Legal Feeds Blog
The Law Society of Alberta has appointed a number of non-benchers to serve as adjudicators on its disciplinary tribunal.
|Malcolm Mercer, a bencher with the Law Society of Upper Canada, says bringing non-benchers into the tribunals makes the adjudicative process more transparent and diverse.|
The law society recently added 24 new adjudicators to its roster of adjudicators, which now includes benchers, non-benchers and non-lawyers.
The law society has had lay-benchers in the past, who have served on panels, but this was the first time non-benchers were appointed to serve as adjudicators.
“When we think of law societies, we tend think of an ‘organization for lawyers, by lawyers’ — but in practical reality it’s now a mixture of lawyers, paralegals and non-lawyers — all of which reflect the public we serve,” says Eugene Meehan, a lawyer at Supreme Advocacy in Ottawa, specializing in Supreme Court matters, and member of the Alberta bar.
Last year, the Law Society of Alberta announced it would be introducing non-benchers to its tribunal process, and expected to appoint up to 15 non-benchers and 15 members of the public. The law society said the move aligns with one of its goals of becoming a more modern and proactive regulator.
Malcolm Mercer, a bencher with the Law Society of Upper Canada, says bringing non-benchers into the tribunals makes the adjudicative process more transparent and diverse.
“Self regulation allows real advantages . . . It allows the profession to make sure that standards of professionalism are maintained, but it is important that the public have confidence in self regulation,” he says. “And transparency and accountability are both important in making sure the right thing is done, but also important to make sure that the public has confidence that the right thing is being done.”
Mercer added that opening the panels to non-benchers also allows the appointment of experienced adjudicators, who are not benchers, which can add to the skillset of the tribunal.
The Law Society of Alberta also expects that adding a more diverse group to serve on its tribunals will enable it to better represent the public it serves.
While having non-benchers serve as adjudicators is new to Alberta, it’s not uncommon in law societies in other jurisdictions across the country.
In 2013, the Law Society of Upper Canada announced David Wright would become its first non-bencher to serve as full-time chairman of its tribunal. In 2014, the law society, which regulates lawyers in Ontario, also boosted the number of non-bencher adjudicators that sit on its tribunals.
Spokespeople for the Law Society of Alberta were not available for an interview at press time.
Meehan says that allowing more non-benchers to be adjudicators will free up benchers to focus on governance and stay active in their practice. Being a bencher can be so busy in some jurisdictions that it can nearly be a full-time job, he says.
“Benchers in so many other jurisdictions are run ragged juggling so many balls — the benchers’ meetings, committee meetings, discipline hearings, conference calls, e-mails and updates, it’s never ending,” says Meehan.
“Alberta is smart to spread the load on to other broad shoulders.”
Criminal defence lawyer Randall Barrs, shot Tuesday near his Toronto office in the Annex district, has been released from hospital.
|Toronto lawyer Randall Barrs has been released from hospital after being shot.|
Anthony Moustacalis of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association says Barrs suffered a “few bullet wounds to his leg” but was expected to be released from hospital Wednesday afternoon.
“I was pleased to hear he is basically fine, has been released and doesn’t require any further treatment,” says Moustacalis.
The 66-year old lawyer was shot by a gunman in the driveway of his office on Bedford Road. Moments later, the shooter was shot by a plainclothes Halton Region police officer who was on surveillance in the same area.
Grayson Delong, the man alleged to have shot Barrs, now faces charges including attempted murder and disguise with intent to commit an indictable offence as well as weapons charges. According to the Toronto Star, it is not known if Delong is known to Barrs.
The Special Investigations Unit is investigating the shooting involving Halton police. Toronto police are in charge of the investigation into the shooting of Barrs.
Barrs’ criminal law practice is said to include those with drug and weapons offences, impaired driving charges and matters at the License Appeal Tribunal around Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario discipline matters.
Moustacalis says it’s rare for lawyers in Canada to fall victim to such incidents. A husband and wife who were lawyers were murdered in Hamilton about 20 years ago in their home. In 1978, family lawyer Frederick Gans was shot and killed by a former client’s husband.
“It’s usually family lawyers who receive threats,” says Moustacalis. “Those situations lead to a lot of tension and they tend to blame the lawyers more.”
David Hyde, a security consultant in Toronto who has done assessments for large law firms, has researched violence against several professions including lawyers. He has also done surveys with law firm employees ranging from lawyers to paralegals and receptionists.
“Research indicates violence and threats to lawyers is under-reported and, predominantly, people don’t know what they should do to better secure themselves. Only in about one in four cases after a violent incident occurred would the lawyer actually make a change to their security,” Hyde says.
Hyde has also found that about 50 per cent of lawyers he has interviewed have dealt with verbal or written threats, harassment and/or violence by another party, and about 45 to 50 per cent of those incidents have happened in their law office.
“When I ask what had been reported, very often it hadn’t even been reported to the firm,” says Hyde. “I did some interviews and anonymous surveys that showed a high percentage of those who received threats or harassment hadn’t informed the firm let alone the police and, in some cases, the threats clearly crossed the line to criminal behaviour.”
Alberta army officer faces 22 charges including sexual assault, Canadian Press
B.C. government removes Metis toddler from foster parents, Canadian Press
Every organization in law needs a data strategy, says Daniel Martin Katz.
|Associate law professor Daniel Katz says mapping out processes can help law firms become better predictors of risks, outcomes, how much certain types of litigation will cost and how long certain matters will take. (Photo: Alex Robinson)|
The associate law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law says law firms can be better predictors of their services if they capture and analyze their data.
“We care about data because we want to be able to predict things,” Katz told the Emerging Legal Technology Forum presented in partnership by Thomson Reuters and MaRS LegalX in Toronto Tuesday.
Doing things differently was top of mind at the conference, where lawyers, startups and legal tech enthusiasts came together to talk about how technology is changing the legal industry.
Katz said there can be a huge difference between what a legal process is and what a law firm thinks that process is — and data can help illuminate that gap.
“As you begin to collect data, you find out there are steps in this process you don’t even have reflected in your process,” Katz said.
Pursuing such strategies will likely have to be done in incremental steps, as partners will likely want to see a return on their investment before fully committing to the process. One step is creating a process map, in which all processes being carried out within a firm are identified, linked and logged.
Mapping out such processes can help firms become better predictors of risks, outcomes, how much certain types of litigation will cost and how long certain matters will take.
Data can also help in e-discovery and transactional work by predicting relevant documents and contract terms, Katz said.
All of this in the end allows firms to better express the value of their services to clients, he said.
“You can’t say how great your services are with no real measure of what you’ve actually accomplished. It doesn’t work,” Katz told the audience.
The conference also featured a panel discussing legal analytics systems that are mining data both inside and outside of firms. Startups and companies that are mining legal data outside of firms seek to provide accessible statistics to clients based on math and the vast amount of unstructured legal data that exists.
Toby Unwin, chief innovation officer at Premonition LLC, said the transparency such services can provide will have a big impact on the legal industry.
Premonition is a Florida-based company that mines the data in legal documents in order to rate lawyers based on factors that include outcomes and the length of trials.
Unwin noted that lawyers belong to one of few professions where the less efficient you are, the more you get paid. He added this might be a reason that legal tech has not moved forward as fast as other technological sectors have.
He said that some firms also bluff about what their success rates are, but services like the ones his company provides can change these things.
“Every great change will come from transparency,” he said.
Search underway for suspect after fatal shooting at Calgary home, Canadian Press
SIU investigates after Toronto lawyer shot outside his office, Globe and Mail
DLA Piper (Canada) LLP and Dimock Stratton LLP have combined forces.
Announced earlier today and effective starting Nov. 1, lawyers from the intellectual property firm will join DLA Piper's Toronto office.
The Canadian arm of DLA Piper — which has six offices across the country — joined with DLA Piper, which spans more than 30 countries, in April last year.
A press release states "the combination with Dimock Stratton will significantly augment the firm’s ability to provide leading-edge commercial advice and representation to the growing number of Canadian businesses seeking to expand operations overseas as well as international companies entering the Canadian market."
Roger Meltzer, global co-chair and co-chair (Americas) of DLA Piper, was also quoted in the release.
“We are excited to build on our successful entrance into Canada with this combination,” he said.
“This key market continues to generate a wealth of new opportunities, and with intellectual property and technology law standing at the core of so many major business transactions across sectors, this is an important step to boost our competitive edge and execute our growth strategy.”
Dimock Stratton was founded in 1994 by Ron Dimock and Bruce Stratton. The firm specializes in intellectual property litigation, as well as the acquisition, licensing and portfolio management of patents, trademarks and copyrights.
Dimock Stratton has represented some big brands over the years including BMW, Cisco Systems, A&W Food Services and Magna. Its lawyers have been involved in one out of every five patent trials in Canada in the last 25 years and have been counsel in the Supreme Court of Canada on leading cases in patent, trademark and copyright litigation, the release notes.
Bruce Stratton, partner at Dimock Stratton LLP, says he will be a partner with DLA Piper (Canada) LLP. He says Dimock Stratton has 19 lawyers.
Of the 19, 16 will be joining DLA Piper (Canada) LLP, and two partners and one associate are forming their own firm on Nov. 1.
“It’s exciting, an exciting opportunity,” Stratton told Legal Feeds.
The offices of Dimock Stratton will be moving to First Canadian Place.
“The legal market is changing and becoming more of a global market, and for intellectual property, the global aspect is key and we see this as a way of connecting into an incredible global network,” says Stratton.
Landing a coveted job in-house comes with many struggles, but once inside a legal department, one of the most challenging aspects can be deciphering what really drives senior management and how to deliver real value.
|Richard Brait, general counsel with Siemens Canada, said it’s important for in-house counsel to develop a network of people they work with in an organization and make sure the key people know what you’re doing. (Photo: John Hryniuk)|
While legal departments often hold a certain level of respect and autonomy with the C-suite, it can be a bit of a learning curve in the beginning to find the sweet spot and the right allies for in-house to work their magic, according to a panel of senior in-house lawyers speaking Monday at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Law Department Leadership 2.0 conference in Toronto.
The education of the general counsel can begin by first getting a firm grasp of what the business you work for needs to run more effectively, says Richard Brait, general counsel with Siemens Canada and one of Canadian Lawyer InHouse Innovatio Award winners. One of the best ways for a lawyer to get to know his or her business is to get in the trenches.
“The best way to know the business is to embed yourself in it,” said Brait, emphasizing that Siemens has an “ownership culture” that encourages employees at all levels to find solutions for business problems.
Matthew Snell, general counsel and secretary with IBM Canada, said it’s important to figure out early who the who the real decision-maker is versus a “bystander.”
“I think it’s important to gather consensus early — involve other stakeholders. If you’re new to the role or there are others new to their roles, over-communicating is important early on — cc’ing people on an e-mail can be a pain but can help inform and make people feel they are part of the process,” he said.
He noted that a predecessor at IBM legal once told him “our clients are entitled to top-quality legal advice but not everyone is entitled to the answer they want.”
It’s also important, said Brait, to know what an organization’s hot buttons are — what do they get upset about? Also, develop a network of people and make sure the key people know what you’re doing — this can be helpful when trying to gain consensus and establish value for the legal department.
“We do a lot of large project work — wind farms, urban transit systems, electrical grid systems and when we looked at it as a legal department we decided change management should be a strategic item this year. On the theme of behaving like owners, we brought finance people in and looked at projects for the last three years and looked at analytics to say ‘We can bring in this much more profit based on past experience,’” he said.
Francoise Guenette, senior vice president and general counsel with Intact Financial Corporation, said she always read a lot about a company and its competitors before joining its ranks. She says it is critical for in-house leaders new to a company to learn how they can align with their client’s strategy.
“Know your environment and your company’s three-year plan — where the business wants to go,” she said.
That also often includes being the moral conscience of the organization.
She added that lawyers are increasingly in charge of compliance and she always felt it was her duty to “push the values of the company and to help make the decision that is based on what is right and what is wrong.”
Snell added that business leaders are often happy to “drag lawyers into areas of business to help.”
“Because legal has a cross-functional role, we can often be brought in to fill the gaps. It is a natural affinity for the dealmaker role,” he said. “We’re also not usually incentive-based employees, so we have a level of independence and can deliver the best answer for the company. We are less concerned about importance of that sale today, or for this quarter and are more focused in the long term.”
Regina man pleads guilty in deaths of two women, Canadian Press
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