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A new attitude

Editor's Box
|Written By Gail J. Cohen

In this month’s issue of Canadian Lawyer InHouse, we have our first roundtable on e-discovery, which seems to be an area that continues to grow and grow. We gathered together a fantastic panel of experts from Ontario Superior Court Justice Colin L. Campbell to in-house counsel Laurie MacFarlane from the CIBC Legal Department and Melanie Schweizer of Bell Canada to private practitioners Alan D’Silva, a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP, and Kelly Friedman, a partner at Ogilvy Renault LLP and also chairwoman of Sedona Canada.

Each brought a different perspective to the table, which made for lively and varied discussion. A couple of themes left a strong impression with me. First of all, the idea of a new attitude for lawyers involved in litigation to more of a planning mode than simply reacting to a crisis. That includes a more co-operative relationship such as meeting with the other side early on to devise an e-discovery strategy but also for in-house counsel and their legal advisers to plan ahead in terms of having document-retention strategies and such as a matter of course instead of only thinking about it once a lawsuit rears its head.

Perhaps the most intriguing idea that came up was that of a new “mediative process.” As described by Justice Campbell: “I think if I look forward five years, if there isn’t a private enterprise group that does this, the courts are going to have to assist in what I call a mediative process to drive consensus at an early stage, because we can well see that, as we move from this area that has been adversarial to a more co-operative area, you need some neutral assistance to drive a consensus and perhaps agreement.” Friedman agrees that a special parties-pay, master-type system is not far off and all in the aim of both sides getting closer to the heart of the matter without it costing the earth, so to speak. It will be interesting to see if their predictions come to pass.

The theme of this edition is international law and our cover story takes a look at one of the biggest issues that companies face in setting up in developing nations: getting locals onside. Many Canadian companies, especially those in the natural resource sector, have faced the wrath of local and community groups over projects that they claim have damaged lives or properties one way or another. “Doing it right” looks at the role corporate legal departments and their advisers can play in creating positive relationships so both the companies and communities benefit in the long run.

On the news front, InHouse welcomes new editor Andi Balla, who has recently come on board and takes the helm starting with the next issue. An experienced business journalist and editor, Andi’s work has appeared in the print or online editions of the New York Sun, the New York Daily News, and the Toronto Star, to name a few. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School.


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