who slip through the cracks, maximizing your conversion rate and increasing your revenue in the process.2. Cut Down on Data Entry
Whether you do it yourself, hire an employee, or outsource it, data entry is costly in terms of time, money, or both. But data entry is a necessary evil if you’re going to get any value out of a case management system like Clio or MyCase.
The good news is, by using online forms to collect information, you can reduce this manual data entry to a bare minimum. Unlike handwritten intake forms or even fillable PDFs/word docs that have to be re-typed into a case management system later, the data from online forms can easily be manipulated or output into other programs automatically.
For instance, you could export it to Clio using their API, transfer it to an Excel file or Google spreadsheet, plug it into your document automation software or automatically input it into your email marketing software with Zapier.
This automation can save you boatloads of time in the aggregate because no one has to manually transcribe the data from your notes, PDFs, and emails into other programs. Plus it helps eliminate errors caused by typos and illegible handwriting along the way.3. Happier Clients
With more and more people using smartphones and relying on technology for their daily activities, people have different expectations from the businesses they choose to work with.
Downloading, printing, filling out, and scanning PDF documents is not a very pleasant activity for anyone, let alone a client paying lots of money for legal services. So by asking your clients to do those things in order to work with you, in some ways you’re actually putting up a barrier to getting hired.
By allowing your clients to fill out forms and sign documents online from their computer, smartphone or tablet, you are making their lives easier, and increasing the likelihood that they get you the information you need to do your job in a timely fashion.
Creating a better client experience also helps encourage repeat business as well as more referrals in the future.4. Reports and Analytics
The fourth benefit of developing an online intake process is that you can get a layer of reports and analytics on top of all this information, in addition to just better storage and organization.
Important data points like where your clients are finding you, what your ROI is on your advertising costs, and what your conversion rate is can all be accessed easily with the help of software. And you won’t have to be an Excel wizard to extract any meaning out of your data.
Leveraging data for better decision making will become increasingly important for law firms as their business model continues to adapt with the changing needs of clients into the future.Introducing Lexicata: The All-In-One Client Intake Solution for Law Firms
Lexicata is a CRM and client intake software built exclusively for law firms. It’s designed to manage every step of the intake process, from tracking and managing potential clients, to collecting data with online forms, to getting documents signed with seamless e-signatures.
It integrates with products you already use every day to run your law firm, such as Clio, Outlook, and Google Apps. And it includes a dashboard with actionable analytics about where your leads are coming from and how well they are converting into clients.
Adopting an online intake solution can benefit your practice in a number of ways: better organization, greater efficiency, fewer data-entry errors, higher margins, smarter decisions, and happier clients.
We invite you to check out Lexicata today to see how we can help your law firm streamline its intake process.
Book your 15-minute demo of Lexicata by December 1 and receive $100 off your subscription — just enter promo code lawyerist1 when booking from this link (there will be a limited number of appointments available — keep in mind, the demo just has to be scheduled, not conducted, by December 1).Author Bio
Aaron George is an entrepreneur with a background in both law and technology. He is co-founder of Lexicata, the only CRM and client intake software designed exclusively for law firms. He previously started a successful mobile app development business during law school. He is an active blogger, graphic designer, coder, and an enthusiast of sports and technology. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
4 Reasons Why You Should Rethink Your Client Intake Process (Sponsored) was originally published on Lawyerist.
The Legal Information Institute at Cornell is one of the best free sources of law on the Internet. If you aren’t already using it, you should be. It’s often the fastest way to get to federal law, rules, and cases. And the LII stands for the proposition that everyone, everywhere, should be able to access US law.
Even though the LII is free to the public, it costs a lot of money to maintain, and around 20% of that money comes from individual donations.
If you have ever used the LII, or if you agree that everyone should be able to access the law, please make a donation. I just donated $25, and you should, too. (Or give more, if you can.)
Support the Legal Information Institute (LII) and Free Access to Law was originally published on Lawyerist.
The preamble to Manitoba’s new Restorative Justice Act sets the foundation for the provisions of the Act, in force today:
…WHEREAS there are circumstances when the interests of justice are served by having an offender and the victim of the unlawful conduct or other community representatives find a resolution that promotes public safety by providing healing, reparation and re-integration into the community outside the traditional criminal prosecution process;
AND WHEREAS unlawful conduct by some offenders arises out of mental health conditions, addictions or other behavioural issues and there are instances when it is more appropriate to address these issues rather than deal with these offenders through the traditional criminal prosecution process….
The principles upon which this legislation are founded are not new to those who follow criminal justice but the approach here is somewhat novel. Manitoba’s Justice Minister, Gord Macintosh, stated in today’s news release:
The entire approach to restorative justice has to begin from the perspective of the victim. To succeed in the long term, we must make offenders more accountable, and better identify and address the root causes of an offender’s criminal activity.
Starting from the perspective of the victim acknowledges their role in a process and system that has historically treated victims as something of an afterthought. Even more radically, this approach of identifying and addressing root causes of criminality acknowledges that there is a time and place “to commit sociology.”
The Act requires Manitoba Justice to set policies regarding the use of restorative justice programs (s.5(1)) and requires that those policies address how such programs are accessed by both victims and offenders (s.5(2)).
In conjunction with the coming into force of the Act, the Province announced a 5-year restorative justice strategy that includes:
These are surely positive steps and could significantly impact on not only those directly involved in these processes but also the communities in which restorative justice processes are undertaken. Diversion from traditional criminal court processes also enhances access to justice both by freeing up space on crowded dockets and by providing more satisfying outcomes, in many cases, for victims of crime. All around, this is good news.
Calibrate your Monitor with these Open Source Tools – Linux Links – The Linux Portal Site http://www.linuxlinks.com/article/20151115010546816/MonitorCalibration.html
The Rules of Professional Conduct of the Law Society of Upper Canada state that: “The lawyer must not …knowingly attempt to deceive a tribunal or influence the course of justice by offering false evidence…suppressing what ought to be disclosed…”
Lawyers may be offering false evidence without even knowing it. Lawyers frequently refresh witnesses’ memories in preparation for discovery or trial. However, refreshing a witness’s memory is not a neutral activity. In Witness Preparation: A Practical Guide, Bryan Finlay et al state that “the process of memory is not a simple matter of resurrecting fixed traces, but instead a process of ‘creative reconstruction’. The reconstruction of past events is highly susceptible to distortion through for example, bias, self-interest, form of questioning, language of questioning and many other factors.” For example, a lawyer may explain why a certain fact is important, prompting the witness to “recall” it as so.
The Rules of Professional Conduct do not adequately guard against lawyers taking advantage of the way memories are formed. The Rules are abstract, and abstract principles are hard to apply. They are open to different interpretations. And some of these interpretations may be unethical. But against the backdrop of abstraction, the approach of the unethical preparer may be permissible. Therefore, there needs to be a defined set of guidelines that take into account how the process of memory works. Such guidelines would hopefully prevent lawyers from using dishonourable tactics.
“There’s another. Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities [subtleties] now, his quillities [evasions], his cases, his tenures, and his tricks?” – Hamlet, Shakespeare
In every state, there is a version of small claims court. These courts go by different names, such as conciliation court and the people’s court (not the TV show). The vast majority of the litigants in these cases are unrepresented and many of them would benefit by being represented. People who can’t or shouldn’t hire an attorney can still benefit by meeting an attorney to help prepare them for court.Why Take Small Claims Cases?
For many lawyers, representing clients in small claims court is not financially feasible. Your time is simply too valuable. But advising small claims litigants can be a good way to both increase your monthly income and start developing some courtroom skills if you are just starting out solo. Aaron Hall, a Minneapolis attorney, worked on small claims court cases regularly when he first started out as an attorney “working out of [his] basement.”
It’s a great way for new attorneys to cut their teeth on some basic courtroom experience. Rules of evidence can be relaxed, so concerns about objecting perfectly are minimized. It’s more a skill of thinking objectively.
Some lawyers work with small claims clients because some of their other work naturally ends up in small claims cases. Douglas Simmons, a lawyer in North Carolina, initially started doing small claims court work because “it tied into eviction cases he was doing for landlords.”
Florida attorney Brent Gordon notes that unlike most litigation, especially in full-representation cases, “it’s more likely to go to trial, which means civil litigation experience. Even if the cases are abbreviated, you get to see all stages of litigation.”
Small claims work won’t be the type of practice that lends itself to long-term career building, but it can certainly help with the monthly budget. Charging a modest amount like $250 to prep clients for small claims court can quickly lead to an extra couple thousand dollars per month. This can be the key for some solo practitioners staying afloat, especially when first starting out.
And, unlike most areas of the law, it is not a significant investment to become fairly well-versed in your state’s small claims court.What Should Your Fee Be?
There are a few ways you can charge for small claims court work. Full representation might mean a bill of $1–3,000. Helping to draft the complaint or meeting with a client to prepare them for court could be a flat hourly fee of $200 or more. Small claims court claim limits vary from state to state. Some are as low as $2,500 (Kentucky and Rhode Island) but others go as high as $25,000 in Tennessee. The claim limits in your state will affect the amount you can charge.Getting Clients
Some areas of law, like landlord/tenant law, lend themselves to small claims court cases. But if that isn’t the case with your practice, there are other ways to get small claims clients. First, you can advertise on Craigslist. You can let attorney referral services (like the one your bar association has) know to should list you as a small claims court option. You should make it obvious on your website that you will take small claims cases. There are very few attorneys who advertise their services to small claims clients. You are not guaranteed a monopoly by mentioning this on your website, but it won’t be you against 15,000 other personal injury attorneys, either.
Gordon, who says that roughly 15–20% of his practice is small-claims court, actually lists a menu of his options (consultation, document preparation, and full-representation). He relies on email intake as an efficient way of making initial case assessments.Know the Local Rules
A paying client will obviously expect you have basic understanding of the rules governing small claims court. The most basic is knowing your state’s monetary cap for filing a case. You should also know the filing fee for your state (or county or city). Other critical things to determine include whether the client either needs an attorney (which they might if they are a corporation or an LLC), and whether an attorney can represent a pro se litigant. Some states won’t allow an attorney while others require the attorney to apply to appear prior to the hearing.
Understanding the appeals process after a small claims decision is something many pro se clients will also expect you to know. Some small claims courts will require a formal pre-trial settlement attempt or mediation. Others might simply encourage the two sides to “go in the hall” right before the case is heard to see if a last-minute settlement is a possibility.Know the Basics
Full representation is complicated, but probably something most lawyers are familiar with. Preparing a client to represent themselves pro se is quite different. There are many pieces of information that can help a client maximize their chances in court.When and Where
Showing up on time is absolutely critical. In most cases, if the person doesn’t show up on time they automatically lose. Knowing how long it takes to get through a metal detector (if there is one) and how and where to park are all tiny pieces of information that make a pro se party less nervous going into court.Courtroom Rules
You know not to bring food and drink to court, but to a pro se client, this may be news. A cell phone would ideally never be brought into court (left in the car, for example). If a client insists on bringing it, they should actually turn it off, not simply turn the ringer to vibrate or turn the volume down.
Pro se clients frequently ask about what they should wear. They may want to know if they will be standing at a podium or sitting at a table during the hearing. Questions about witnesses are common as well. Keep in mind the basic rule that a witness (or any form of evidence) is only useful if it is proving your client’s claim or disproving opposing claims.Strengthening Your Client’s Case
“Most hearings are 10 or 15 minutes,” according to Simmons. Help your client by coaching them on how effectively use their time.
“The client will want to talk about 99 things, but the case will probably turn on only 3 of them,” Hall said. “Offering to meet with a client for an hour consultation, sorting through evidence … most importantly you tell them, ‘here is what I would not focus on.’”
In a case that lasts only 10 to 15 minutes, the client should also lead with their strongest argument, not look for a “big finish” to their case. A judge may cut off the parties at some point even if they haven’t shown all their evidence or made all of their points.
Clients should bring three copies of any evidence they want to show the judge. One for the opposing party, one for themselves, and one for the judge. If there is a key part of the contract, it’s generally fine to mark it (with tape or a post-it note) so it’s easy for the judge to find.
The parties don’t typically cross-examine each other. Instead, all conversation goes through the judge. There may be an opening statement from each party (although this is not always guaranteed), but after that, the judge asks questions and the parties answer. The client should try to answer questions directly and honestly. Interrupting, whether it’s the other side or the judge, is not advised.
With a really nervous clients, one way to minimize their concerns is to tell them to simply go watch another calendar before their case is heard. These are public forums. If your client is worried about public speaking, tell them to look around the room as a case is being heard. Despite being in the same courtroom, almost everyone there will be preparing for their own case. They might be looking through their own materials or sort of gazing in the distance.Is It Worthwhile for a Client to Work with You?
In some cases, the answer is simply no. If their claim is for $50, it makes no sense to hire you for any reasonable fee. But if the claim is in the thousands, hiring an attorney for full representation in small claims court or even hiring one for a consultation may be the best decision a pro se litigant will make in their case.
Featured image: “Young man in superhero costume representing power and courage” from Shutterstock.
Each Wednesday we tell you which three English-language cases and which French-language case have been the most viewed* on CanLII and we give you a small sense of what the cases are about.
For this last week:
1. Servus Credit Union Ltd v Parlee, 2015 ABQB 700
 Mr. Parlee said he has “100% legal title to the estate”, and relied on documents in an Affidavit he had filed on July 20, 2015. He claimed his signature “… creates the currency.” His authority to sign comes from his certificate of live birth. His documents were no different from others used in international commerce. They had been filed to the treasury board who “would look after everything.” He argued that “UCC 3603” and its Bills of Exchange Act equivalent meant the Parlees’ debt was discharged. He concluded:
I made order as a private person. … Sir, I order this case closed, and all settlements looked after. I’m asking for an order to have this case sealed, and my files returned to me. I order this.
(Check for commentary on CanLII Connects)
2. R. v Shofman, 2015 ONSC 6876
 I am compelled to observe that this kind difficult post-trial, appellate assessment of much earlier interactions between defence counsel and their accused client would be made much simpler and less prone to potential factual errors, if defence counsel adopted the sensible practice of taking at least some notes of their important interactions with their clients, and taking clear written instructions from their clients on critical issues in their cases, such as whether or not the accused should and would be testifying. See M. Proulx and D. Layton, Ethics and Canadian Criminal Law (2001), at pp. 163-164; R. v. W.E.B., at para. 10, Malton v. Attia, 2015 ABQB 135 (CanLII),  4 W.W.R. 260, at paras. 39, 67, 97-103.
 In the absence of such contemporaneous, reliable, objective records, in subsequent appellate court litigation regarding “ineffective assistance” claims, which may potentially unfold years later, trial counsel is left to try to recall the details of such interactions without the benefit of any type of aide-mémoire, and the appellate court is left to assess the reliability of such recollections without any objective verification.
(Check for commentary on CanLII Connects)
3. Wide v TD Bank, 2015 ONSC 6900
 Essentially, the claim alleges that as SIB’s correspondent bank from the 1990s to 2009, TD failed to act in accordance with the standard of care applicable to a reasonable banker. The plaintiffs allege that TD failed to conduct proper due diligence before it started providing banking services to an Antiguan off-shore bank, and compounded its negligence by continuing to provide banking services to SIB for 20 years. They allege that TD ignored public information and red flags that should have led it to terminate SIB’s access to TD’s facilities, report the conduct of Stanford and others to the appropriate authorities, and/or freeze SIB’s accounts. The claim further alleges that TD is liable for providing knowing assistance in the breaches of duties and breaches of trust by Stanford and others.
(Check for commentary on CanLII Connects)
The most-consulted French-language decision was Boulad c. 21008805 Ontario inc., 2014 QCCS 1928
 Pour tout employé soucieux de progresser dans sa carrière, l’identité et la réputation de l’employeur peuvent revêtir une grande importance. Du choix de se joindre à une entreprise plutôt qu’à une autre pourra dépendre qualité et environnement de travail, conditions salariales et avantages sociaux, possibilités d’avancement, responsabilités, opportunités internationales, prestige, etc. D’ailleurs, nombreuses sont les sociétés qui investissent des ressources importantes dans des activités de recrutement où elles voudront se montrer sous leur meilleur jour. L’identité de l’employeur, aspect peut-être moins tangible que le salaire, s’inscrit néanmoins au cœur du contrat de travail, en devient une condition essentielle.
(Check for commentary on CanLII Connects)
* As of January 2014 we measure the total amount of time spent on the pages rather than simply the number of hits; as well, a case once mentioned won’t appear again for three months
As I write this, the holiday season is almost upon us and I’m just returning from a lunchtime trip to the local shops. It’s not necessary to be terribly observant to see that customers and store clerks are beginning to lose their patience, drivers are behaving more aggressively (especially in parking lots!), and a general feeling of anxiety is descending upon the populace.
Sometimes I think the expression “holiday season” is a misnomer. For many of us it’s a time when we’re pulled in multiple directions simultaneously. Social obligations, family obligations and end-of-year deadlines coupled with long days, late nights, lack of exercise and over-indulgence can all wreak havoc on our bodies and minds. And when (if) it becomes possible to get away from the office for a few days, we feel obligated to check in with our smartphones, tablets and laptops (a.k.a. “e-leashes”) every few minutes. Then there are the bills…
Does that sound familiar? Does it sound like a holiday? To me, it sounds more like a recipe for stress-induced disaster. And far too often, for too many in the legal professions, that’s exactly what happens.
As the Law Society of Upper Canada’s liaison with Ontario’s Member Assistance Program (MAP) and a member of the board of the CBA Wellness Forum, it concerns me deeply that all too often our members are reluctant to seek help when these types of pressures start piling up. Perhaps it’s the insidious nature of stress. Perhaps it’s a fear that someone will find out we’re not perfect. Perhaps it’s a feeling that there are no options, other than to try to “tough it out” alone.
I am so proud of the work that The Canadian Bar Association has done. They have partnered with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada to create an online educational course, entitled Mental Health and Wellness in the Legal Profession. It is brilliant!
The curriculum provides factual information about mental health and addiction issues, including their causes and symptoms. It also offers support and resources for prevention, treatment and maintaining wellness. To learn more about this program, please visit cba.org/wellness.
If you’re having trouble coping with these added seasonal pressures, or see a colleague folding under the pressure of life, please know this: we have options. In Ontario, for example, a Member Assistance Program (MAP) is available to lawyers, paralegals, law students, judges, and their families. Ontario’s MAP can be accessed online at. Elsewhere in Canada, use this link to find resources in your region: http://www.cba.org/wellness/programs/
Ontario’s MAP is a confidential, single sign-on service that offers access to a number of innovative online services. Members can find information, tools and resources on a number of topics including but not limited to psychological challenges, marital/relationship challenges, separation/divorce, stress, depression and anxiety. Members also have access to a comprehensive Health Risk Assessment, can take a number of self-directed e-Courses and download a wealth of wellness-related MP3s from the Health-e Multimedia Centre. To learn more about this program, please visit http://www.myassistplan.com
I encourage you to look for the Health Risk Assessment and take the brief quiz. Be honest: look at the areas where you don’t score well, and do a bit of soul-searching. And if you decide that you don’t like where you are right now, get in touch with your MAP directly. If you are not in Ontario, use this link to find resources in your region: http://www.cba.org/wellness/programs/
Your confidentiality is guaranteed through an individual’s right to privacy protection and enforced within the limits of the law. No personal identifying information whatsoever is disclosed.
Please, don’t suffer alone. Take the first step in putting the word “holiday” back into the holiday season.
— Terry Knott
If you’re about to tackle a complex matter or task in an unfamiliar area, how should you prioritize your first steps? New research shows that you’ll be off to a better start if you focus on learning rather than results. This is especially true if the matter context is unpredictable or dynamic.
I interviewed Dr. Meredith Woodwark – whose research uncovered these findings – to learn more. Woodwark teaches organizational behavior and leadership at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University. Her research focuses on motivation, learning goals and employee engagement.
Q. How is your research relevant to lawyers?
Lawyers are under constant pressure to perform by producing results. Like other professionals, they also need to continually learn and adapt in order to keep performing over time on highly complex, dynamic tasks.
In this environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of continual learning and instead focus solely on performance outcomes. My research shows that when people retain a strong focus on learning they actually perform better on complex tasks than when they just focus on getting the work done to meet external objectives.
“Outcomes are better if individuals focus on the learning process rather than the end goal. Counterintuitive but true!”
For instance, a lawyer tackling a new issue or area of law that he/she has not yet mastered could improve the quality of the task outcome by one-third by focusing on learning how to complete the work to its best result, rather than only on achieving the best performance.
Q. Is this a more efficient way of performing in the long run?
Focusing on learning upfront tends to require more time initially, but it sets you up to be more effective at the task in the long run.
Q. How does this affect individual motivation and engagement with one’s work?
There isn’t a lot of research in this area yet, but we do know that people who set learning goals tend to be more committed to those goals than those who set performance goals. Learning goals have been shown to benefit entrepreneurial performance, for example. Also, some research suggests that people with learning goals have higher self-efficacy and satisfaction than those with performance goals.
Q. How does this challenge the way law firms traditionally set performance goals?
Professional environments are particularly apt to emphasize performance goals – such as billable hours and business development- at the expense of learning or process goals that will support success on complex tasks over time.
If performance goals dominate firm culture, people will simply ignore any encouragement to focus on learning outcomes as well. This diminishes performance over time because we need to keep learning in order to adapt to changes in firm and industry contexts.
Professional environments that seek to support long term performance – including the ability to effectively adapt to change – should overemphasize learning goals compared to performance goals to produce the best results. This is opposite to what most firms currently do. Reversing the emphasis would also avoid the negative effects of goal overloading from simply adding on learning goals to existing performance goals.
Q. How could firms encourage better outcomes in both the skill-building and results-oriented performance arenas?
To send the message that learning truly matters to a firm, learning goals need to be specific and difficult to be taken seriously. Ensure that people clearly understand the level of skill and knowledge they are expected to acquire.
Keep it simple, though. Being asked to focus on too many difficult goals at once leads to lower performance on complex tasks; people become overwhelmed and struggle to prioritize what they should be working on.
In complex, dynamic work, I recommend lawyers keep focused on learning first and foremost because it leads to the best long-term performance.
Lawyers who need to learn new work processes – legal project management or technology, for example – to adapt to a changing market can become frustrated if the rewards of doing so are unclear or mismatched to the risks involved.
The next phase of Dr. Woodwark’s research will focus on how organizational training and reward systems interrelate with objectives to support top performance, including how to get more people to buy-in to the importance of setting learning goals.
Were you wondering if the legal profession was still utterly abysmal on diversity issues? Wonder no more, because the Ninth Annual Survey by the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) makes clear that we still are, at least as far as BigLaw is concerned. NAWL asked the 200 largest firms to provide diversity metrics. 73 firms did so, and the results are basically awful.
Women have crept up to a whopping 18% of equity partners at big firms. Lest you trot out the “hey, but the pipeline of qualified women is much smaller!” line, the report reminds you that women and men have been graduating in roughly equal numbers for almost 25 years. That pipeline is built.
Women are also paid less, under-represented on governance committees, and work more hours than men, but somehow generate less billable hours in that time. Oh – and of all the firms surveyed, not one of them reported that a woman was the highest-paid individual at the firm.
It is worse for lawyers of color, who comprise 8% of all equity partners and firms, and LGBT lawyers, who clock in at a depressingly low 2%.
Things are slightly less grim for in-house counsel jobs, where women hold 23% of the positions, and academia, where women hold 37.5% of tenured positions, but now we’re just grasping at straws to make ourselves feel better.
Featured image: “One woman under many men” from Shutterstock.
What More Do We Need to Say About Law’s Diversity Problem? was originally published on Lawyerist.
How to record and edit screencasts in Linux | Opensource.com http://opensource.com/business/15/11/how-record-screencasts
As part of an open development method, code quality is king. You should be asking key questions every time you write code:
Every question asked benefits not only you, but your team. When you write code in a such a way that another developer half a world away can sit down and start working on it immediately, without needing to ask any questions, you’re helping improve your team’s efficiency. Likewise, when you ensure your code is testable, you drastically cut down on the number of roadblocks your team may encounter. With modularity, you present code to your team that is both easily maintained and potentially recyclable for another project. And finally, economical code can save everyone—from your team and future contributors, to clients and end-users—both time and money.
Beyond code quality, other tents of the open development method include documentation, testing, discussions, transparency, asynchronicity, and democracy. This short article helps remind us that there isn’t a one size fits all model of development out there and we need to be mindful of the context that we work in.
What does an innovative law firm look like? According to Peter Carayiannis, whose firm, Conduit Law, has been twice nominated for an innovative law-firm award, it’s less about technology and more about clients. And you know what, it’s not your fault that you can’t encrypt your email. Stop trying and just use a secure portal.Email Encryption is Practically Impossible
The study gave 10 pairs of people up to 45 minutes to encrypt, send, decrypt, and read a message via Mailvelope[, software that is supposed to make email encryption easy]. Only one subject pair was able to complete the task, and it took them the full 45 minutes; in addition, this pair had some previous familiarity with PGP encryption, unlike the rest of the subjects. In other words: The software was nearly impossible for a novice to use.
In other other words, email encryption is impractical. Even the experts get it wrong, and there’s no chance the ethics rules require you to be an high-level security expert just so you can communicate with your clients. Besides, those people screw it up, too.
But you’re not off the hook entirely when it comes to encryption. Encrypting your hard drive and your Internet connection are trivially easy. You still need to do that. Just use a secure portal for confidential communication instead of email.What An Innovative Law Firm Really Looks Like
When the word innovation is used in relation to law, it usually conjures up images of high-tech solutions to old-fashioned legal problems. But Conduit Law has been nominated twice for an innovation award, and you might be surprised at the technology it uses. That’s not to say technology is irrelevant. Conduit Law is powered by technology — it just doesn’t have anything to do with whiz-bang gadgets and artificial intelligence. The innovation is mostly in the business model, which is driven by what clients want and need.
Listen to the podcast to find out what that looks like.
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Episode #43: What An Innovative Law Firm Really Looks Like, with Peter Carayiannis was originally published on Lawyerist.
Here are excerpts from the most recent tips on SlawTips, the site that each week offers up useful advice, short and to the point, on technology, research and practice.
Research & Writing
Catchy Headlines and Openers
Just as blogs get more readers than e-mails, articles with catchy headlines and enticing openers are more likely to be looked at than, well, boring ones. Here is a post from LinkedIn that illustrates the point: …
There is no shortage of evangelism out there on the importance of the Internet as a platform for marketing law firms. I’ve certainly attempted to be a strong voice on this topic for well over a decade. …