Tips Tuesday

slaw - Tue, 09/22/2015 - 05:01

Here are excerpts from the most recent tips on SlawTips, the site that each week offers up useful advice, short and to the point, on technology, research and practice.


Give Feedback
Shaunna Mireau

I recently did some work for one of my colleagues and was reminded how great it feels when you do something and get feedback. Today’s tip is to give feedback. Often, legal research is shared among many and giving feedback will reinforce all the positive aspects of sharing access to work product. …


(Random) Tips for September
Garry Wise

September has arrived, ushering in a new season, and, after our summer reprieves, the beginning of a new work cycle. Whether you are a sole practitioner, a new lawyer, or the managing partner at a large firm, September is also an optimal time for big-picture reflection, planning and setting new goals. …


Essential Keyboard Shortcuts for Navigating PowerPoint Like a Pro*
Dan Pinnington

You should be very comfortable with the basics of navigating PowerPoint when you are doing a presentation. It looks rather unprofessional when someone gets up in front of an audience and has difficulties in the middle of their presentation. Here are some helpful PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts that will help you navigate through your presentation. …

*Editor’s pick

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Barriers to Innovation: Improvement as Indictment of the Past

3 Geeks and a Law Blog - Tue, 09/22/2015 - 05:00
Pat Lamb, who I mentioned in my last post, recently wrote a piece that while excellent was not exactly groundbreaking. Or so I thought. Pat’s premise was that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone includes lawyers. Mistakes happen. Mistakes are bad. We should therefore learn from mistakes to reduce avoid repeating mistakes. Towards this end, Pat explained the usefulness of After Action Assessments and root-cause analysis. Great stuff. But, for me, it was akin to a health expert recommending that couch potatoes exercise, consume less junk food, and eat vegetables. Perfectly sound, uncontroversial, well-worn advice that is too often ignored and should therefore be repeated as often as possible.

As usual, I was so very wrong. The ABA Journal comments section exploded with adverse wisdom like:
Yes, dear Patrick J. Lamb. Let us embrace our mistakes, such as missing statutes of limitations and whatnot. Don’t our mistakes just empower us? Gag. How about doing all you can NOT to make a mistake and then doing all you can to rectify it and if you can’t do all you can to make amends? Hmm? associate said:
Mistakes are simply unacceptable.  That’s the reality of our profession, especially since the law schools and ABA have flooded it with excess attorneys. These perspectives struck me as so silly that I added satirical support to their keen 'insight':
Casey Flaherty said:
Mr. Lamb: Christie and associate make some compeling points, which is unsurprising given that they are menbers of our hollowed profession. Look, I know that you reference Einstein, Drucker, the Navy Seals, Kimye, Drake, and Meek Mill. What do they all have in common other the fact that they make mistakes? None of them are lawyers. As Justice Mustang wrote for the Untied States Supreme Court in in the semenal 2010 case of Clouseau v. Malapprop, “whatever a lawyer is doing is, ipso facto, correct because a lawyer doing it. Lawyers are, by definition, incrapable of error.” As you know, the Court held that having a J.D. (which stands for Jactanter Dealbator, or “the one who is (always) right”) was an absolute defense to a claim of malpractice. In her concurrent, Justice Abercrombie even traced the origins of the lawyer infallibility doctrine from The Federalist Papers to the Papal bull Unam Sanctam. The impact of Clouseau on the insurance industry was the primary cause of the Great Recession. And 43 of the 46 state bar associations subsequently suspended their grievance process because no one could maintain a good faith claim that a lawyer had been wrong in thought or deed. Not only do I think that we should continue to deny that lawyers make miss takes (thereby guaranteeing that mistakes will never happen), I believe that we should also deny that any lawyer has ever written an article suggesting that might lawyer mistake make (guaranteeing that your article was never written). How’s that for an After Action Plan? My mockery did absolutely nothing to stem the tide of abuse directed toward Pat. Pat, of course, does not need my help. Along with Jeff Carr, he is building an entire business around the idea that identifying and addressing the root causes of mistakes is key to not repeating them. But the incident left me sad for my profession.

The pursuit of perfection begins with admission of imperfection. How do we get better at what we do when reflecting on mistakes is a thought crime? when it is a sin to admit that what we do can be improved? when formalizing a mistake-reduction process is the height of unprofessionalism?

Michael Jordan believes Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time, just ask Michael Jordan (see his Hall of Fame induction speech). Yet, Michael Jordan is, arguably, right. Michael Jordan may have been the best basketball player in history, in part, because he understood that being the best required being fanatical about eradicating his weaknesses (which, of course, he had to admit in order to address). Jordan even made a commercial entitled Failure.

You can be the best at what you do without being perfect. You can stand in high regard in your profession (and your own mind) without pretending you are infallible. Indeed, framed properly, your ruthless pursuit of better can be a signal of your stature, not a threat to it.

As Seth Godin says, "Yo Yo Ma isn't perfect... he's just better than everyone else." Like Jordan, Ma is also, arguably, the best at what he does. He has pretty much always been great. He was a child prodigy. He chose the cello at the age of four. By seven, he was playing for American presidents. Yet, Ma still practices 2,000 hours per year--a solid year of lawyer performance. Yo-Yo Ma is Yo-Yo Ma precisely because he is the kind of person that will practice 2,000 hours per year even after he is established as the best in the world.

In the book, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performance from Everybody Else, Geoff Colvin explains that the best of the best take a different approach to self-analysis and error (h/t Farnam Street):
Excellent performers judge themselves differently from the way other people do. They’re more specific, just as they are when they set goals and strategies. Average performers are content to tell themselves that they did great or poorly or okay. The best performers judge themselves against a standard that’s relevant for what they’re trying to achieve. Sometimes they compare their performance with their own personal best; sometimes they compare with the performance of competitors they’re facing or expect to face; sometimes they compare with the best known performance by anyone in the field.... ....If you were pushing yourself appropriately and have evaluated yourself rigorously, then you will have identified errors that you made. A critical part of self-evaluation is deciding what caused those errors. Average performers believe their errors were caused by factors outside their control: My opponent got lucky; the task was too hard; I just don’t have the natural ability for this. Top performers, by contrast, believe they are responsible for their errors.  The kind of people who proclaim that mistakes are unacceptable even when they recognize mistakes are unavoidable do not really believe they are perfect. Rather, they believe that people like them are not supposed to admit imperfection. This remains one of the biggest impediments to change in our industry. As I try to convince law firms and law departments to engage in structured dialogue, I constantly run into people on both sides of the relationship who are threatened by the idea of an open discussion about doing better. If I concede that we might do better then I am confessing that I've been wrongWe have to get beyond the idea that improvement is an indictment of the past. Our job is not to be perfect. Our job is to do the best we can until we can do better, and then do better.

But better means different. And different requires experimentation. Unfortunately, this runs counter to the lawyer psychological profile, as explained in this stellar post on Adam Smith, Esq.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that Law Land resists change like the plague. And, yes, this is pretty widely attributed to the phenom known as the “lawyer personality,” characterized by an almost pathological aversion to risk. But let’s unpack this a bit to better understand why lawyers, in particular are so risk averse. Lawyer-psychologist Dr. Larry Richard, the leading expert on the psychology of lawyer behavior has quantitatively established that a preponderance of lawyers share (among others) two personality traits that in combination scotch the very notion of experimentation. The first is “Resilience.”  Somewhat surprisingly, lawyers score really low on “Resilience,” essentially the ability to recover quickly after a setback. On this trait, Lawyers score only 30%, which would be enough on its own to seriously dampen any appetite for experimentation. But wait – there’s more. What won’t surprise anyone is that lawyers score really high on “Skepticism.”  Dr. Richard’s work reveals that lawyers score 93% on this attribute (only 5% of the population is as skeptical). Lawyers can (and do!) poke holes in anything.  So, any proposed change will be scrutinized and picked over to such a degree as to discourage all but the most stout-hearted. These two characteristics, lack of resilience coupled with a high degree of skepticism are a double whammy to the notion of experimentation. Failure is perceived anything but “noble” in Law Land. In short, we have the wrong mindset. We are inclined to hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them. That's the easy way out. The problem with the easy way is that eventually is makes everything so damn hard.


++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Casey Flaherty is the founder of Procertas. He is a lawyer, consultant, writer, and speaker focused on achieving the right legal outcomes with the right people doing the right work the right way at the right price. Casey created the Service Delivery Review (f.k.a., the Legal Tech Audit), a strategic-sourcing tool that drives deeper supplier relationships by facilitating structured dialogue between law firms and clients. There is more than enough slack in the legal market for clients to get higher quality work at lower cost while law firms increase profits via improved realizations. The premise of the Service Delivery Review is that with people and pricing in place, rigorous collaboration on process offers the real levers to drive continuous improvement. Proper collaboration means involving nontraditional stakeholders. A prime example is addressing the need for more training on existing technology. One obstacle is that traditional technology training methods are terribleCompetence-based assessments paired with synchronous, active learning offer a better path forward. Following these principles, Casey created the Legal Technology Assessment platform to reduce total training time, enhance training effectiveness, and deliver benchmarked results. Connect with Casey on LinkedIn or follow him Twitter (@DCaseyF).  
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Of Social Media Privacy Through Obscurity

slaw - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 21:15

Prof. Woodrow Hartzog is an interesting voice on privacy law and technology. He has written about his own research and interviewed others on the role that obscurity plays in our modern conceptions of privacy. Technologies like encrypted communication applications and device encryption tools can be privacy-enhancing technologies, while obscurity — the condition of being unknown or not entirely comprehensible to others — is a privacy-enhancing state.

Obscurity, it appears, is a state that many of us seek out when it comes to social media, even if we don’t realize it. And if you’re reading this thinking, “I don’t seek anything out on social media… heck I don’t even have an account or knowingly let my picture get posted on friends’ accounts”, it probably only proves the point. Many people’s only private social media policy is one of complete obscurity—don’t let Facebook even know you exist.

Compared to the classic concept of privacy as a right to be left alone, obscurity is much more like the right to be out in public and not need to hide in seclusion because what one is doing or saying is not being intelligibly processed by any discerning observer.

As noted in a 2013 paper, “Obscurity by Design“, a state of obscurity implies a “state of unknowing” shared by otherwise observers…

“If an individual is obscure, this means that an observer does not possess critical information that allows them to make sense of the individual. This critical information can include the individual’s identity, social connections, and other personal information. Without this information, observers are limited in their ability to fully comprehend an observed person’s actions and utterances.”

Consider this entirely common situation:

“Employees on a lunch break in a restaurant often gossip about their co-workers, but this gossip is obscure to eavesdroppers unless these outsiders know the subject of the gossip; those in earshot must be able to draw on unspoken contextual information to make sense of the utterances. […] Though we colloquially say we socialize in “public,” in truth our personal interactions are usually enveloped in zones of obscurity, where our identity and personal context are shielded to those we interact or share common space with.

Hartzog explains how we internet users also tend to employ tactics that obscure us, and that we protect our online interactions wherever possible using obscurity.

“Social media users also have come to rely upon obscurity for privacy protection online. Obscurity is a natural state offline that users can draw upon reflexively when protecting their privacy in online social settings.”

In preparation for some of the privacy discussions we will be having here on the West Coast at the 2015 Pacific Legal Technology Conference, I have been thinking about Hartzog’s notion of “obscurity by design”. Could obscurity as a concept address the privacy fears lawyers have (for themselves). Could paying attention to, and sharpening our instincts for, the ways we can obscure ourselves help us do something about maintaining boundaries amid the context collapse between private, family, professional and social worlds?

Traditionally, legal professionals concerned themselves with impression management in the offline realm. Erving Goffman in his 1963 book, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, writes that people use their manner of dress, comportment, and “the revealing and withholding of personal information to convey to the world who they are, or who they want to be taken to be.” We have a much tighter grip in the offline world.

But it’s really not so easy in the online world, with its big-data-ad-retargeting-cookies boogeymen. Hartzog’s suggestion that we might nonetheless be able to “draw upon reflexively” our natural instincts for obscurity, is heartening.

He encourages us to focus on the four factors of obscurity. Each of these items in this four-item list is a bellwether for privacy. Obscurity and privacy improve as each of these factors diminish, and each is easy enough to apply to our social media lives:

  1. Searchability — this is the degree to which our social media accounts and the content we produce are accessible through search. Lock down your search visibility settings.
  2. Unprotected access — this is the degree to which access controls restrict who can see, scrape or index data, independent of how easy all this is to search and find the existence of. Limit who can see your Faceboook posts, but also who can tag you, see your friend lists, etc.
  3. Identification —this is any information that links you as an individual (obviously a name, but also a phone number, work email, etc.). Don’t use work email or any cell number that you use professionally and link it with a social media account. Also be sure that your mobile apps for social networks like Facebook are not synching with your phone contacts. Interestingly, adding a phone number is often suggested as another mode for authentication, and to increase security. In practice, however, it’s fairly obvious that major social networks like Facbook and LinkedIn will use that phone number to make your identity more discoverable. People, including self represented parties adverse in interest with whom you have shared emails or phone calls, may have their own contact list synched with a social media account that you are on. You may already have wondered how that person you know only through a file is being recommended as someone “you may know.” Think about what they are seeing too. Maybe you only have a photo of you, or maybe it’s a profile pic that includes your family. Minimize the information you share with a social network, use a nickname or married name (if possible), and keep in mind other boundary regulations like a separate more anonymous sounding email for social network registrations where you want to create a boundary.
  4. Clarity — this is the degree to which an outside viewer can make sense of content shared by an individual. Online information is often easy to see, but important aspects of that information do not make sense to them. Facebook will always make your profile and cover picture publicly visible… but what if the picture was of your pet, or that vineyard you visited? It need not be your face.
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Citizen’s Lab Receives 2015 Internet Pioneer Award

slaw - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 15:40

I heard Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab speaking with Matt Galloway this morning on Metro Morning. The Citizen Lab team, working out of the Munk School of Global Affairs, will be one of the recipients of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Internet Pioneer Award.

The Citizen Lab is “an interdisciplinary laboratory … focusing on advanced research and development at the intersection of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), human rights, and global security.”

Deibert posted this comment about winning the award on their website:

It is a huge honour and a tribute to all Citizen Lab staff, past and present, to be a recipient of the EFF Internet Pioneer Award for 2015. It is also very humbling to join a long list of such distinguished award winners who have done so much collectively to work for an open and secure Internet. We are thrilled to see that our impartial, evidence-based research is being recognized by an organization like EFF, which has done so much over the years to promote human rights online.”

A lot has changed since I wrote about this research group in one of my first Slaw posts. In his conversation with Galloway he talks about what amounts to an “arms race” in state sponsored malware that is “reaching a stage of urgency.” The Lab‘s “impartial, evidence-based” approach investigates and uncovers these types of activities and provides information through their reports and research briefs that broaden awareness and help prepare individuals and organizations for these potential threats to “human rights concerns in the digital realm.”

It’s a great interview and you can clearly hear Deibert‘s passion for this work characterizing it as akin to a “CSI of human rights.” Congratulations!

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Don’t Let Personal Issues Lead You to Bend the Rules

slaw - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 14:24

At least two of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s discipline decisions in the last few months referenced a lawyer’s “loss of moral compass.” Even honest and well-intentioned lawyers have, when under pressure or when suffering from illness, addiction or a personal crisis, succumbed to the belief that it’s perfectly fine to bend the rules “just this once.”

Unfortunately, bending rules and getting away with it has the effect of weakening a lawyer’s scruples over time – especially when the pressures that led to the first transgression persist. Preserving your integrity will help you steer clear of serious threats to your career.

Here are a few of the first steps on a path to embarrassment and claims – or even ruin:

  • “Borrowing” money from a trust account, client, or petty cash
  • Telling a colleague or client you have completed something that you are still working on (or haven’t begun)
  • Padding dockets or legal aid billings
  • Allowing non-lawyers to do legal work without appropriate supervision
  • Lending out your Teraview® Personal Security Package (PSP)
  • Exaggerating evidence, credentials, or experience
  • Misstating the opponent’s position to your client
  • Taking heavy-handed “inspiration” from others’ written works without attribution
  • Selective memory
  • All acts of forgery
  • Cheque tricks (post-dating, kiting)
  • Back-dating anything
  • Billing disbursements before they’re incurred

How can you avoid being the victim of temptation? Learn to recognize the factors – pressure from clients, economic instability, ego, stress – that lawyers typically cite when forced to explain their actions in the wake of a claim or complaint. Know yourself and make an effort to steer clear of the situations that challenge your judgment. For example:

  • Don’t take on clients who intimidate, bully you, or make you their pawn
  • Take steps to deal with financial difficulties (financial counselling, debt consolidation, move out of a too-expensive office)
  • Don’t run off at the mouth. To avoid embellishing facts, be concise. People who talk less are often viewed as more intelligent than people who say more
  • Never lie about the status of a matter or your progress on it. The initial lie will beget further, more serious lies
  • Don’t take on more work than you can responsibly accomplish or supervise

When lawyers look back on an act of dishonesty, they can usually identify the turning point when a dangerous decision was made. Often a lawyer lies to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation: having to admit to a client that work is incomplete or that a negotiation or motion turned out badly, or lying to family or colleagues about trouble meeting financial obligations. Lawyers who are perfectionists may be particularly vulnerable to these kinds of lies. Think about how you present yourself to clients, colleagues, and other people in your life. Do you cultivate an air of infallibility?

While it can feel good to be viewed as a superstar, maintaining this image at all costs can lead to slippery-slope behaviour. If, instead of bragging, you encourage clients to form realistic expectations about the outcome of their matters, you will avoid losing face should you encounter problems down the road. Remember, your clients are workers, too: they don’t likely hold their own work up to a standard of perfection. Chances are they also don’t expect perfection from you (and if they do, you’ve taken on the wrong clients). Do your best, but don’t misrepresent your abilities or the strength of a case. You don’t need that kind of pressure.

Also, consider your stress level. Stressed human beings are more vulnerable than usual to both error and bad decisions. Attend
carefully to your physical and mental health.

Finally, remember that lawyers are not the only ones capable of acts of dishonesty. Staff can slip up, too. Pay attention to signs that employees are feeling undue performance pressure, or are facing personal financial challenges. Establish appropriate oversight for office finances, check in with staff regularly about the progress of their work, and strive to build an office culture where it’s comfortable for all workers to ask for help or to take time off to deal with health challenges.

Integrity is a practice, not a fixed trait. You will have dozens of opportunities to exercise your integrity over the course of your legal career. Maintain good judgment and keep your stress under control. Your reputation will reap the benefits.

This article is by Nora Rock, corporate writer at LAWPRO. It originally appeared in the Sept 2015 issue of LAWPRO Magazine. All past issues of LAWPRO Magazine can be found at

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Dianne Saxe Appointed Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

slaw - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 12:48

On behalf of the Slaw community, we congratulate our colleague Dianne Saxe on her appointment as Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. Her new role takes effect on December 1st, 2015.

As one of Canada’s most respected and knowledgeable environmental lawyers, Dianne has been a key columnist with us here at Slaw since June of 2010. While we are uncertain at this time whether her new role will allow her to continue writing (we hope she will), we are exceptionally proud of her achievement. Dianne is a tireless advocate for our environment and we know she will do well.

Well worth noting: Dianne was chosen by “unanimous agreement” from members of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly. The politicians obviously know a good thing when they see it.


Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Law as an Instrument of Change

slaw - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 10:53

When I was at law school, many years ago, Stephen Lewis visited as a speaker.

At the time he was Canadian ambassador to the UN. He flew up from New York for the afternoon.

There are two things I still remember about his talk.

The first is a humerous anecdote about his experience at law school. He told of how he went to the library to research an assignment and when, after some difficulty, he found the volume that contained the key case for the topic, the relevant pages had been torn out. This convinced him to quit law school, which he did.

The second was his view that law is a futile profession, unless it is used for change.

That comment, to which I paid no great attention at the time, has followed me through the years, like a horsefly follows a swimmer.

It buzzed me again last week when I read about Roger Cox’s recent visit to Toronto. He is the lawyer with the Dutch firm that successfully argued the Dutch government has a duty to protect its citizens from the harm of environmental damage, by doing its part to keep global temperatures from rising. He spoke on the prospects for similar results in Canada.

See also Dianne Saxe’s excellent piece on this subject in SLAW, here.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

From Clicks to Clients: How To Implement Call Tracking

The Lawyerist - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 06:12

Most lawyers understand the value of knowing where their clients come from. Unfortunately, the way most lawyers track this information is merely asking a form of the question, “How did you hear about us?”

While I encourage you to make this question part of your process, it is not sufficient.

In the best circumstances, you will receive responses like, “Bob Smith gave me your card.” In the worst, you’ll get, “The Internet,” or “I can’t really remember.”

Fortunately, with very little technical know-how and a little software assistance, you can gain deeper insight into how clients are finding you. Armed with this information, you can make informed decisions about what is working in terms of growing your practice.

It is worth noting there are many ways to implement systems that help lawyers track from clicks to clients. This is just one example that is fairly affordable and straightforward to implement. However, it is certainly not right for every firm. At the very least, this will illustrate the power of tracking and how you can use it at your own firm.
What you will need:

  • Administrative access to your web pages.
  • A Google Analytics account.
  • A CallRail account.
From Somewhere to Clicks

The ways in which clients find your web pages is limitless. However, even today, most people searching for a lawyer still rely on friends. Still, even people who are referred to you by a friend will probably look you up online. In doing so, they will probably click on one of your web pages.

Once they click, your web analytics software can capture a lot of information about them, including the visitor’s referral information. In other words, the visitor’s origin.

Tracking “from somewhere to clicks,” is as easy as properly installing and configuring Google Analytics (GA). After that, you ought to spend some time understanding the various reports, particularly the Acquisition Reports (i.e. Source/Medium, etc). You may be surprised to learn how many different ways people find your pages.
The next step in the process involves tracking visitors who inquire about your services, and it requires a little more work. For this example, we are going to focus on tracking visitors who call from your website.

From Clicks to Calls

Effectively tracking phone calls from your web pages can be a source of consternation. There are a variety of implementations that work. For our purposes, I’m going to focus on one simple, affordable, and effective way using CallRail.

Warning: Improper use of call tracking numbers might impact your visibility in local search results.

In fact, even “proper use” might have an impact. Before you go changing all the numbers on your web pages, I encourage you to read Mark Sullivan’s, What You Need to Know About Call Tracking & Local SEO, as well as, Mike Blumenthal’s, Guide to Using Call Tracking for Local Search. If you are still confused, consider contacting a local search marketing company.

DIY Call Tracking

First, add your “official” name, address, and local phone number (NAP) to your site. Include this information on an office location page, a contact page, or in the footer of your website. It is imperative this NAP information is consistent across the web. Typically, for single location law firms, I prefer to add NAP information to the footer of every page of the site.

For this example, assume we are dealing with a single location law firm that is using a toll-free phone number as its primary website call-to-action (i.e. toll-free number is placed prominently near the top of every page).

Second, create a CallRail account. Follow their Five-Minute Guide to getting started. Add a tracking phone number. Select the “online” option. Select the “use on website” option. Then, select the “track each visitor” option.

Set the Swap Target to your existing toll-free number located at the top of your website. Now, it is time to install Dynamic Number Insertion. If you use WordPress, CallRail offers an easy-to-use plugin. If not, you will have to install JavaScript.

With this configuration, CallRail will will automatically detect how visitors find your website and display the appropriate tracking phone number.

You should thoroughly test your configuration to make sure it is working properly. Once configured, you will see call data in your account like this:

If you would like to see your call data in Google Analytics, configure CallRail to integrate with your Google Analytics account. Be sure to add call goals to your universal GA account.

Congratulations, you can now track web page visitors to phone call inquiries by source!

From Inquiries to Clients

There are a variety of ways to track phone call inquiries to clients. Again, I am going to show you one very simple way using CallRail’s Value and Tag fields.

First, customize your call tags to fit your intake process. You may want to create tags for:

  • Existing clients
  • Opposing counsel
  • Courts
  • Referring attorneys
  • Potential clients

After completing an incoming call, you can update the Tag field. For calls that become paying clients, you can enter the fee generated into the Value field. Now, you can track how people are finding your web pages and becoming clients.

Putting the Information to Work

If it is not immediately obvious, here are a few ways to use this information:

  • Calculating Return On Ad Spend (ROAS). If you pay for advertising, you ought to have a target return on ad spend. For many campaigns, meeting a target ROAS is the answer to the question, “Is this working?” It is the measurement of whether your advertising is directly and profitably resulting in new fees.
  • Calculating Cost Per Client. Over time, if you’re paying more to acquire new clients than the value they bring to your firm, your firm’s P&L statements aren’t going to look very good. Advertising that doesn’t fit into your firm’s target cost to acquire a client should be cut.
  • Calculating Return On Investment (ROI) of Marketing Agencies. If you are working with a marketing agency, you should define success metrics that can be tied to firm revenue.
  • Calculating ROI of Activities. You can also use this information to connect the effectiveness of various activities. For example, you can see what specific web pages are generating phone calls that lead to clients. That way, you can begin to identify characteristics of those pages that are working and create more of them.
  • Understanding the Value of Referral Sources. Which referral sources are sending you the best new clients? What can you do to solidify these relationships? Are there other similarly situated people you ought to connect with?

If you are tracking clicks, calls, and clients at your firm, share what you have learned.

Featured image: “ Hand of an operator dialing a phone number. Isolated over white background.” from Shutterstock.

From Clicks to Clients: How To Implement Call Tracking was originally published on Lawyerist.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

A Judge’s Place Is on the Bench . . . Not in the Political Arena

slaw - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 06:00

Judges and politics don’t mix. Political involvement by sitting judges is an accepted taboo. Political involvement by former judges is a relatively recent development. But as the political candidacy of former Chief Judge of the B.C. Provincial Court Carol Baird Ellan is showing, there is a serious danger of political blowback against the bench as an institution when one exchanges her black judicial robes for the Blue, Red or Orange colours of a political party.

The Progressive Conservative Party is running an attack ad targeting the NDP’s so-called “star candidate”. The ad is found at and says:

Carol Baird Ellan is a star candidate for Mulcair’s NDP.

For five years she was a member of the BC provincial court, time and time again, when serious criminals – including sex offenders – appeared before her court, she exercised her discretion to give them a lenient sentence.

Now, Ellan is helping the NDP bring their soft-on-crime approach to all of Canada.

This is precisely the sort of attack on the impartiality of the judiciary that defenders of judicial independence such as me loathe and rise to condemn. But I blame Baird Ellan and the NDP for putting a bullseye squarely on the back of the Canadian judiciary for the Tories to easily hit with a poisoned political arrow.

Ms. Baird Ellan is clearly touting her judicial experience in attempt to appeal to the electorate. The first line of her website states in bold that she is a respected retired lawyer and judge with the experience and dedication we need in our next MP for Burnaby North—Seymour.” That probably deserves a pass but in the next line, her website states: “Carol has a track-record of breaking barriers and getting results. She was British Columbia’s first-ever female Provincial Court chief judge (2000-2005). Throughout her career, she has served in a variety of judicial roles—from tax lawyer to crown counsel.” Perhaps some readers may be able to explain it to me, but last time I checked “tax lawyer” and “crown counsel” were not “judicial roles”. By promoting her “judicial experience”, Ms. Baird Ellan and the NDP have made her track record fair game for questioning. Moreover, her website specifically references actions that she took as Chief Judge (“fighting the closure of B.C. courthouses”).

Baird Ellan is not the first former judge step down from the bench and run for political office. In the 1960s, Claude Wagner – the father of current Supreme Court justice Richard Wagner – was a judge, then a Quebec politician and cabinet minister, then after losing the Quebec Liberal leadership to Robert Bourassa in 1970, Wagner returned to the bench but then stepped down from the bench again to enter federal politics as a Conservative. More recently, Wally Oppal left the B.C. Court of Appeal in 2005 to run for Gordon Campbell’s Liberals and became Attorney General. Am I missing others?

When former politicians are appointed to the bench, they are expected to sever all partisan ties. Yet, members of the public often express skepticism as has most recently been expressed over the appointment of former Tory cabinet minister Vic Toews to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench. But judges entering politics is a much bigger problem than former politicians becoming judges.

Public confidence in the impartial adjudication of disputes by an independent judiciary is the Canadian judiciary’s most valuable commodity. It is zealously defended by the judiciary and the legal profession against all perceived incursions. But sometimes the actions of individual judges or former judges harm the Canadian judiciary’s “brand” as independent.

There are precious few restrictions on the activities of former judges. Stephen Pitel and Will Bortolin have written on “Revising Canada’s Ethical Rules for Judges Returning to Practice”. The social contract used to be that judges were appointed for life until mandatory retirement at age 75, received a generous pension upon retirement at or before 75 and enjoyed a quiet retirement. This is no longer the case.

When judges become politicians, members of the public may rightly wonder if they were not simply “politicians in robes” while they were on the bench. This not only impairs the perception of the individual judge’s career on the bench, but can cause members of the public to wonder about judges in general. Judges should steer clear of politics not only while they are on the bench, but after they leave the bench as well.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Monday’s Mix

slaw - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 05:01

Each Monday we present brief excerpts of recent posts from five of Canada’s award­-winning legal blogs chosen at random* from sixty recent Clawbie winners. In this way we hope to promote their work, with their permission, to as wide an audience as possible.

This week the randomly selected blogs are 1. FamilyLLB  2. Susan on the Soapbox 3. Henry J. Chang’s Canada-US Immigration Blog  4. Legal Feeds  5. First Reference Talks

More On Whether a Kid Can Launch His or Her Own Child Support Claim Last

Last year we wrote about a case in which a now-16-year-old girl had written to her paternal grandmother, asking her to help cover the $130,000 tuition cost of private school, plus another $50,000 in books. While the letter was no doubt a surprise to the grandmother, it was probably a thunderbolt to the girl’s biological father, since he had not seen or had anything to do with the girl since before she was born. …

Susan on the Soapbox
Can Lynton Crosby Save Stephen Harper?

Big news this week for the Harper campaign watchers—uber political strategist Lynton Crosby joined the Harper campaign team. Why this is news now and not when Crosby started working with the Harper team in March is a mystery, but never mind. Mr Crosby has a stellar record. He brought John Howard, the former Australian prime minister, to power in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2004. …

Henry J. Chang’s Canada-US Immigration Blog
Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program Establishes Two Express Entry Streams

As previously discussed, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (“CIC”) implemented its Express Entry system on January 1, 2015. Applicants seeking permanent residence under one of the following classes must now submit an Express Entry Profile and then wait until they receive an Invitation to Apply (“ITA”) before they will be permitted to seek permanent residence…

Legal Feeds
B.C. articling students can now act as commissioners

As of Sept. 1, the Law Society of British Columbia’s has a new regulation that allows articling students to serve as commissioners and take affidavits in B.C. The move extends the work the LSBC started in 2011 giving students greater powers to act. “This rule change was part of ongoing efforts by the Benchers to help make legal services more accessible and affordable for the public,” LSBC spokesman David Jordan said in an e-mail. …

First Reference Talks
Is Queen Elizabeth the ultimate long-term employee?

Imagine you had an employee that performed her job duties impeccably, remained utterly loyal to your organization, never brought personal “drama” to the workplace, and was willing to stay in the same position without complaint for over 60 years. Sounds like a dream employee, doesn’t it? …


*Randomness here is created by and its list randomizing function.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

What are humans good for … in legal services?

3 Geeks and a Law Blog - Mon, 09/21/2015 - 04:00
This is the third talk from the the ILTA Session - Legal Technology Innovation - Bolstering and Destroying the Legal Profession. This is from Michael Mills, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Neota Logic.

I decided to come at the technology question from the human side, to speculate about what humans are still good for in a technology-saturated world of legal services.

I concede. I am obsolete. The robots are winning.

Fastcase is a better legal researcher than I am—despite a University of Chicago law degree, a federal court clerkship, and a hand in hundreds of briefs and memos.

Recommind Axcelerate is a better document reviewer than I am—despite tutelage by demi-gods of the American bar, and years of experience, some of it in unheated warehouses and abandoned salt mines.

And of course Google is a better driver than I am.

Nonetheless, for a while, I have work to do.

Kira is not a better contract analyzer than I am—my pattern-recognizing brain is more precise, more adaptable, and faster than Kira’s algorithms. And the algorithms need training, so I can have a job as an algo trainer—like a dog trainer, but without a whistle or a biscuit.

But … Kira’s algorithms are getting better and its computers are getting faster. My brain is not, alas.

So, one day . . . poof! ZMP for me—that’s Zero Marginal Product, the economists’ term for adding no value at all.

As Harvard professor Bill Bossert said many years ago—“If you’re afraid that you might be replaced by a computer, then you probably can be—and should be.”

Or, as I say to law firm partners who worry that Neota Logic expert systems will cannibalize their billable hour work—“If your business model is to do work that my software can do … you’d better get a new one.”

So what’s left for me? For us? We went to law school, we’re nice people, we’re pretty smart.

Fortunately, there are some things for us humans to do:

Geoff Colvin of Fortune Magazine just published a book with a great title “Humans are Underrated.” (In some contexts, one might argue that he has that backward.)
He writes that the right question is this:

“What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans, regardless of what computers can do?”

He then says that the foundation of all the other abilities that make people valuable as technology advances is … empathy.

Yes, empathy.

Discerning what some other person is thinking and feeling, and responding in some appropriate way.

We have evolved to do that—collaboration was essential for survival, in hunter-gatherer and then in agricultural economies.

As Colvin puts the point:

“We want to work with other people in solving problems, tell stories to people and hear stories from them, create new ideas with people. We want to follow human leaders. We want to negotiate important agreements with people, hearing every lilt or lament in their voices, noting when they cross their arms, looking into their eyes.”

We, both individually and as members of groups and organizations, keep changing goals, purposes, understandings, directions, conceptions of the problem, interests—software simply can’t keep up.

People can, groups can.

One might say, then, that what humans will continue to do, so as not to drown in the rolling wave of technology, is what we do best in groups:

  1. Idea-generation, problem-solving, strategy
  2. Persuasion, argument, storytelling
  3. Collaboration

So … if groups are essential to our economic survival in a world eaten by software, to use Marc Andreessen’s phrase, how do we know an effective group when we stumble into one?
Cambridge University psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen developed in 1997 a simple test, the RME—Reading the Mind in the Eyes. Participants are asked to choose a word that best describes people’s thoughts or feelings based only on photos of their eyes.

Group members’ average score on RME has proven to be an excellent predictor of group effectiveness.

More recent research supports a much simpler test—no advance testing required. Just count the number of women in the group. More women, more effective. Period.
Another reason for diversity in STEM disciplines!

MIT professor Alex Pentland invented the sociometric badge, a little tag that hangs around your neck and tracks how you work with others—the amount of face-to-face interaction, conversational time, prosodic style, physical proximity to other people, and physical activity levels.

After sociometrically measuring many groups with his little badges, Professor Pentland found that groups do their best work when the participants:

  1. Generate many ideas in short contributions to conversations. No one natters on.
  2. Constantly alternate between talking and listening, encouraging, and reacting.
  3. Take turns.

It does sound a bit like the prescription for a good kindergarten, but it works. These 3 factors are as important to group effectiveness as all others together—individual intelligence, technical skill, personalities, and so on.

Interestingly, and here we technophiles should take note, this research suggests that online, technology-mediated collaboration is far less effective than we think.

Apple agrees—their new headquarters is gigantic, in order to bring people together, physically, to do the empathy thing, to do the human thing.

Google agrees—they engineered the cafeteria (it’s a metrics-driven company) – optimum wait time in line 3–4 minutes, table spacing to encourage bumping, long tables to encourage sitting with people you don’t know.

So, even at Google, there is room for us humans.

But … and here I think we come to the rough reality of the legal services industry (and others too, which raise profound long-term questions about the civic compact)—technology is pushing the performance bar for humans ever higher, chopping off the bottom tail of the bell curve, shrinking the space in which “just OK” is OK, in which being “pretty good” is good enough. It isn’t any more.

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Opposition to Green Party Through Debate Exclusion

slaw - Sun, 09/20/2015 - 18:31

The Green Party of Canada has a filed a complaint with the Canada Revenue Agency over its exclusion from the upcoming Munk Debate on Sept. 28, 2015.

The party claims that by not allowing them to participate in the debate, the Aurea Foundation, the registered charity organizing the event, is in violation of the Income Tax Act. The party meets the definition of a political party under s. 149.1(6.1)(c) of the Act.

In a news release earlier this year, the Munk Debate organizers stated,

There are two ways in which someone is a leader of a party in Canada. The first is by Elections Canada which formally registers political parties under the Elections Canada Act. The second is by the Parliament of Canada Act where a party is recognized if 12 or more MPs identify as such in the House of Commons.

In a statement to the CRA the party said,

The Green Party of Canada is a political party within the meaning of 149.1(6.1)(c) of the ITA, and it should be afforded the same opportunity to participate in the Debate as is being given to the political parties whose leaders are allowed to participate.

Except there are a lot of parties who meet that definition. The registered parties with Elections Canada include a list far too long and unwieldy to provide a productive debate:


Not all of these parties are created equally. The Rhino Party, for those who are not familiar, is a parody party with positions such as this:

Since 1963, the Rhino Party is promising to repeal the Law of Gravity and to move the Rockies into the Great Lakes to create jobs and make Canada an equal country. We believe children should be allowed to vote, as long as they can make an ‘X’ !

There is obviously a distinction between “registration” and “recognition.”

The Parliament of Canada Act provided recognition for recognized parties starting in 1963. Recognition provides these parties additional resources under the “internal economy” of Parliament, and provides them time to speak during Question Period.

In other words, the debates in Parliament are largely reserved for parties that have recognition.

Common debating practice in Parliament may not end the debate on recognition for external debates however. In a 2008 paper by Michel Bédard James R. Robertson of The Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament, the authors note a number of unique features of recognition.

Canadian Parliament prior to 1963 had smaller parties recognized, and the number “12” was chosen in 1963 without consultation of these smaller parties. The authors state,

The requirement for 12 members was originally introduced solely in the context of allowances for party leaders; it does not appear to have been intended for any other purposes. According to John C. Courtney, technically the 12-member threshold in the 1963 statute and parliamentary procedure had nothing to do with one another “…yet the timing of the event was virtually certain to produce a combination that would lead to the injection of the phrase ‘recognized membership of 12 or more persons in the House of Commons’ into future debates over regulations and statutes dealing with political parties. The term, indeed more specifically the number, would gradually assume an authenticity of its own.”
[emphasis added]

There are exceptions where smaller parties have briefly been provided time during Question Period, but not necessarily as a leader of opposition. In 1979, a six-member Créditiste Party introduced an amendment to a motion, but its leader was treated as any other private member. The Speaker referred to the customary traditions of the House to justify his decision.

The problem the Green Party has here is,

…our complaint is that, in the context of the current election and in the specific circumstance of the sole public debate for party leaders that is devoted exclusively to foreign policy issues, the effect of not including Ms. May is to diminish the standing of the Green Party of Canada in the mind of the electorate, which amounts to an indirect opposition to the Green Party.

The Munk Debate is not only excluding the Green Party of Canada, but also a large number of other political parties, most of whom do not even hold a seat in Parliament. The Green Party of Canada at least has the advantage of currently holding two seats.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved Elizabeth May in the Maclean’s debate on Aug. 6, 2015. But if the Munk Debate was truly following Parliamentary form, it would allocate speaking time of the political leaders in its debate based on the number of seats the party currently holds. And that wouldn’t be much of a debate at all.

Given the way the Globe & Mail debate on Sept. 17 without May turned out, the legal debate over the status of The Green Party for the Munk Debate may prove more attractive than the main show itself.


Categories: Teknoids Blogs

My Twitter Digest for 09/19/2015

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Sun, 09/20/2015 - 14:30
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Summaries Sunday: SOQUIJ

slaw - Sun, 09/20/2015 - 11:46

Every week we present the summary of a decision handed down by a Québec court provided to us by SOQUIJ and considered to be of interest to our readers throughout Canada. SOQUIJ is attached to the Québec Department of Justice and collects, analyzes, enriches, and disseminates legal information in Québec.

PÉNAL (DROIT) : Reconnus coupables d’avoir pris part à une émeute et d’avoir séquestré plusieurs personnes au poste de police de Kanesatake lors d’événements survenus en janvier 2014, les appelants voient leurs verdicts de culpabilité confirmés.

Intitulé : Conway c. R., 2015 QCCA 1389
Juridiction : Cour d’appel (C.A.), Montréal, 500-10-003316-054 et autres
Décision de : Juge Allan R. Hilton, Paul Vézina et Claude C. Gagnon
Date : 1er septembre 2015

PÉNAL (DROIT) — infraction — infractions contre l’ordre public — émeute — attroupement illégal — réserve indienne — élément de l’infraction — avoir troublé la paix «tumultueusement» — participation — intention — procès devant jury — directives du juge au jury.

PÉNAL (DROIT) — infraction — infractions contre la personne — enlèvement, séquestration — séquestration — policier — poste de police — réserve indienne de Kanesatake — procès devant jury.

PÉNAL (DROIT) — procédure pénale — procédure fédérale — procès devant jury — émeute — attroupement illégal — séquestration — poste de police — réserve indienne de Kanesatake — instructions au jury — élément de l’infraction — avoir troublé la paix «tumultueusement» — erreur du juge — disposition réparatrice (art.686 (1) b) (iii) C.Cr.) — remarques préjudiciables de la Couronne — directives correctrices au jury.

Appels de déclaration de culpabilité. Rejetés.

Les 10 appelants ainsi que 9 autres personnes ont été inculpés d’avoir pris part à une émeute en vertu des articles 64 et 65 du Code criminel (C.Cr.) et de séquestration en vertu de l’article 279 (2) a) C.Cr. À l’issue d’un procès tenu devant jury, sept d’entre eux ont été reconnus coupables sous les deux chefs d’accusation, six sous l’infraction incluse d’attroupement illégal en vertu de l’article 63 C.Cr., mais acquittés sous celle de séquestration, et six autres ont été acquittés sous les deux chefs. Les faits se sont produits en janvier 2004 après qu’un vote secret eut été tenu par quatre des sept chefs du conseil de bande de Kanesatake entraînant par voie de résolution la destitution du chef de police dans un contexte où l’on critiquait les agissements de la police eu égard à la production de marijuana sur le territoire et à la contrebande de cigarettes. Des rumeurs ayant trait à l’implantation d’une opération majeure de la Gendarmerie royale du Canada sur le territoire ont mené les trois chefs non signataires à dénoncer cet état des choses et à critiquer sévèrement le grand chef Gabriel. Soixante-sept policiers armés provenant d’autres territoires autochtones ont pris possession du poste de police de Kanesatake. Les forces policières qui avaient été mises en place à la suite de la résolution contestée ont été confinées au poste de police et prévenus de ne pas quitter l’endroit puisque leur sécurité était menacée. De plus, les voitures de police ont été endommagées. Enfin, l’un des chefs non signataires a essayé de persuader le chef de police mis en place à la suite de la résolution contestée et ses officiers de quitter le poste sur la base de l’illégalité de la résolution, mais celui-ci a refusé. Plus tard dans la soirée, la maison du grand chef Gabriel a été incendiée. Les appelants ont invoqué trois moyens d’appel, à savoir que le juge du procès aurait erré: en n’instruisant pas le jury sur l’application de l’article 21 C.Cr.; en donnant deux définitions différentes au terme «tumultueusement», soit un élément essentiel de l’infraction d’émeute et de celle d’attroupement illégal; et en ne déclarant pas un avortement de procès ou en ne donnant pas les bonnes instructions au jury eu égard aux remarques préjudiciables de la Couronne au cours de son adresse au jury.

Le premier moyen, fondé sur l’obligation d’instruire le jury quant à l’article 21 C.Cr., n’est pas fondé. Les infractions prévues aux articles 63 et 64 C.Cr. exigent la participation d’un minimum de trois personnes et leur intention d’atteindre ensemble un but commun. Cela exclut nécessairement le simple spectateur du fait que ce dernier n’a pas l’intention requise. Quant au chef de séquestration, le jury a acquitté 9 des 12 inculpés, ce qui suggère fortement que les jurés ont compris que la participation était un élément essentiel de l’infraction. En ce qui a trait aux explications différentes données au jury relativement à l’expression «tumultueusement», selon qu’il s’agisse d’une émeute ou d’un attroupement illégal, la juge a commis une erreur mais, la preuve étant accablante en ce qui a trait à l’atmosphère de violence qui régnait lors des événements, il y a lieu de rejeter ce moyen en vertu de l’article 686 (1) b) (iii) C.Cr. Enfin, le dernier moyen, reprochant à la Couronne les remarques faites durant le procès quant à l’incendie de la demeure du grand chef Gabriel, alléguant notamment que celles-ci ont été dites intentionnellement dans le but de causer un préjudice aux accusés, est rejeté. La juge a rapidement corrigé les propos inappropriés de la Couronne et a offert à la défense de répliquer après l’exposé de celle-ci. De plus, la juge a repris ses directives correctrices dans ses instructions au jury.

Le texte intégral de la décision est disponible ici

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

My Twitter Digest for 09/18/2015

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Categories: Teknoids Blogs

My Twitter Digest for 09/17/2015

<CONTENT /> v.5 - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 14:30
Categories: Teknoids Blogs

UMUC Plans to Create a Company to Help Colleges Harness Big Data

The Chronicle Wired Campus - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 11:57

The Maryland Board of Regents on Friday approved the University of Maryland University College’s request to create a for-profit business-intelligence company. The new company will offer data-analysis technology and services to universities across the country, and the revenue will go toward the university’s endowment.

The company, called HelioCampus, will provide two main services: the technology to combine and analyze a university’s data, as well as analysts to help administrators understand what the data mean.

“The market as it currently stands has some very traditional software tools,” said Peter C. Young, UMUC’s senior vice president for analytics, planning, and technology. “You buy software licenses, you pay for very expensive implementation. Fundamentally, you’re doing your own thing.”

UMUC, an online-only arm of the University System of Maryland, was an early leader in online education, but in recent years it has struggled. The university has strong ties to the military — about half of its enrollments come from members of the military and their dependents overseas — but a smaller U.S. military presence abroad has caused UMUC’s overseas enrollments to drop. And as the economy has improved over the last few years, and more prospective students have entered the job market, domestic enrollments have also fallen. In 2012 the university’s president, Susan C. Aldridge, resigned with no explanation. And last year the university laid off 70 employees.

“We’re a nontraditional school,” Mr. Young said. “We have to earn our tuition revenue each year by enrolling students on a continuous basis.”

UMUC credits its analytics team with building the tools that pulled the university out of its enrollment slump. Now it’s hoping to use those tools to generate revenue.

“We know what data is valuable and what data is not,” said Darren Catalano, UMUC’s vice president for analytics. Most colleges aren’t using their data effectively, he said, and the ability to understand your own data “is no longer optional in higher education.”

HelioCampus will gather data from throughout an institution and compile the numbers into a series of dashboards, which include information like tuition revenue, retention and graduation rates, and prospective-student data. Once the numbers are compiled, an analyst will help the university find what it needs.

The most valuable part of the new company, Mr. Catalano said, is its ability to combine data from across an institution. If a university wants to identify unsuccessful courses, for instance, an analyst would look for those with high enrollments but low completion rates. Or if a university is trying to improve one-year retention rates, an analyst might identify the students who succeed, and then look at where those students are from or why they were initially attracted to the university.

“There’s no silver bullet to improve retention and graduation rates,” Mr. Catalano said. “What this product provides is the ability to identify pockets of opportunity.”

Mr. Catalano will serve as HelioCampus’s chief executive. Along with the rest of UMUC’s analytics staff, he will leave the university to work at the new company. “It will have its own Board of Directors, as any private company would,” Mr. Catalano said. “It just so happens that the sole shareholder will be UMUC.”

UMUC hopes the new company will diversify the university’s revenue and help fund an endowment that would provide scholarships for graduates of Maryland community colleges. If HelioCampus succeeds, said a university spokesman, Bob Ludwig, the scholarships could lessen “or even eliminate” the cost of a degree for community-college graduates.

The University System of Maryland’s chancellor, Robert L. Caret, said in an interview that he supports UMUC’s decision and believes that other institutions will benefit from the company’s services. “The product is something that many need — including the Maryland campuses,” he said. “If made available and known to them, I believe they’d really make use of that opportunity.”

The university will provide funding to support HelioCampus’s first five years of operation; eventually, it may consider either selling the company or going public.

“Strategically speaking,” Mr. Young said, “UMUC does not necessarily want to be in the business of running companies forever.”

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

The Friday Fillip: Lawyer, Guns, and Money

slaw - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 10:43


For the next while the Friday Fillip will be a chapter in a serialized crime novel, usually followed by a reference you might like to pursue. 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 29
Lawyer, Guns, and Money

The odour was complex, an olio of scents now uncommon. All the woods: sweet cedar, rosewood with its attar, dark and mossy mahogany, cherry, walnut. Then the fungal, metallic tang of the old steel machinery and tools against the peculiar aroma of horsehide glue. Beneath it all there was the smell of sweat, because this was a workshop where men laboured. Once laboured. Now it was empty.

Even with two fresh corpses in attendance it was empty.

The best part of a company of armed and armoured men milled about in the street out front and in the alley behind, chivvied by loudspoken orders and the urgent high crackle of static. Inside, where it was unnaturally still, two armadilloed men and another man in nothing more than a suit and tie stood over the bodies, which lay as if arranged by an artful fate snugly side by side and head to toe. Both had been small men. Short, slight, made of rope and bone. They might have been brothers, except for the fact that one was Asian in appearance and the other was Caucasian. Even so.

“Oh boy,” said one of the two SWAT men. He didn’t mean the killings. He had seen enough killings not to be affected anymore by violent death. He meant the fact that they’d arrived unannounced only to find the birds had flown.

The other armoured man grunted in agreement and poked at a half finished instrument on the bench beside him, a violin, looking vulnerable as a newborn, pale, naked, full of curves, its ultimate lineaments only suggested. “Yes,” said Bodley. “I’m afraid so.”

He touched the cheeks of the corpses with the back of his hand. Hard to tell if they were still warm.

“I don’t get it,” said the first man, pulling off his helmet.

Bodley nodded. He stood up. “Why?” he said, looking around. “At least now we know for sure we’ve sprung a leak. Or two. Or more.”

“Good luck with that,” said the man who had grunted.

Bodley spoke into his phone while the other two set up perimeter guards to wait for the forensic people. When Bodley switched off, he crouched once more beside the bodies and examined the Caucasian as closely as he could without further contaminating the scene. Something one of the men had said while he was on the phone danced at the edge of his awareness. He checked his immediate area to make sure that he hadn’t altered anything or missed anything obvious. At the door out of the workshop, the one that led into the residence at the front, he turned and looked around once more. He looked down at where the bodies lay behind the big workbench, seeing only a man’s head and another man’s feet. And it came to him: ‘. . . gone to ground.’


He was on his phone even as he ran to his car, trying not to shout.


RANGEL CAME INTO THE motorhome with a decadent double-double from the D-Lux across the road. They were out of beans in Mitman’s increasingly elaborate drinks setup. And besides, there was only 2% milk and artificial sweetener in the kitchen, by order of the quartermaster. Who happened to be still in her office doorway when, after some chit-chat and half her morning syrup, she played her messages on the speaker.

The caller talked in a hushed voice that made him hard to understand at first, not a whisper, but something out of a hoarse, constricted throat.

“Ms. Rangel? Ms. Rangel? I . . . I think . . . I think you ought to, I don’t know . . . There’s a shitload going down here. Bad stuff. Like it’s all fucked. Bunch of us holed up in pit nine. But I could make it to the gate. Aw, geez —.”

“Withers,” said Rangel.

Mitman said, “Your Tom.”

They looked at each other. Mitman reached behind him to the hooks on the wall to his right, took off Rangel’s keys, and tossed them to her. She put down her coffee, giving it a last regretful glance. “Jackets,” he said, as they moved, always the mother.


“WHAT’S HAPPENING?” Mitman asked him. Withers was cowering, so both Mitman and Rangel found themselves crouching a little too. They were up tight against a behemoth of a vehicle that was quaking with the effort of an idling motor. Withers had driven it right up to the fence. He would have pushed it down if the gate hadn’t been open.

Withers spoke to Rangel. “I don’t know. I’m sorry I called you. We should all just get out of here right now.” The fear on his face made Rangel pale.

She shook her head impatiently. “Tell me. What?”

“I . . . really don’t know. Van drives up. Two vans and a bunch of cars. I didn’t see them, but Solly’s working flagman and he, he told me. On the Cobra.” He tapped the walkie-talkie in his shirt pocket. “Now I’m up on ridge four and I see them for myself. Everybody piles out. I mean a whole gang of guys. A whole mob shoving each other around and they go into the crusher shed.”

Rangel pushed. “I don’t get it, Tom. What’s the big deal?”

He said, “Right. Right.” And he swallowed. “So, okay.” He swallowed again.

Now Rangel put a hand on his shoulder. “Talk to me, Tom.”

Incongruously, he grinned, but with no humour in his eyes. “Bad shit,” he said. “Bit later another bunch of cars show up and some guys get out, only these are, like, Chinese, right? And, and, here’s the thing. They got guns. I mean guns. One guy, he’s packing this assault rifle, I guess it is. But you could see the other guys had like handguns.”

Rangel withdrew slightly, seemed to scrunch down. Mitman was becoming angry, his way of dealing with fear. “For god’s sake, why didn’t you call the cops?” he shouted at Withers.

“That’s the thing,” said Tom in a shrill protest. “Cop car’s already there. And Sully says he saw the chief go into the admin.”

Rangel pulled out her phone and punched Bodley’s number. It went to straight to message and she was succinct: “Sounds like some serious difficulty at Backton Aggregate. You’d better get people here quick.”

The three of them looked at each other for a moment. There was something comforting about nestling up against this trembling pachyderm. The hot air from the engine, the brown noise of the rumble, the rocking . . .

Rangel stood up straight. “Take me down to where I can see?” she said.

“Hey,” said Mitman. And he squared off against Rangel.

Withers darted his eyes back and forth between the two of them a bunch of times.

Mitman said to Rangel, “I don’t think . . .”

“Yeah,” said Withers. “Fuck it. Okay. Get in.”


It might have been a still life. Dead quiet, once Withers killed the engine. Swatches of vague hues were spread out in front of them, bleeding into each other like water colour washes. Nothing moving at all. Nature exhausted after being pulled, twisted, set. Posed.

Rangel set off walking towards the admin building. Mitman called to her, “Gregoria!” She didn’t turn and he went after her.

Fifty meters off they saw Nabel and Ronnie Dabord come out and head towards the shed beside the admin building. There was something awkward about their progress, and then the two men disappeared into the shed. Rangel altered direction to aim for the large, corrugated steel hangar that seemed to leap in size with each step closer. Rangel stopped but only for an instant at the side door that Nabel and Dabord had used. Then she pulled it open and stepped through.

Her first thought was that this was a freshman dance in the gym at high school. At the bottom of the great arching space, two lines of people stood facing each other across an emptiness, tense, poised, uncertain. Dabord and Nabel had positioned themselves more or less in the middle, their backs to Rangel and Mitman.

She walked towards them. All heads turned toward her and Mitman. Dabord and Nabel spun around. “What the hell . . . ?” from Dabord. Nabel’s face was trying to show a dozen emotions all at once.

Rangel was like someone who has woken up on an I-beam suspended over New York, her mind and her body separating. With a curious objectivity she scanned the Italian line of perhaps a dozen men. Yes, she thought. It could be. Dear god, alive after all this time. One man was writhing where he stood, his gaze fixed on a smaller, much older man in a work shirt and jeans. The smaller man held an automatic pistol, his arms folded loosely over his middle. Half of the men in the Italian line were clearly armed, the other half were trying to recede into the wall behind them.

“Ronnie,” said Rangel, hearing her voice from afar. “This looks tricky.”

“Get out,” he said. “Go now.” He shouted. There was a noise, sharpened by the quick echo.

Dabord drew his gun.

Someone fired.

Clattering sounds, and ear-splitting bangs. People diving, falling. Bullets whanged off great iron machines suddenly in view as bodies fled for cover.

Rangel was down with Mitman spread on top of her. She smelled the concrete of the floor. Through fat ringing ears she heard Mitman weeping. Someone else was crying. Something ticked like an irrelevant clock. Nothing. A burst of machine gun fire. More nothing.

Suddenly the side wall behind the Vietnamese caved in with an unholy grinding and screeching, and two massive bulldozers ground slowly into the room, jerking left and right like a beasts in agony. A man trapped under a tread screamed and stopped. A couple of men fired at the lead machine and the blade went up and came crashing down banging and banging like a quake.

Rangel heard some shouting and then, as the Vietnamese ran, sirens screamed towards them. The bulldozers continued to turn and turn and smash at the ground as if in frustration.


“He’s dead. If it’s him.”

Rangel cried. Bodley was dabbing at her scraped face with a pad of gauze wet with alcohol. It stung like hell. “How many?” she asked.

Bodley sighed. “Five dead. Hold still.”

Rangel gently pushed his hand away. “I was afraid it would be more than that. Way more.”

“These mopes can’t aim. People get the wrong idea. You know, that every bullet is a death. War like this is a crazy adrenaline blur. All over in fifteen, twenty seconds. Guns jerking around.”

“So we’ll never know.”


“Who killed him. If it is . . . Jared.”

“Oh, we will. We’ve got everybody. Match up the guns to the slugs. Take a while but we’ll get there.”

Rangel tried to get up from the box she was sitting on. Her legs wobbled, gave way, and she sat again. She felt nausea. When it passed, she said, “Dabord? Nabel?”

“Alive,” said Bodley. “Nabel’s one of the wounded. Might have shot himself accidentally.” Rangel frowned at him. “He was carrying an old TEC-9 in his lap. You wouldn’t have seen. Barrel was still hot.”

Mitman came up and she reached and took his hand, squeezing it. He stroked her hand.

“Can we go?” he asked Bodley.

“Oh god, yes. We’ll take statements later today. This evening, maybe. We’ve got a bunch to do here.”

“Gladys,” said Rangel. “We’ve got to see Gladys. She’s got to . . . have a chance to see Jared.” Weeping again.


© Simon Fodden

Arma Virumque Cano

Back in school we tackled some of the Aeneid in Latin. For some reason I can quote the first couple of lines. Perhaps we were made to memorize them. At any rate they go like this:

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam, fato profugus . . .

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy . . . 

And it’s been like that ever since. We sing about exciting stuff, exciting people. We never sing about lawyers. Song of Solomon, yes. Song of Solon, no. A Man’s a Man for A’ That, yes. A Man for All Seasons, not so much.

Well, almost never. From time to time you’ll see lists on law blogs of songs about law and lawyers, but on close examination you’ll discover that they’re nearly all about law and, indeed, the breaking of it. Now, you’ll realize from the title of today’s Fillip that I’m going to cite you Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” even though it’s only tangentially about lawyers. Still, good song, good lyrics

Send lawyers, guns and money
The shit has hit the fan

Hardly Virgil, but a pretty good description of a desperado’s wish list even so. 

But lawyers as leads in songs? With one exception, nothing laudatory or even plain narrative that I could find. It’s mostly comic stuff with the joke at the lawyers’ expense. Nevertheless, I’ve got a list of five tunes for you, three are mocking, one is just sad, and the last (which shall be first) is the sole example of a smile I have found, and even that is gently mocking.

  • My Attorney Bernie [YouTube] (Blossom Dearie) [Spotify] (Dave Frishberg) [lyrics]

    [Frishberg is the writer. I love the truly talented Blossom Dearie, but she’s a bit hard to understand in this version. The lyrics are good from top to bottom, but this appeals today: “He’s got Dodger season boxes / And an office full of foxes / It’s amazing all the different things / Your average guy might need a lawyer for.”]

  • Lawyers In Love (Jackson Browne) [YouTube] [Spotify] [lyrics]

    [The best of the mocking songs — because of its strangeness and the fact that it’s close to rock and roll. “Am I the only one who hears the screams / And the strangled cries of lawyers in love”]

  • The Philadelphia Lawyer (Woody Guthrie) [YouTube] [Spotify] [lyrics]

    [You know because it’s Guthrie that the fat-cat lawyer will come to a sticky end. And he does. Corny.]

  • One Million Lawyers (Tom Paxton) [YouTube] [Spotify] [lyrics]

    [Sigh. Another disparaging lyric.]

  • Will Your Lawyer Talk to God For You? (Kitty Wells) [YouTube] [Spotify] [lyrics]

    [Sad. And in a way the best music of the bunch. Kitty Wells at her best could out cry Patsy Cline. Lovely pedal steel. And great backing by none other than the Jordanaires, the guys who backed Elvis at the start and, in my view, helped him up the ladder.]

Categories: Teknoids Blogs

Thomson Reuters Labs in Waterloo Research Partnership

slaw - Fri, 09/18/2015 - 08:00

Cloaked in several “cliches and meaningless metaphors” (in the words of a colleague) is an announcement of a research partnership intended to improve access to “Thomson Reuters vast and unique datasets”. This could lead to significant developments in legal research. Then again maybe just cliches and….

Thomson Reuters to launch data and innovation lab in Waterloo, Ontario
By GlobeNewswire, September 16, 2015, 11:00:00 AM EDT

NEW YORK, September 16, 2015- Thomson Reuters, the world’s leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals, today announced the establishment of Thomson Reuters Labs – Waterloo Region, in Ontario, Canada. The Lab will see Thomson Reuters engage with the region’s vibrant innovation ecosystem and its dynamic startup community, world-class university and culture of industry collaboration.

Thomson Reuters Labs – Waterloo Region has two primary objectives: innovation and partnership. Innovation will come through applied research and experimentation on Thomson Reuters vast and unique data sets, helping to produce solutions for Thomson Reuters customers. Partnership involves collaboration with academics, students and startups to put new technologies into practice, and meeting the business challenges faced by Thomson Reuters customers.

“Thomson Reuters Labs will be an engine of innovation for our company, bringing together our unrivalled information assets and industry expertise with experts who can help make those assets increasingly actionable for our customers,” said Jim Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Thomson Reuters. “We are delighted to partner with the Waterloo community, leveraging our heritage as one of Canada’s leading companies in the preeminent hub of Canadian innovation.”

The Lab will have a presence at Communitech, an industry-led innovation centre of nearly 1,000 companies at the heart of the Waterloo innovation and technology community. Thomson Reuters will also be partnering with the University of Waterloo, which has been named the most innovative university in Canada and has one the world’s largest concentrations of mathematical and computer science talent. This partnership will create opportunities for research, student innovation and startup projects, entrepreneurial contests and mentoring.

“Thomson Reuters Labs will give Waterloo Region startups a chance to partner with one of the leading sources of professional information in the world,” said Iain Klugman, President and CEO of Communitech. “It will also provide Thomson Reuters new insights into how these data sets can be used in rapidly changing markets.”

“We are excited to be working with Thomson Reuters on real enterprise data curation challenges. This partnership demonstrates Thomson Reuters understanding of how university researchers can contribute to, and benefit from, research collaboration,” explained Vic DiCiccio, Director of the University of Waterloo’sInstitute for Computer Research.

The Lab will officially launch at Techtoberfest, a Thomson Reuters-sponsored event which brings together the startup and investment communities in the Waterloo region. Techtoberfest runs from October 13-14, 2015.

To learn more about Thomson Reuters Labs, and data innovation at the company, visit

Categories: Teknoids Blogs