The Friday Fillip: Town and Country

slaw - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 08:31


For the next while the Friday Fillip will be a chapter in a serialized crime novel, interrupted occasionally by a reference you might like to follow up. Both this chapter of the book and the whole story up to this point can be had as PDF files. You may also subscribe to have chapters delivered to you by email.


Chapter 7
Town and Country

“Potential for some shit, if you’ll pardon my French.” Ronnie Dabord smiled briefly at his tired joke.

The Dabords were the first of the French families to settle in the region some time late in the nineteenth century, following the railway and the work it provided. At least, that was the story they told themselves and others. Not much of a real French presence remained in Backton, however, beyond a dozen or so identifiably French surnames. No one spoke the language of Molière or of Fréchette at home. For a while, the Daniels had a practice of requiring school-taught French for conversation at the dinner table two nights a week but abandoned it when, Louise, their teenage daughter, after a plunge into internet genealogy, discovered that they were in fact of Polish ancestry and that their name was, appropriately, Polish.

Je m’en fous. Ma vie est déjà pleine de merde,” Dean Nabel replied, rocking his wheelchair back and forth to demonstrate the obvious. “A little more won’t make any difference.”

Dabord shuffled his feet, getting the idea but none of the words. “Yeah, whatever,” he said. Smartass. Nabel had always done this to him, putting a knife in here and there, showing him up every chance he got. It was as though Nabel were trying to saw bits of him off until he was as reduced psychologically as Nabel was physically.

And now it was time to retire the French joke. Another bit gone. Come to think of it, that’s what Nabel did for a living: he cut out bits from nature and sold them off. The thought pleased Dabord. It made Nabel seem more of a piece, more fixed somehow.

“So you’re not worried?”

Nabel shook his head and wheeled over to the window. They were in one of the operations sheds down in a played-out part of the gravel pit. From the window, all Dabord could see was grey dust, the dust that he and all of Backton had been breathing for more than a dozen years now. “I never worry,” said Nabel. “It’s a waste of energy. I plan.” He spun his chair around to look at Dabord. “Besides, I’ve got all the necessary legal documents. She can run around like a chicken all she wants but she won’t find so much as a single kernel of corn.”

Dabord felt himself relax. “I’m glad to hear it,” he said. The grey dust was in reality gold dust, so far as Backton was concerned: Nabel’s business employed almost a eighty townspeople. Any threat to that flow of money into the local economy would be serious indeed. Not that there would be much Dabord could do about it, perhaps. But he felt that as the chief of police he had a role to play as a town father, as someone whose job it was to look out for trouble and head it off if possible, and if not, then announce it at least. Community policing in the most generous sense.

As always, where Nabel was concerned, he found himself feeling a little foolish now their interchange was over. He’d had no clear reason to drive out to the gravel mine, just a vague impulse based on some equally vague uneasiness, well below the hunch level. “I’ll be off then,” he said. Nabel had already turned again to look out the dirty window and said nothing.


THE DAY WAS HOT, SO Rangel and Mitman had the motorhome office door propped open and the window flaps up. Rangel was using her cell phone while Mitman busied himself installing a modem and what he promised would be a decent approximation of a landline phone, even one with their old office number, if all went well.

Rangel was listening to the professional insurance guy wrap up his little speech of praise for her having been prompt in calling them; and then, to make her feel even better, he cited stats that showed that claims of incompetent representation almost never succeeded; finally, and most reassuring of all, he explained how they would provide legal advice and support for the few steps that Rangel would likely have to take. Nothing a lawyer likes more than professional legal advice.

“Well,” she said, turning off her phone and placing it squarely in the middle of her new, and empty, flat pack desk.

Mitman didn’t look up from his wiring. “Yes?” he asked.

“I think,” said Rangel, “I think — I’m saying this with my fingers crossed so as not to jinx it — it’s going to be okay. Or mostly okay.” She spun her phone on its back. “Or not as bad as I’d feared.”

“Told ya,” said Mitman, groaning a bit as he got off his knees. He said, “I almost forgot. Jeannie called from the cop shop. She’s on the job. Said it was the most exciting thing she’d had to do for three months.”

“You’re kidding.”

“She was, I suspect. But maybe not. I sure wouldn’t want to be at that desk of hers all day every day with nothing to do but get coffee for Ronnie.”

Rangel pulled her crumpled to-do list out of the waistband of her fancy black trousers. Why did they think women didn’t need pockets?

“Pens?” she said aloud.

“Drawer,” said Mitman, from somewhere more distant.

“Ah.” Indeed, in the centre of the desk was a drawer filled with neatly ordered implements, among which she found half a dozen Uni Jetstream pens, her favourites. She crossed off the errors and omissions item from the list and then tapped the pen against her teeth.

“Nice shoes,” Mitman called out from the front room, apropos of nothing.

Rangel smiled and shook her head. “Would my laptop get wifi now?” she called back.

“Could you dance in them? I take it from the way you’re dressed that that’s what you’re planning for later this afternoon.”

“And where is my laptop?”

“Good thing we got the lawyer sign up over the door, right? I mean I wouldn’t want people to think that the come-fuck-me pumps meant anything other than, you know, style.”

“Don’t you dare call these beauties hooker heels.”

“Let’s get some clients and practice law, what do you say?” Mitman appeared in the door with her laptop in hand.

“E and O tells me there’s a memo online from the court about appeals where there’s a claim of incompetent representation at trial. Procedure all laid out. Would you get that. And, yes, print it for me please. I know, I know. Just do it. Please. And while you do that, I’ll delve into land law. Did you get that sneaky reference? Delving? Means digging, as in ‘Adam delved and Eve span.’ And then land, as in land law.”

“Aren’t we a clever-clogs.”

“Jesus, do you realize how far I’d have to drive to get to some place where I actually could go dancing?” She looked down at her feet. “I could do it in these, though,” she said.




Chances are you live in, or in a suburb of, a big city — Toronto, Montreal, or Vancouver. There’s a slim to nil chance that you live in a “designated place.” Check it out:

Town and country and Canada

You know where you live, but those who want to make something of it can have a hard time, well, doing that. For some of us it’s easy: I live in the heart of Toronto; you live on the slopes of Mount Edith Cavell: really urban, really rural. But how do we make sense of all the inbetween places for us to live in this binary urban/rural world? And where exactly is the that dividing line anyway? 

Density is one way to organize things: how many of us are there for a given area. As a whole, we’re not very dense at all (nothing to do with the “wisdom of crowds,” note). Canada boasts a mere 3.5 persons per square kilometre. By contrast, Netherlands has a density of 498 persons per sq. km. Interestingly, that’s just about the cut-off point for Statistics Canada’s urban/rural divide. If a place has a population density of 400 or more person per sq. km. (and more than 1,000 people), it’s urban — or, to use the current term, a “population centre.” 

It’ll be no surprise to learn that we’ve been steadily urbanizing for the last 150 years. In 1851 87% of us were rural; in 2011 that number is down to 19%. Mind you, that doesn’t mean we’re all living in Toronto (okay: or in Montreal or Vancouver). “Population centres” have been graded like T-shirts into small (1,000 – 29,999), medium (30,000 – 99,999), and large (100,000 or more). Even so, as of 2006 a whopping 59% of Canadians live in “large urban population centres.” 

If you’d like to see where your burgh fits in the population scheme of things, here’s a list of the top 100 population centres, demonstrating beautifully the power law, as we go from the big “head” of 5+ million for Toronto (area, remember, not jurisdiction) rapidly down to a lovely long tail of places in the 30s and 20s. Should you not find yourself in the list, you could start at the other end of the spectrum with what, delightfully, I think, are called “designated places” — rural locations that exist in some nominal or formal way but that don’t really rock a statistician’s world. This, by the way, is where you’ll see the need for two measures, density and total population, that go into making the rural/urban categories: Swan City Trailer Court, Alberta, has a population density per square kilometre of 3,822.8 — ten times the density of Netherlands and a hundred times denser than Canada as a whole — caused, however, by a mere 137 residents folded into 0.08 sq. km.

THE MAN WAS WAITING BESIDE the windbreak of old cedars on the west side of the Benson farm. The ditch was deep here, headed towards a culvert fifty yards off where a dirt access road bridged the gap and led into a field of stubble. He stood on the field side of the ditch, just in among the first row of trees. The man was smoking. Half a dozen butts lay at his feet and as he dropped another and stepped on it he sighed. Giving a restless roll of his shoulders, he peered up and down the highway and then bent to retrieve the evidence of his habit. Holding the butts and some dirt on his palm he looked around again, perhaps seeking a garbage can. With a slight shake of his head, as if to say what a mess the countryside was, he closed his hand and thrust it into the pocket of his suit jacket, where he dropped the butts and dirt. He wiped his hand against the inside of the pocket before he withdrew it.

He’d thought about it. You had to think these things through, even here in the boondocks. Take threads, for example. Pull on them and the whole garment comes undone. No, you had to snip them. Thing was, though, the scissors you used led back to the hand that worked them and then to the body of the . . . tailor. So the cut had to be clean, no jagged ends, no fraying. Or the scissors in their turn would get destroyed. Busted up and scrapped. He rolled his shoulders again. It was warm even out of the sun and in this suit jacket . . .

A loaded dump truck roared by, its offside wheels on the shoulder spinning up a high rooster tail of fine sand and dirt. He held his breath, took off his jacket, folded it inside out, and than as the dust settled looked around for a place to hang it. He shook his head, disgusted — trees — and then gave the jacket a couple of flaps to get the dust off and shrugged it back on.

He lit another cigarette. Two draws later, a grey Toyota Tercel came banging down the highway from the direction the truck had gone. What a crap car, he thought. Had to be twenty years old. It pulled up across the highway from him, alongside a Hoegemeyer Hybrids sign. Eldon Jevvers eventually opened the door, got out, and stood there, squinting against the sun. The man waited. Did the idiot think he was going to come running to him? He resisted the impulse to wave or shout at Jevvers. Let the fool figure it out.

Eventually, Jevvers crossed the highway and hopped over the ditch to where the man stood waiting among the cedars. The man took one last puff on his cigarette, and without thinking snapped the still burning butt away in the direction of the road. “Well?” he said.

“Did it,” said Jevvers, breathlessly. Somehow this new guy wasn’t as . . . frightening as . . . the man he’d already wiped from his mind. But still.

The man nodded, not so much in approval as in acknowledgment of what was expected. He pulled a small black rectangular box from the jacket pocket that didn’t contain his smoking waste. He unwound the cable for the earbuds and left them dangling. “Channel three?” he said.

“I guess,” said Jevvers.

The man’s head snapped up. “You guess?” he said.

Jevvers trembled. “No, no, I mean yes, channel three, like you said. I couldn’t test it, though. I didn’t have — ” He gestured at the device.

The man fiddled with the touch screen and then fished up an earbud, working it into his ear. He listened intently for a while. Then he nodded.

“The phone too?”

“Jeez,” said Jevvers, relieved now but still unable to keep a whine out of his voice, “it was one of those, you know, old . . . phones.” The man gave him a dead stare. “But I did what you said,” Jevvers added hastily. “I wouldn’t have figured that you could, you know, unscrew the mouthpiece that way. You really have this thing figured out, hey?”

The man tapped the screen of the device and again held an earbud up to his ear. There was no sound because she wasn’t using the phone, of course. But he heard no static or other indication that the connection wouldn’t work when she did.

The man carefully wound up the cables and put the device back in his pocket. “Give me your keys,” he said, holding out his hand. Jevvers looked up, surprised. “I’m going back to my car and if you think I’m letting you drive me you’re full of shit,” the man said.

Jevvers had a hard time getting his keychain out of his jeans.


© Simon Fodden

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Exploring the #LSBencher Twitter Stats

slaw - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 08:16

Those actively following or engaging with bencher election activities on Twitter will recognize this hashtag. It’s been pretty exciting to watch and be a part of. In the past week (April 10th-16th), 158 different contributors issued nearly 600 tweets and retweets with the #LSBencher hashtag. These tweets reached an estimated 266,000 people and appeared in user timelines an estimated 620,000 times. That’s huge!! Right?

Well, not necessarily.

Nearly 100 of the tweets came from three people.

Nearly one-third of the timeline views are attributable to three people, and nearly one-half are attributable to 6 people.


Moreover, and independent of the hyperactive participation from a few folks (mea culpa), the big timeline view numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. Numbers may vary, but I have reason to believe that the actual number of impressions are closer to 20% of what’s show in the first visual. Twitter offers users access to personal analytics of impressions and engagements. Here’s a typical example from my results.

So a more accurate guess of the #LSBencher reach over the past week is 54,000 people and 124,000 views. Still great, but we need to trim this back a little further to account for people who saw these tweets and are not eligible to vote in the LSUC Bencher election. Again, numbers vary. For some Twitter users, a significant majority of followers may well be Ontario lawyers, while others (Michael Geist, for example) might attract a broader constituency. Twitter tells me that about 40% of my followers are in Ontario and about 50% have a demonstrated interest in law. That suggests we could reasonably trim the reach number by up to 80%, but let’s be a little more generous and assume that half the people that see the #LSBencher tweets are eligible voters.

So we have potentially caused 27,000 people to see the tweets with the #LSBencher hashtag 62,000 times. It’s unlikely that the exposure was evenly distributed. Applying the 80/20 rule (20% of the people seeing 80% of the tweets) would leave us with 5400 people informed by about 50,000 tweets.

That’s still pretty good. It’s certainly enough to inform a good number of voters. Moreover, none of the above takes into account tweets under the #younglawyerswantin hashtag promoted by candidate Renatta Austin, or election specific tweets with other or even no hashtags.

A final (and self-congratulatory, sorry) piece of good news, is that 20 candidates have had their twitter handles mentioned in at least 10 #LSBencher tweets issued by someone other than themselves – an encouraging sign of broader community engagement.

It is far too early to tell if Twitter engagement will make a difference at the ballot box in this campaign, but it’s safe to say it’s already achieved relevance.

Voting closes April 30th. There are plenty of ways to learn about the candidates and the issues. The #LSBencher hashtag is a good place to start.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Email and Accounting: Two Features that Distinguish Some Practice Management Software

The Lawyerist - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:16

When it comes to practice management software, there are two features in particular that distinguish some options from others.


First, email. While older practice management software like Time Matters includes email, it is clunky. Once you’ve gotten used to Outlook or Gmail, it’s pretty hard to put up with something like that. That is probably why most cloud-based practice management software doesn’t include an email client. Most let you associate emails with contacts and matters, but you have to use an Outlook plugin or a Chrome extension to do it. You don’t have to use a clunky email client in your software, but it’s just clunky in a different way.

Some cloud-based practice management software, like MerusCase and apparently the brand-new Zola, do include an email client. And there are probably plenty of lawyers who don’t mind if it isn’t as slick as Outlook or Gmail because it’s so convenient to have it integrated into their practice management software. Which isn’t to say that MerusCase and Zola (which I haven’t even seen yet) aren’t good for email. It’s just that it’s pretty hard to compete with the industry standard. I mean, Clio has a great calendar. It’s not quite as good as Google Calendar, in my opinion, but nobody should complain about it (and anyway it syncs with Google Calendar so you can keep on using it if you want to; maybe that’s why MerusCase lets you keep on using your preferred email client if you want to).


The second distinguishing feature is full double-entry accounting. The most popular cloud-based practice management software options include lightweight bookkeeping that’s fine for many small practices. For firms with more sophisticated needs, they integrate with Xero or QuickBooks. MerusCase and CosmoLex, on the other hand, include double-entry accounting, including specialized trust accounting. They are obviously targeting lawyers who really want the all-in-one package. As with email, Xero and QuickBooks are definitely more full-featured, but MerusCase and CosmoLex will get the job done and keep your accountant happy. Plus you don’t need to juggle two different products.

I don’t think fuller-featured practice management software is automatically better, or that software with less robust email and accounting is automatically worse. Cloud software started out as simpler software initially and there are some good reasons to prefer simpler software (I do, as a general rule). But now that everyone is moving to the cloud, there is also a need for software for law firms that want all the bells and whistles in one place. Last year at TECHSHOW, there wasn’t a good cloud-based option for those firms. Now, finally, there are several.

Email and Accounting: Two Features that Distinguish Some Practice Management Software was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

My Twitter Digest for 04/15/2015

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 14:30
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

An Ounce of Prevention on Law Day

slaw - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 12:24

Prevention is better than cure, health professionals like to remind us. But what’s true for your physical well-being is arguably just as true for your emotional and financial health. That’s why it’s so important for people to recognize potential legal problems before they spin out of control and take over their lives.

As part of the events surrounding Law Day, which commemorates the signing of the Canadian Charter 33 years ago, the CBA has released six new legal health checks, in addition to an earlier six cards released last year. The goal is to get people to give greater consideration to common legal problems – such as those arising from family breakups, for example – and help prevent them before they arise, but also to help build resilience to future or recurring legal problems.

The cards also include legal health checks for small businesses thinking of hiring employees and a series of questions for people to ask themselves before preparing a will.

The initiative grew out of the CBA’s report Reaching Equal Justice , released in 2013. As the report remarked, preventing legal disputes has traditionally been part of a lawyer’s job – an aspect being undermined today by the growing access to justice crisis in this country.



Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Thursday Thinkpiece: Kimbro on Gamification for Law Firms

slaw - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 08:00

Each Thursday we present a significant excerpt, usually from a recently published book or journal article. In every case the proper permissions have been obtained. If you are a publisher who would like to participate in this feature, please let us know via the site’s contact form.

Gamification for Law Firms

Stephanie L. Kimbro, Fellow at Stanford Law School Center on the Legal Profession and author of Virtual Law Practice: How to Deliver Legal Services Online (2nd Ed. ABA 2015).

Working paper published on March 13, 2015 and available on SSRN

Excerpt: Introduction and Part II

[Footnotes omitted. They can be found in the original via the link above]


Gamification is the use of game mechanics merged with behavioral analytics in a nongame setting. Gamification is used to improve production and performance in the workplace by engaging the user to behave in a way that is aligned with the goals of the business. Gamification occurs when you take a process, such as entering billable hours into the firm’s software or filing out an online client intake form, and add game elements to that process to motivate the firm members to complete the tasks in a more desired way. Gamification strategies have been used in businesses with differing levels of sophistication for issues including customer relationship management, training, market research, business intelligence, and education. Professions, including the medical and health care profession, are also now turning to gamification to increase engagement in a number of workplace processes for both their members and the clients they serve.

Several years ago, gamification made its way into the workflow of companies. A report by Gartner Inc., an international IT research and advisory company, showed 70% of Global 2000 organizations would have at least one application that was gamified and predicted that by 2015 25% of workplace processes that have been redesigned with have some form of gamification designed into them. The market for gamification is expected to grow to over $2.8 billion by 2016. In the workplace, the number of employees who grew up as a generation of digital natives is increasing. These employees are used to receiving real-time feedback and online communication. They are also used to more engaging methods of communication, most of which already incorporate game mechanics.

Why is the use of gamification increasing? More of our workplace productivity has become automated. Human and technology interaction are commonplace and workers are spending more time communicating online with technology than they are meeting and working with people face to face. This creates a work environment that is less human-centered. Employees are not engaged with their work and have no psychological connection to the company. This makes it more challenging to build a company culture that fosters collaboration and human communication and interaction – factors that are often essential to innovation. Even increasing the productivity of a business becomes more challenging when the work becomes more rote and is less human centered. Gamification can help increase productivity and communication and collaboration among members of a company. Carefully designed gamification projects that tap into intrinsic motivation can align the individual interests of the employees with the business goals of the company.

Law firms are not immune to these changes in the workplace environment and face the same challenges to their growth and success as businesses. As law firms evolve, they need to foster a positive organizational culture and encourage associate individual growth and morale. Without injecting challenges into the daily operations of a law firm, it is difficult to create and maintain the right balance of work and socialization that motivates employees to continue to grow as individuals and to seek out innovation in their work for the benefit of the law firm and its clients. When corporations focus on building this form of workplace cultural, it often shows up in the form of “team building” or corporate events. Law firms often attempt the same thing with law firm charity events or law firm nights at a sporting event or annual parties. However, what really motivates the members of a workplace to feel a part of the law firm culture and to bring their best to the organization can’t be created in single events or one-time incentives. The motivation needs to be insinuated into the daily workflow of the law firm’s business. This is where gamification has been injected in the workplace of other companies for the best impact.

Law firms face similar problems as traditional companies when it comes to employee motivation and building a law firm culture that fosters innovation. The law firm organizational culture is largely built upon the reputation of the law firm with its clients and the public. Associates know which firms require x number of billable hours per week to survive on the partnership track. They also know which firms are family-friendly and provide more flexible hours and time away from the office. While these different law firm “personalities” may be a source of bragging rights for some associates, alone, they do little to ensure the growth of the law firm in the long run. This is especially the case as larger numbers of lawyers who are in partnership and mentorship positions in their firms now move steadily toward retirement. Most law firms lack innovative thinking and tend to follow the traditional law firm hierarchy in terms of training, mentorship, and production of work. Therefore, many law firms are looking at losing not only the mentors for younger lawyers but also losing the traditions and culture of the firm. Clinging to these traditional organizational cultures and relying on annual events and one-time incentives that are pay-based may not be the best long-term strategy for the growth of a law firm, especially as the legal marketplace continues to change rapidly and competition increases to retain the top associates.

New law firm associates may not be interested in the traditional partnership track and therefore, existing pay-based work incentives do not appeal to them. Partners who have worked at the firm since they graduated from law school may not be open to learning new technology to work with clients even if there is evidence these tools will increase law firm efficiency. Similar to a company that deals with balancing shifting values in its employees and long-term growth strategies, law firms have various cultural and social issues to address in order to maintain the firm’s growth projectory. Law firms may benefit from the use of gamification methods to create a coherent law firm culture and to increase cooperation, mentorship, and collaboration among law firm members.

Why should law firms care about increasing engagement through gamification? Members of a law firm are increasingly expecting to interact with the technology at work in the same way that they interact with it at home with their friends and family. When they communicate online in social applications, the user interface and user design (UI & UX) of the application facilitates the interaction and makes it more enjoyable. Law firm members expect technology systems to be well-designed if they are going to be expected to be their most productive. Second, the new wave of law firm members have grown up playing games and working with technology applications that are gamified outside of the workplace. They already know how to communicate and collaborate using these systems and are most engaged when using interfaces with game mechanics. In fact it’s not only millennials who are used to gaming. The average game player is 31 years old and 48% of gamers are women. Law firms that can grow to adapt to the changing workplace method of its members will succeed at engaging and retaining them in the long-run.

In many firms, a generation gap exists between the firm’s partners and its associates. Games can be used not only to motivate desired behaviors for increased productivity, but it may also be used to bridge the generational gap by incorporating friendly competition, positive peer pressure, and an added measure of accountability. Keeping new law firm associates who are digital natives engaged in the daily work of a traditional law firm is a serious challenge for law firms that have not made efforts to learn how to communicate and engage with them at their level. Gamification can be used to foster collaboration among generations in the law firm or to simply help associates of a younger generation stay engaged in the work of the firm.

Even if a law firm were not motivated to explore gamification for the benefit of increasing productivity and retention of law firm associates, the make-up of the law firm’s client base is changing as well. Law firms cannot ignore the desire of consumers today to access their legal services online. Even if a law firm works primarily with corporate and business clients or in-house counsel and GC of companies, these clients are also increasingly looking at their law firms to use technology to make legal services more cost-effective and to find ways to unbundle legal services with alternative fee arrangements. Elements of gamification may be added to processes that would help the firm deliver legal services to different types of clients in the way that the client prefers, giving the firm a competitive edge.

This paper will look at the ways that other companies, including a handful of innovative law firms, are using gamification and how these techniques may be applied by law firms for similar purposes. The methods of gamification will differ vastly based on the make-up of the law firm and the goals that the law firm has for increasing engagement. Accordingly, this paper will provide the basics for understanding how gamification and game design could be applied to the internal processes of a law firm and provide some sample applications and a basic guide for moving forward with gamification. Some of the objectives for the use of gamification in law firms that will be considered in this paper will include:

  1. Increased associate retention rates,
  2. Efficient and effective training of new technologies and processes, including methods to improve associate recording of billable hours,
  3. Human resources productivity, such as onboarding new associates, training new hires, collecting associate reviews, etc.,
  4. Increased communication between members of the firm,
  5. Encourage inter-generational mentorship,
  6. Increased participation in pro bono activities,
  7. Desired use of firm resources, such as training and education,
  8. Encouragement for individual law firm members to innovate for the benefit of the firm.
Part II

Starting the Development Process

The above sections explained the basic science of gamification and detailed the various methods that may be used to maximize the benefits of the psychology behind the use of game mechanics. The following section will specifically lay out a process for a law firm to implement gamification to address one or more issues in the firm. The law firm should develop a team of two or three individuals who will be the primary developers of the gamification strategy. These individuals should be members of the firm that are skilled at listening and whom others will easily work with and open up to when talking one on one. They will also need to have the leadership skills to coordinate and get cooperation from a number of different individuals in the firm from partners to entry level associates and paralegals. If the law firm knows ahead of time that the implementation of a gamification method will most likely include the law firm’s technology or knowledge management systems, then recruiting a member from this department with some technical knowledge may be helpful in both understanding the initial issues and behavior to change, analyzing feasible implementation methods in the firm’s technology and resources, and in setting up the final game mechanics within any existing system.

Many aspects of accomplishing these steps towards a gamification strategy include the use of design thinking and methodology.

A. What Issues Does the Firm Want to Address?

To help identify the issue or issues that the law firm would like to address, it’s important to first understand the goals of the law firm both in financial and reputational terms. Are the firm’s goals in line with the issue that the firm has chosen to address? Without the support of the business goals of the firm behind any gamification plan it will be difficult to get support for both funding to develop and the maintenance of any gamification method put into place.

It is also important to know what kind of law firm culture existing, including traditions, social behaviors of the members of the firm, whether the firm tends to be more conservative or innovative, and the basic demographics of the law firm that might create more than one law firm identity within the larger firm culture. Can members of the firm be flexible or are they more set in their ways and resistant to change? Does the firm have more of a culture of cooperation or competitiveness among the firm members? Whose behavior is involved in the potential issues that the firm wants to address and how might that behavior needs to be changed?

Understanding both the law firm culture and its business goals is a good starting point for the team to then go to the members of the firm and learning their daily routine. This is where the team that is developing the gamification plan needs to take on the role of an ethnographer. Conduct interviews of the firm members whose behavior might need to be changed. An informal interview may work better with certain law firm members who otherwise might feel pressured under the circumstances or who may not answer fully depending on their place in the law firm hierarchy. Questionnaires or surveys might also be a way of gathering this data in general, but it will not be as effective at identifying more specifically the issues to be addressed. Finding a neutral party within the law firm to handle this interview process might be a better method of gathering accurate data about the firm member’s daily routine and their thoughts around the issues the firm wants to examine.

Some tips for interviewing law firm members to tease out the issues include 1) asking questions that start with “how” or “why” and avoiding “yes” or “no” questions. Asking “why” helps you understand the motivation the member has in taking that task, 2) focusing on listening and not interrupting or interjecting responses, and 3) ask for stories that are related to the law firm and the potential issues. The results from these interviews should be well documented for the gamification team.

In addition to the interview process, the team may conduct nonintrusive observations of law firm members. Many law firm members would resent having their daily actions observed even for the purposes of identifying processes or efficiencies within the law firm. Employers at companies may always install software that records the websites and online habits of employees. However, for many law firm associates and partners, this form of employer spyware is not welcome and in this case might not yield the most useful data for understanding the workflow of the firm members. Instead, some of this data might already be gathered in the law firm’s technology as the firm members interact with it. For example, the firm might have a record of how often law firm associates are submitting their time sheets. The firm’s technology might record how often and to what extend the firm members are using features of the software. For example, if the HR Director of the law firm has a number of video tutorials and learning materials for the firm associates and new hires to use, how often are they making use of these materials and are they retaining the information in them sufficiently to pass a test or some other form of accountability for having completed them? Another way to gather the data to understand the process that a firm member goes through in a day, would be to have the firm member keep a daily journal that essential tells the story of their day. Ask them to write down their habits and routines. This is potential behavior that the team may design to modify through gamification. Even if the individual does not label this as a routine or habit, asking the firm member to keep a journal on multiple days may help to identify an action as a routine and gathering similar routines showing up in the journals of multiple firm members provides telling data for the gamification team to analyze.

Add to this diary recording process the actual physical path that this individual takes in the firm on a single day. For example, when the associate sits down in the break room, what are they sitting on, what do they see on the wall, what are they doing in this space, who and what do they interact with in that environment? When the associate sits at his or her desk, what is the main screen on the computer where they spend the bulk of their time? Is it in Word drafting? Is it on the firm’s matter management system or on the firm’s legal research tool? Are they spending the bulk of their time on the phone speaking with individuals or in conference calls? How often does another individual interrupt the environment of that law firm member and how does that occur? Break this daily path down from their physical interaction with items and spaces in the firm, what their reaction to is that item or environment and what the pinch points might be in their interaction with that item. What does the firm member need in that interaction and how do they feel about their interaction and what they want to accomplish? What do they see and hear and then what do they say and how do they act? The team must have a clear, empathetic understanding of the individuals in the firm in order to tease out the issues that may exist that the members of the firm themselves would not have otherwise been able to notice without that level of empathy and understanding for individual members.

Gathering this data will give the team a full picture of any issues that the law firm may wish to address through gamification methods. The next step in this process of defining the issues includes identifying all of the individuals, the stakeholders, in the law firm that are involved in the issue(s) to be addressed. Start with one law firm member or department and then add the other members whose interacts affect that initial group. These are the individuals who will be asked to buy into any gamification strategy. Mapping this out in a mind map of interested parties can often be useful for seeing the larger picture of how individual firm member’s actions on a daily and weekly basis may interact with each other. Working from the starting point of a single individual in the firm, map out how these other parties group themselves together and how they interact within those groups. Do they collaborate or are their often disagreements in the dynamic? Who do they answer to and what are the relationship among all the parties in the group?

After conducting this research, the gamification team can narrow down to identify the issue(s) the firm wants to address.

1. What is the gamification goal and issue that needs to be worked through that is align with the law firm’s business goals that the firm wants to address? Examples might include: associates failing to record accurate billable hours in the firm’s billing software, a lack of collaboration and communication between partners and younger associates, associates spending an excess of time using a specific software program or failing to use the firm’s desired data entry methods, or fewer recorded pro bono hours than the firm’s desired output.

2. What is the specific behavior that is involved and who are the individuals taking this behavior? This also begs the question of who would be impacted by the behavior as it is done now and with the desired behavior. How can each person who is engaged in the behavior or would be affected by it benefit from this change in behavior? Ask again if the behavior involved is in line with the firm’s business goals and would it still be and how so if changed?

3. What environment will this behavior change occur? Examples might include within a practice management or other technology solution the firm uses, physically within a room or space in the law firm, online or offline, in-person or remotely, between law firm members of which groups and relationships. Are there any rules or limitations in the environments that would impact the desired behavior change?

4. Given the above three steps to narrow down the issue(s), what is the appropriate platform for any gamification method? For example, would it work best as a mobile application, imbedded within the law firm’s technology solution, as a paper-based or board game, or a physical game that takes place in different environments in the firm?

B. Understanding the Players in the Firm

The interview process and data gathering described in the first part of the process will help the team to understand the individuals in the firm in terms of their daily activities and interactions. However, in order for a gamification method to work, the team has to design the game for the players as individuals, not necessarily as employees of the law firm. What does that mean? It means understanding what might motivate the players to modify their behavior and engage in the game. It’s not going to be possible to design a game that is ideal for each individual user because of how many different player types there might be within a single law firm. However, the team can gather together the basic demographics of the players, including gender, age, professional experience, education levels. Based on the user types discussed in early sections of this article, identify potential players as Killers, Achievers, Socializer, or Explorers. How many of one do you have more than the other? Are these players more individual or team oriented? What generation do they come from and how does that generation typically interact in firm settings? Did they grow up using the Internet and socializing online or are they uncomfortable with online sharing and untrustworthy of cloud-based interactions? What types of behaviors do these player typically exhibit in a social setting and in the professional setting? Gathering this information, the team can step back to identify the characteristics of the majority of the law firm members who would be playing the game. This allows the team to move forward to design a gamification strategy that will be most in sync with the individuals it most wants to engage.

C. Establishing a Gamification Strategy Focusing on the Principle Design Goals of the Project

The team has now identified the issues to be addressed and understands the players that will be involved. Going back to reaffirm the primary goal of the gamification project is important before beginning the build the strategy. What is the principle goal that the law firm has for this project not just in terms of a final deliverable, such as increased productivity and revenue, but in terms of how the gamification will impact the law firm members. For example, does the firm want to modify associate behavior, increase cooperation or foster competition, or does it want the firm members to learn some new skill while accomplishing a task? What is the overarching principle in terms of behavior change and action or inaction that will underlie the gamification strategy as it leads to the firm’s larger goal for the project. Then identify the more specific “raison d’etre” or the mission for the game itself. For example, 1) the design principle: fostering collaboration among associates while they improve their skills at using the firm’s matter management software and 2) the goal of the gamification project: associates will more consistency and correctly use the software which will decrease error and increase efficiency of law firm workflow and productivity. Again, check back to make sure that both the design principle and the mission for the project are in line with the law firm’s larger business goals. Is this mission for the game something that can be clearly stated, tracked and monitored and recorded so that results can be analyzed by the firm? Without the ability to clearly state this goal and to have a way to track its success, the gamification method has less of chance of getting full buy-in from the law firm’s partners and associates.

a. Case Study: Houthoff Buruma: Law Associate Recruiting

In 2010, one of the largest law firms in the Netherlands, Houthoff Buruma, created a “serious game” to attract law students from the top law schools. While traditional recruitment methods might uncover the smartest students with the highest grades, these methods are not the best at identifying creativity, problem solving skills, innovative thinking, resourcefulness, or social skills that a law firm might also want to foster within its walls. Houthoff Buruma worked with game design company, Ranj Serious Games, to create a game for recruitment purposes that was focused on corporate acquisition. Players are given the experience through gameplay of working within a legal practice. During a visit to the law firm, the law student players are given a challenging case legal to study within one and half hours. This case is built inside a multimedia setting that includes a laptop with document files, a paper file, and a desktop with a central computer hub for the project. During the timed game the students are bombarded with video chats, emails, social media, and news broadcasts. They have to respond to these and decide how to handle each character in the storyline. There are different paths that the game can take and time it is played will have a different outcome and way of getting to a solution.

The students are first placed into teams which are pitted against each other, spurring competition and teamwork. Each of the teams works for a Chinese state-owned company called, Chinese Mining and Marine, and assist in taking over a small company called, ‘t Hoen, a Dutch offshore company. The legal issue is that this small business owns IP rights to innovative technology that is critical for the Chinese company’s business success. Through the media in the game, including video interviews with the characters in the storyline, the teams find out more information about the case and the motives behind the parties involved. They are given timed tasks. The teams then use this information to create an acquisition strategy. One of the challenges that arises for the law student teams comes as more facts are revealed that must be solved in a limited amount of time. Analysis of these facts also requires that the students have some political insight into the surrounding circumstances of the acquisition aside from just the facts that are presented in the game. After the case is handled by each team in their own way, a plenary sessions is held where each team’s solution is compared and discussed before a winner is announced. The results of the game and the discussion afterwards where the students defend their solution to the matter, help the law firm understand how each student operates under stress and their individual skills at solving problems and defending their position in front of others. The law firm

D. Ideas for Games

Brainstorming is the next step in the process but it doesn’t happen until there is agreement on the general theme and game aesthetic keeping in mind the players and their nature. This process still involves broad thinking and the team needs to come to it with an open mind laying out all of the possible ideas no matter how crazy they sound on first mention. This is the no judging component to the process which may feel uncomfortable to lawyer unfamiliar with creative and design thinking. Details are not on the table at this point. Rest assured these ideas will be narrowed down in the next steps in the process as specific game mechanics and measurable goals are connected.

When brainstorming, the team may want to think back to game, both video and board based games that they are familiar with. Is there a metaphor that would work for the situation and with the players? Is there a clear storyline that could be created that would engage and encourage players to move through it? Thinking of existing games and imagining how they might be modified to meet the firms design principles and goals is a good starting point. What storyline or challenge would most engage the players based on their player type? What aesthetic would go best with that storyline? Would it be a fantasy world, a “legal” world environment, a game based in reality, real-time play, or a hybrid aesthetic?

E. Developing the game and how game mechanics will be used

Games need to be clearly defined so that the players know what the objectives are and when those objectives will end or reset. Depending on the goals of the firm, the game can last for a day, a week, a year or continue on indefinitely. The point is to design a game that focuses on engagement not only to initially get the player involved, but to maintain his or her interest throughout the course of the game. There are different ways to increase engagement by selecting different game mechanics and designing how they are laid out.

In the case where the game could go on indefinitely, this might serve as a recurring form of motivation for firm members to play. Here the objectives of the game would still track specific measurable goals with “ends” leading to another goals. These goals might be reinforced with new levels and challenges or with new rewards that could be obtained by the player. This tactic allows the game to “reset” so that if the game is score-based, such as a leaderboard, the players end up or stay at the lower end of the scale do not become discouraged. This also encourages others who have not played the game before to enter in at any level and to have the same chance to achieve among the others who have been playing for a while.

Another method of increasing engagement through game design would be in focusing on creating a storyline and the arch of that story through game mechanics. To example how this concept works, generally speaking, with most good movies or books of fiction, there is an accumulation of tensions, events, or conflicts that grab the attention of the audience from the beginning. These build through the storyline until the final culmination of events that brings that dramatic conflict or issue to a tipping point. Immediately following is a resolution of that conflict which brings a feeling of calm to the audience. This rollercoaster ride of emotion is the reason why the audience, hopefully, finds the movie or book worthwhile. They become engaged in the work early on through the hook of the interesting plot in the storyline and then there are touch-points of emotional highs that progress throughout and carry the audience through until the final resolution and resulting emotional release or reward for the audience. How could this be used to design a game for a law firm?

Think of the process or the technology platform that the firm might want to gamify as having a storyline. First, the team should look at the frequency with which the player is interacting with the process or platform that the firm may want to gamify. In order for this model to work, the player needs to have some relative frequency of interacting with that platform so that they will stay tuned into the game. Game mechanics are added to build the roller coaster of a storyline that will lay out the objective of the game, the actions to take and what the results of those actions will be.

F. Game Design Elements Described as Layers

Game designer and researcher Sebastian Deterding and others in the field have laid out five different layers of game design. This is another way to looking at a gamification project and may help a design team break out the different components that need to each be addressed separately.

1. The interface of the game: This might be a leaderboard, badges in a profile, or the levels of the game. These will be more easily recognizable to the player as a typical implementation of a design component. For example, most people recognize leaderboards and understand how they represent players by points earned.

2. The game mechanics or patterns of play: This would be the number of turns, limiting resources, or a time constraint placed on an activity that involves some aspect of the gameplay. For example, the players will know that they have x number of turns per day or x number of points that may be earned per the listed activity.

3. Design principles of the game: These are the goals of the game and might look like guidelines provided to analyze a problem and find a solution. This sets up the continuing play and provides for a variety of game styles. For example, this would be would the law firm wants to get out of their members playing the game which might be some form of behavior change.

4. Models: This is the actual concept of the game or game experience which might embody a challenge or spur curiosity. For example, the law firm might create a storyline that walks a new associate through a fictional legal case with a more experienced member of the firm to build collaboration and mentoring skills among firm members. The storyline and the fictional world that is created for it are part of that game model.

5. Design methods: This includes playtesting, playcentric design and other forms of game design practices.

G. Finding the right game mechanics

Based on the profile of the primary gamer for this project, the team can select from a number of potential game mechanics that might engage the players. These game mechanics will most often be combined into a game to make a cohesive game design. For example, a progression bar might be used to indicate where the player is in the desired behavior but it would be used with achievements and punishment mechanics such as giving a score for positive behaviors and loosing points on the score for the undesired behaviors.

Examples of game mechanics include:

  • Achievements, such as badges, certificates, rewards, awards, raw scores
  • Social mechanics, such as comments, ratings, review, followers
  • Disincentives, such as losing points for behavior that the firm wants to discourage
  • Progress bars to indicate progression through a process or task
  • Programming rewards such as giving a specifically named reward for a desired action when it is taken within a specific amount of time
  • Countdowns
  • Lotteries
  • Productivity, such as adding elements into a work process that would make the players happy to be playing a game because it means they are being productive at the same time
  • Modifiers, such as making it so that accomplishing one task will add points to the next task or multiple the score
  • Adding significance to the accomplishment of the task so that the player feels the result is important

These game mechanics are paired with motivators that the players might think were fun. This is the hook to engage them in the game. Again, the motivators that would work best for the firm’s players are going to differ, but the team should try to identify what the key motivation would be for the majority of the player type it is working with. More than one of these motivators might be combined in a single game. Examples of motivators include:

  • Collecting (this could apply to the collecting of objects or points or the collecting of information or knowledge about something)
  • Creating custom worlds or environments
  • Exploring new worlds or environments
  • Exploring or experiencing beauty or art
  • Socially interacting with others (sharing or trading gifts or giving and receiving feedback)
  • Feeling accomplished after completing something
  • Random discoveries
  • Organizing or creating order out of a mess (like working a puzzle)
  • Role playing (pretending to be someone else as a character)
  • Becoming the king of the hill or the center of attention
  • Fantasy exploration
  • Being involved in a mystery
  • Relaxation or mindfulness
  • Learning a new skill
  • Competing with others
  • Bettering society
  • Self-improvement or doing things for one’s family
  • Taking care or helping others
  • Laughing or engaging in the absurd
  • Being scared

After determining the game mechanics that would be used and pairing them with the motivators of the primary players, the team should look at any scoring that is involved in the game. This is as important as clarifying the objectives and rules of the game from the beginning because the players need to know that the score is recorded fairly. This also takes into consideration the process of what happens when a reward is given or when the player loses. In most gamification scenarios where the team wants to see continued use of the game, more attention should be paid to the fairness of the scoring process. It is less likely that loosing is going to be emphasized without some method of reengaging the player in the game. Instead, a system of scoring that has points which are rewarded at selected intervals and a system of punishments where the scores and lowered for the “failure” of the player rather than “game over” occurring. As discussed in the first section regarding the psychology behind games, it is important that the rewards are not interfering in the intrinsic motivation of the player. The game will be more effective if the player is primarily motivated by one of the items listed above than by the promise of receiving some reward. For example, making the accomplishment of a task rewarded with a substantial monetary reward may actually not make it as desirable as rewarding the accomplishment with a smaller monetary award but a larger intrinsic award such as the player’s desire for acknowledgement of his or her work in the firm.

a. Case Study: Gamification of Knowledge Management: Accenture’s A3 Game

Accenture is a technology, outsourcing and management company that began a gamification project to pull together its more than 250,000 employees into a more collaborative culture. The company developed Addo Agnitio Award (A3) to reward communication and collaboration in the company by assigning a point system to tasks that employees could do that encourage collaboration with others in the company. The company was then able to analyze the behavior of users engaging in the gamification method to get insight into the impact that that employee was having on the company based on his or her activities and also to discover what motivations there were in the company for employees to collaborate with each other. The company discovered through this gamification that the key motivator for their employees was not to be on top of the company’s leaderboard or having the top score of points in the game. Instead, the primary motivation for playing was so that the company would give recognition to the employee’s individual contribution and impact that their activities had on the company as a whole. Not status, but recognition for work well done was the motivator. Accordingly, the company provides recognition through electronic cards with 100 recognition points which carry monetary value of $100, notes from management with thanks, international company emails with recognition sent out to colleagues, and badges on the player’s profiles. The points acquired during gamification also show up on the employees’ review process. The company was able to collect data showing that through the use of their gamification techniques they had increased engagement, but more importantly, then also have statistics that the activities they desired to change were happening. They had more than doubled their document repository activity and training completions among other activities deemed critical to the success of the company.

H. Testing

After a rough idea of a game has been created, the team should create prototypes of the game. These can initially be in the form of storyboarding or paper-based board games until the details of the game are fleshed out. Spending time and funds on building a game into a technology platform before running adequate testing and iteration of the design will result in a poor investment by the law firm. Therefore, starting with inexpensive paper-based prototypes and testing them early in the process and often is the best way to ensure that any final design has gone through various potential methods of use by the players and the kinks have been worked out. Volumetric modeling where the designers are actually building out models of the user interface are more costly and should be saved towards the end of the testing process. To provide an example of testing game mechanics in a law firm’s technology platform, the design team could create a board that looked like the dashboard of the platform. When the players in the real world took a desired action, they would add that action to the board, thus testing the game by playing it next to the actual platform to be gamified. To test out other concepts related to that platform, the design team could print out different pages, such as a leaderboard or badges or certificates and test the impact and observations of the players to those paper prototypes as a supplement to the actual platform. This is the process where the design team is getting the most feedback from the law firm players and will be able to gauge the buy-in from the players in the current prototype and what might need to be changed based on their interactions with it and the direct feedback. As with the initial interviewing of the players about their daily interactions with the system to be gamified, this is the time to find out from them if they feel that the scoring of the system is fair and whether the rewards and motivations that are involved are working for them. In other words, did they feel engaged and was it fun?

I. Monitoring and Metrics

After the team has designed and implemented the well-tested game mechanics into the process or platform at the law firm, firm members must be carefully on-boarded into the use of the system. If the design of the game, including the testing process was solid, the on-boarding method will be built into the design of the game and as the users develop expertise in using it, the game will progress. However, given the difference in the familiarity of some firm users from others (for example millennials might pick up the game almost naturally while others in the firm may take a few experiences to begin falling into a flow), there may be a learning curve before the firm sees results.

Therefore, it is critical to the success of the gamification to monitor the way that the game is used by the players from the beginning. This may change over time as the players in the firm become more familiar with the game mechanics. This is why having some method of measuring metrics is important to have built into the design. These metrics would look at the actions, motivations and level of engagement of the players. For example, to measure engagement of the game over time, the law firm would look at the average number of actions taken that involve the desired behavior, the number of players taking those actions and how often they return to do the same action and the level of satisfaction that the players provide as feedback on their enjoyment of the gamified platform. The law firm will want to record metrics such as if the productivity of the players increase, or if costs were reduced in the process of streamlining the workflow through the gamification process, and whether revenues increased due to the increase in the desired actions around the billing system.

In monitoring the use of the gamification method and the metrics that are recorded, it might appear that something in the game design did not work as fully expected. There are reasons that the design may not have met ROI expectations. These might include the fact that the gamification goals that were chosen were not in line with the law firm’s business goals after all. The game might not work with the law firm’s culture or maybe it only worked with a segment of the firm’s culture and it was not possible to adequately engage other segments of the firm. Messages between the firm’s players and the parties implementing the game may not have been clear so that the players were not clear about the expectations of the game or of their use of it and what any rewards or benefits might be for the individual versus the firm.

Lack of long term engagement might also be an issue as the players might start out really going strong with the method of gamification at the beginning of the implementation, but if the challenges or motivations in the game mechanics did not increase over time, this might decrease long-term engagement. While adequate testing might help to determine short term engagement success, longer term engagement is more a factor of monitoring and adjusting the game as needed based on feedback along the way.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Reminder: Mandatory Training on the New Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Quebec Lawyers

slaw - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 08:00

On March 26, 2015, the new Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (nouveau Code de déontologie des avocats) for Quebec lawyers came into force. All lawyer members of the Quebec Bar are required to complete a three-hour training session by December 31, 2015.

Those who are in possession of an exemption must complete the mandatory training within six months of the date their exemption ends. The Barreau du Quebec will not accept any requests for extensions. Thus the training (excluding approved exemptions) must be completed by December 31, 2015.

Training Requirements

The only training that will be recognized is the one offered by the Barreau du Quebec, “The Code of Ethics of Advocates facelift.” This training is available online at, at a cost of $10 for members. Once completed, the member will receive a certificate of completion by email.

In-class sessions on specific dates are also available at a cost of $113 for members.

The training will be recognized for three hours toward the continuing education requirement.

Law practice in the 21st century

The new Code takes into account the realities of the practice of law in the 21st century, including the increase of lawyers working as in-house counsel, communicating with the media and the public through new technologies and social media, and others related to competency, communication and interactions between lawyers and clients. It does not change how lawyers practice law but clarifies in a clear and obvious way the particular obligations of a lawyer practicing law in Quebec. It also sets out in a preamble, the values and principles that should guide lawyers in all circumstances, such as respect for the rule of law, access to justice, integrity and independence.

One key change is that the previous code indicated that a lawyer had to avoid all methods and attitudes likely to give his profession a commercial or pecuniary character. This has been removed since we all know that a lawyer is practicing his or her profession as a business and to gain a living.

The Bar Association has prepared a useful comparative table that highlights the numerous and substantial differences between the new and old Codes of Ethics and Professional Conduct. However, it is only available in French.

Many lawyers in Quebec, including Jean H. Gagnon believes the code add new onerous obligations on lawyers in regards to clients and competency. According to Gagnon, in section 42, the code states, “Throughout the mandate, the lawyer informs and advises the client on all available means to settle its dispute, including the opportunity to use the methods of preventing and settling disputes. ” To paraphrase, Gagnon believes that although it may seem trivial at first glance, this section has important implications for a lawyer’s practice. In order to meet this obligation, every lawyer must first be familiar with the ways of preventing and settling of disputes (ADRs) and have real skills in this area. In his opinion, how could a lawyer with a reasonable level of competence, inform and advise clients on these mechanisms if he has not learned how these mechanism work, or know if he has or has not the skills to apply those mechanism. What are the remedies available to a client for breach of this obligation?

Will lawyers be measured on the fact that they did not prevent the dispute before the litigation started, or proposed a settlement of a dispute at some point in time in the file before a hearing is scheduled?

Does it require lawyers to implement ADRs within their practice, at the beginning of all the mandates that are given to them?

Does it require lawyers to inform all clients from the beginning of the ADRs available to them? And, does it require lawyers to obtain training on these dispute mechanisms for the purpose of properly advising clients?

Some things to think about.

Do you agree with the changes? Will the new Code affect how you practise law?

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

A look at the improved password features of PHP 5.5+

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 07:28

It’s of the utmost importance that PHP programmers safeguard account passwords by using the latest and most secure methods. To that end, PHP 5.5 added a new password-hashing library created by Anthony Ferrara (@ircmaxell). The library makes several functions available that you can use to handle one-way password encryption with current best-practice methods. Other features anticipate future security needs so that as computers and hackers get more advanced, you can stay a step ahead of the bad guys. This article gives you an in-depth introduction to the library’s functions and how to make the best use of them.

via PHP renewed: Password security in modern PHP.

This article takes a look at the improved password handling features of PHP 5.5+. Recommended read for anyone working with PHP apps.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

In Praise of Judicial Empathy, Humility and Simplicity

slaw - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 06:00

It takes a big person to admit they have made a mistake; it takes an even bigger judge. Justice Shaun Nakatsuru of the Ontario Court of Justice is such a judge.

In a remarkable judgment that has attracted significant media attention from the likes of the Toronto Star, the CBC and CTV, Judge Nakatsuru issued a personal and collective judicial mea culpa. While Justice Nakatsuru did not actually make a mistake per se, he admitted that as a judge he had “sinned” in terms of writing less than user-friendly judgments over the course of his ten years on the bench.

Justice Nakatsuru issued his mea culpa in the sentencing decision of 29 year old Aboriginal offender Jesse Armitage for a variety of property crimes to which Mr. Armitage had pled guilty. Mr. Armitage was described by Justice Nakatsuru as “a troubled man of Aboriginal heritage” with a criminal record that started in his youth. I reproduce the first six paragraphs of Justice Nakatsuru’s decision below because of their importance and their clarity:

[1] This case was heard in the Gladue court at Old City Hall in Toronto. Jesse Armitage is a troubled man of Aboriginal heritage who was sentenced by me a number of months ago. At the time I gave my decision, I said that I would draft and release a written decision. This is that decision.

[2] Before I get to this, I would like to make two short comments. First of all, I want to say something about the style of this decision. For those who have read some of my past judgments, the reader may notice a change. For Jesse Armitage, I have tried to say what I wanted to say in very plain language. I believe that this is very important for judges to do in every decision. However, judges often do not do a good job of this. I would describe myself as one of the worst sinners. As lawyers first and then judges, we get used to using words that are long and complicated. This only muddies the message we are trying to say. That message is very important when it comes to passing a sentence on an offender. That the message is clear is even more important in the Gladue courtroom.

[3] I say this because in the Gladue court at Old City Hall, accused persons who share a proud history of the first people who lived in this nation, not only have a right to be heard, but they also have a right to fully understand. Their voices are heard by the judges. And they must also know that we have heard them. I believe that the accused persons who have been in this court have had good experiences in this. This is something that they have come to appreciate. This is something they have a right to expect.

[4] I know that all accused, whether they have any Aboriginal blood or not, should have this right. Judges struggle to make sure they do. However, when judges write their decisions, they are writing for different readers, different audiences. Judges write not only for the parties before them. Judges write to other readers of the law. Lawyers. Other judges. The community.

[5] In this case, I am writing for Jesse Armitage.

[6] The other thing I wanted to say is something about our Gladue court. This court was established in 2001. It was the first court of its kind in Ontario. Since then, it has matured. It is well respected. There is much cooperation between the Crown and the defence. The court applies the principles set out by our highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, in the case of Gladue. We try to be faithful to those principles in every case.

[7] I admit the case of Jesse Armitage has been a challenge for me. The proper application of those principles has not been easy.

Judges exercise enormous power in our society. In the courtrooms in which they preside, they wield what must appear to lawyers and litigants alike as virtually unbridled power. Sometimes they abuse that power and sometimes they abuse that power horribly, as in the recent case in Quebec of the judge who refused to hear a litigant wearing a hijab in her courtroom. My colleague Carissima Mathen rightly chastised that judge’s actions as making “a mockery of the rule of law and bring[ing] the administration of justice into disrepute.

For some, being a judge means never have to say you’re sorry. I have the privilege of knowing a good number of judges and most of them are dedicated to the public interest, hard-working and try to do their best to reach a just result in their cases, often under trying circumstances. When I was practice, I also appeared before judges who seemed to forget that they were not the most important person in the courtroom: as Justice Nakatsuru reminds us, the litigants are.

Lawyers refer to judges who are full of themselves as having “judgitis”. Some judges develop this over years on the bench and others seem to catch it almost immediately upon appointment.

Justice Nakatsuru’s judgment provides a powerful contrast to the ailment. It is a small window into the world of judging. It demonstrates the importance of humility for judges; of empathy with those who appear before the judge; and of the virtue of simplicity in judgment writing. You won’t find these terms in the Canadian Judicial Council’s Ethical Principles for Judges. We should. Alice Woolley has written here about the problem of judges’ mocking the parties’ arguments in their decisions and the damage to the litigants’ human dignity. In contrast, Justice Nakatsuru puts Mr. Armitage and his dignity at the center of his judgment.

I was privileged to know Justice Nakatsuru when he was appointed to the bench from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General in 2006. We need more like him; not only on the bench, but in our profession and in the academy as well.

Adam Dodek teaches Public Law and Legal Ethics at the University of Ottawa. In May 2015, he will receive the Law Society Medal from the Law Society of Upper Canada for his service to the profession. Hat Tip to Stephen Bindman for first bringing the case to my attention.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

GNU Hurd 0.6 released

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 18:13

GNU Hurd 0.6 released reminding us that Linux isn’t the only game in town.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

How to give a presentation with an iPad and Apple TV

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 16:13

If you work in an office setting, sooner or later you’re going to have to give a presentation. We’ve all been there, watching someone stare into a blinding projector light while fumbling with cables and trying to get the signal to come through.
The good news for Apple users is that with a couple Apple products and a little know-how, they can do away with the cables and clutter and quickly get on with the presentation. Using the AirPlay service, you can stream content to a second or third generation Apple TV.
Here’s how you can give a presentation with just an iPad and an Apple TV.

via How to give a presentation with an iPad and Apple TV – TechRepublic.

I believe a number of law schools have tried this sort of thing with varying degrees of success. See the Teknoids archives at and There was even a CALIcon12 session that covered some of this, All of this seems a bit old, so it may be time to grab an Apple TV and do a refresh to see if it works any better now.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Tune in to the Appathon from ABA TECHSHOW 2015 at 7:30pm Central Tonight

The Lawyerist - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:02

Like a hackathon, the idea behind the ABA’s Legal Appathon is for teams to develop a working, legal app within a short, focused time period. Four teams have been doing that, and they will be presenting their ideas at ABA TECHSHOW tonight at 7:30pm Central. Spoiler alert: I’ll be on the panel doing my best Shark Tank impression.

Tune in to our Day 1 liveblog (that link will work starting at 5:30pm Central) to see what’s happening at the Appathon.

Tune in to the Appathon from ABA TECHSHOW 2015 at 7:30pm Central Tonight was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Get Out and Vote

slaw - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 09:25

I don’t have a horse in this race — I’m not eligible to vote in the Law Society of Upper Canada (aka Ontario) Bencher election. Nonetheless, I know who I’d be voting for if I could.

Bencher elections are notorious for low participation rates across the country. I don’t understand this. Lawyers are typically engaged with politics in general, but for reasons I’m not privy to, fail to demonstrate the same level of engagement in respect of their own professional governance.

That’s a shame, but also an opportunity. Law society elections create an opening for the voices of lawyers from under-represented groups to be heard and to influence the strategic priorities of their profession as a whole.

If you’re an eligible Ontario lawyer, please take this opportunity to make your voice heard. There are important issues on the agenda of LSUC – articling, barriers facing racialized lawyers and alternative business structures, to name just a few. Information on the candidates and their positions is available here.

Your opinion matters. Make it count before the April 30, 2015 close of ballots.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Scrollback, an open source alternative to Slack

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 08:58

Nurture your community with meaningful conversations.
Create rooms based on your interest or follow existing ones.
Share ideas, discuss realtime and redefine your online community experience with Scrollback.

via Scrollback, where communities hang out.

While relatively new and still adding features, Scrollback is the closest thing I’ve seen to to open source Slack. Once running it’s eady for folks to join and start participating right away. This is a project worth keeping an eye on. The code is on GitHub at

Written mostly in Javascript it requires Node.js, Postgres, and Redis to run.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

OpenAdvocate DLAW Drupal now on GitHub

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 08:43

OpenAdvocate DLAW Drupal now on GitHub

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

5-Step Legal Marketing Plan, Step 1: Identify Your Niche

The Lawyerist - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 06:12

If you want to ensure your marketing efforts provide a good return on investment, you must start with a marketing plan — a step often skipped in small or solo firms. You can avoid making emotional and often expensive decisions if you have a great marketing plan that identifies problems you may encounter in the future.

This series of posts will break down the five steps of building a useful marketing plan. By focusing on these five aspects, you can create a well-balanced marketing plan for your law firm that will help drive clients to your firm. Step one is below and covers identifying and defining your ideal client and niche. Over the next few months the other four steps will be covered, so stay tuned!

Spoiler alert: Advertising strategies will not be reviewed until step four, so don’t put the cart before the horse.

Know Your Ideal Client and Your Niche

Related “Let Your Ideal Client Guide Your Marketing Strategy”

Too many people skip the first — and possibly most important — step when they create a marketing plan: identifying the demographics of an ideal client. The easy answer is that anyone is an ideal client, but clients want you to appeal to their uniqueness. Someone who has a unique need is going to look for a law firm that focuses on that specific area — not one that claims to be right for everyone. People like to hire experts. And while it may seem like you do not want to limit your options, trying to please everyone is not the best way to stimulate long-term success.

Drill Down to Your Ideal Client

Identify your ideal client by getting specific. Ask yourself some questions about your ideal client and get specific as possible:

  • Consider the age, sex, occupation, etc. of the people you can best help, and who can best make your firm grow.
  • Consider what kinds of problems you want to solve. Maybe you don’t want to be involved with violent cases.
  • Where does your client spend time both online and in the real world?
  • What kind of car, home, and lifestyle does your perfect client have?
  • Consider who can afford your services and who will be likely to give you repeat business.
  • What sort of job does your ideal client have?
  • Which organizations and groups does your ideal client belong to?
  • Draw a picture in your head (or clip a picture from a magazine) of your ideal client. Ideally this can be based on a past client who was great to work with in the past.

You can use this image to practice your pitch — how you grab this person’s attention. What is important to this person? Also take some time to identify the sort of clients you do not want to work with. This small step will help you avoid agreeing to take a case that you’ll regret.

Identifying your target market is the first step in developing a marketing plan because it will help you to focus your efforts in all of the following steps. Start identifying your market by finding your niche.

Find a Niche

Instead of trying to please everyone, let people know what you do. Do you specialize in bankruptcies, accidents, or work-related claims? Smart clients don’t want a just a lawyer. They want a lawyer who is also an expert. Choose your niche and present yourself as a specialist in that area. Not sure how to declare yourself an expert? Start a law blog or publish articles posted on websites about your niche. You could also write helpful articles for a local paper, speak at a local legal event, or make other presentations to your target audience.

Define Your Niche

Defining your niche is more than just having a fuzzy idea of it. Get a high-definition picture of your niche. Then work on crafting your answer to the question: What’s your specialty? Put into words what you do, and don’t use boring terms to describe it. Explain your niche in a way that even a-non-lawyer will understand and remember. For example; “I help families through especially difficult divorces.” or “I work to make bankruptcies as painless as possible for middle-class families.”

Identify Your Aspirational Niche

While it may seem to go against the idea of a niche, it is possible for you to have more than one.

Your second niche should be “aspirational,” or a practice area you hope to focus one day. You should simultaneously keep your “practical” niche, an area that is profitable and pays the bills while you work towards attracting more clients in your pre-determined aspirational niche.

In this case, it can be a challenge to decide how to present more than one practice area. To do this effectively, slightly broaden your overall message to include both your aspirational and practical niche.

For instance, marketing your firm as “aggressively seeking justice for the underdog” or “providing personal attention to your needs” can easily cover more than one practice area.

The Importance of Identifying Your Niche and Target Market

Once you define your niche and ideal client, build the rest of your marketing plan around that information. The first step is to identify what you are selling (or what services you are providing) and who you are selling it to. Research other firms and organizations that also target your market and ask these questions:

  • What colors, designs, imagery, and graphics are used on their websites?
  • Do they seem to target younger, tech-savvy clients or an older more established group?
  • Where do these clients spend time online, and what publications do they read?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help you determine whether and where to place ads and what they should look like. Additionally, pay attention to what your competition is doing that seems to be ineffective or unappealing. It is helpful to know what you do not want to do, too.

Keep in mind that you are not cruising your competitors’ sites so that you can steal their look and image. Once you get an idea of who you are going after, you will want to consider your Unique Selling Proposition — now that you know what you’re up against, what makes you better than your competition? In the practice area you chose, surely other lawyers are specializing — why should a client choose you over your competition?

Defining a niche makes it easier for you to focus your time and be efficient and productive. Working on the same types of cases, each with its own challenges and unique differences, makes you an expert. If you suddenly switch to trying a different type of case, you may need to relearn some steps. Working on similar cases over time will leave you with a cache of templates and boilerplate text that you can use again and again. Constantly moving between vastly different cases will make you a jack of all trades, master of none, and each time you sit down to work on a case, you’ll be starting from scratch.

Next month’s post will focus on how to perform your own SWOT analysis, and the process consultants use to help lawyers identify their strengths and weaknesses (so they can transform them into strengths).

Featured image: “business man walking step by step of business to success ” from Shutterstock.

5-Step Legal Marketing Plan, Step 1: Identify Your Niche was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Wednesday: What’s Hot on CanLII

slaw - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 06:00

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. Law Society of Upper Canada v Hamalengwa, 2015 ONLSTH 57

[27] The Lawyer blamed the MAG and the LSUC for profiling him and picking on him because he is a black man. But the fact remains that the Lawyer billed about one-half of the $1.5 million in public funds spent on the Wills’ lawyers and amicuses. The Lawyer was the highest biller of all Mr. Wills’ lawyers compounded by the fact that the LAO failed to examine the Lawyer’s accounts. The panel concludes that it was logical for the Lawyer’s accounts to be assessed by the MAG and examined by the LSUC.

2. University of Calgary v JR, 2015 ABCA 118

[25] The stakes when a record subject to a claim of solicitor-client privilege is subject to compelled disclosure, even for the sole purpose of confirming the existence of the privilege, are indisputably high, and not only because of the concerns identified by the chambers judge about loss of the privilege generally and the possibility of further disclosure to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. Even were the Commissioner or her delegate to confirm the privilege, there is a risk inherent even in that purpose-limited disclosure to the Commissioner that information would become publically known, with resulting economic damage, embarrassment or other negative consequences.

3. Owners: Condominium Plan No 762 1302 v Stebbing, 2015 ABQB 219

[71] I disagree. The Board cannot engage in misconduct and then wallpaper over its errors with a new and perhaps technically correct step. Past misconduct taints subsequent Board action. Judicial determination of improper conduct requires review of the totality of circumstances. Here the Board has unfairly treated Ms. Stebbing, especially by disregarding the fact that she attempted to conform with the Bylaws of The Saskatchewan. It was unacceptable and unfair that the Board treated, and continues to treat, Ms. Stebbing differently from other residents of The Saskatchewan who also attempted to follow the Bylaws for their cats.

The most-consulted French-language decision was Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse c. 9185-2152 Québec inc. (Radio Lounge Brossard), 2015 QCCA 577

[12] Pourtant, tous conviennent que la bête est attentive et sécuritaire dans les foules, capable de guider son maître dans un lieu public, tels les établissements commerciaux, hôtels, restaurants, théâtres, cinémas et discothèques. Elle peut repérer, pour lui, les sorties, les escaliers et les toilettes. Mieux que quiconque, elle est en mesure de le conduire vers l’extérieur en cas d’évacuation urgente. Comme le signale le Tribunal des droits de la personne : « Vu l’entraînement qu’ils reçoivent et le processus de sélection dont ils font l’objet, les chiens-guides éduqués par MIRA se comportent, même dans les foules, de façon telle que leur présence ne génère, en soi, aucun risque grave ou excessif pour leur sécurité, celle de leur maître et celle d’autrui »[1].

* 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.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Rethinking Success in a Modern Legal Career

slaw - Wed, 04/15/2015 - 06:00

In the summer of 1998 I was a freshly called lawyer working in the regulatory policy shop of a national phone company. As we gathered in the boardroom to celebrate a colleague’s 25th anniversary, I leaned over and whispered to a co-worker “wow, I’m not sure I’ve even been toilet trained for 25 years.” To that point, five and a half years delivering the local newspaper to my own house was the longest I had ever done a single job. A personal longevity record that stands unbroken today.

Point of fact, I eventually did spend over 10 years with that company, albeit spread over two provinces, thirteen calendar years and about 7 different roles. The skills gained in those and other roles got me hired as CanLII’s CEO (a four year stretch that concludes on April 30th) and helped prepare me for what comes next. But here’s the thing, it all feels like stages in a legal career that others may increasingly regard as normal.

Structurally unsuited to job stability

I’m taking about the legal profession here, not me.

Using Ontario as an example, a quick glance at some basic legal market employment stats makes it evident that variety of experience and charting your own path is the norm (at least in the aggregate). At the end of 2013, the Law Society of Upper Canada reports that Ontario was home to 11,375 law firms – nearly 78% of which were solo practices. At the other end of the scale, in this province of over 13 million people there are only 40 firms that employ more than 50 licensees (this includes firms where lawyers+paralegals >50 people). Beyond private practice, over a third of employed Ontario lawyers ply their trade in education, government, corporate, non-profit and other environments.

We don’t even need to consider different legal specialties to look at these high level stats and conclude that none of us can claim to follow a traditional path to becoming a real lawyer because there is no traditional path. There may be traditional roles – criminal defence comes to mind – and we may find ourselves in such a role at one point or another, but any sense of stability and clarity we believe exists with those roles simply can’t be extrapolated as emblematic of all legal careers.

Your legal career begins in the direction set by your first legal employer, and the time you spend on that path is subject to many circumstances within and outside your control. It can take a few years to get your head wrapped around your activities and to begin to understand your own preferences and passions.

Employability and a range of personal goals

All is not lost and there is much to be gained.

Every experience is a learning experience and though it can seem that way sometimes, few doors are permanently closed. This isn’t a generic “JDs are good for many careers” pep talk, but an appeal to make choices that broaden your skills, strengthen your resiliency and have some rational connection to long-term career goals. I’m not talking about a linear career development path. There are simply too many extraneous factors. Why narrow your view and adopt a single definition of success?

I’ve always looked at career development in a few ways.

The first, when looking 10 years ahead, I think about a dozen or so roles that I believe I would enjoy doing. When evaluating a new work or learning opportunity, I ask myself how it will contribute to getting me closer to one or more of my 10-year-out dream jobs. This lens can reveal the advantages of opportunities that might otherwise seem like a career detour.

The second involves recognizing that even if moving closer to one goal moves you further from another, it needn’t necessarily foreclose the opportunity forever. Imagine a golf course where the 18 holes are laid out around the perimeter of circle and each hole is accessible from a single tee box at the centre. You can play toward any, or even several, holes (goals!) without leaving the course, and you can change direction at any time.

Finally, the third is about taking ownership of your own success. By all means, seek out teachers, mentors, sponsors, promoters, subject-matter experts and others who can help you along the way, but accept that only you can define what you want out of your legal career and only you can assess whether you are successful in your efforts.

A step in the right direction

In my view, law students, new lawyers, mid-career professionals, and near or long-since retired lawyers have never had it so good. There is not one type of lawyer and there is not one way to develop a successful legal career. For the increasingly small minority of lawyers who believe there is and act accordingly, I wish you well. For the rest of us, a step back, to the side, up or down can be a step in the right direction when you can see how it strengthens your ability to handle change and how it can build you into the kind of success you want to be.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Oderus Urungus’s Dad Sues GWAR for Taking His Son’s Ashes

The Lawyerist - Tue, 04/14/2015 - 20:57

From Bitter Empire:

Sadly, lead vocalist Oderus Urungus, or Dave Brockie as he was known off-stage, passed away in 2014 from a heroin overdose. … Dave’s father, William Brockie, is now suing the shock rock band for the return of his son’s ashes and is seeking $1 million for breach of contract and punitive damages for the unauthorized use of his image.

The suit accuses GWAR of “trying to capitalize on the death of Dave Brockie” and claims that when William requested Dave’s remains, he was only given “a small fraction of his son’s ashes, which were delivered in a used plastic bag with a Discover credit card logo on it.”

There is zero chance I will ever pass up an opportunity to put GWAR on Lawyerist.

Oderus Urungus’s Dad Sues GWAR for Taking His Son’s Ashes was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs