Legal Feeds Blog
Assisted-dying committee still needs members, Canadian Press
A new leadership team under a new management model will steer McMillan LLP in the direction of greater innovation, says the law firm.
|McMillan’s new executive committee (l to r): Tim Murphy, Stephen Wortley, Teresa Dufort, and David Dunlop.|
Litigation partner Teresa Dufort is the CEO of the four-member executive committee, which includes lawyers David Dunlop, Tim Murphy, and Stephen Wortley. Dufort, who is also a co-leader of the firm’s product liability defence and regulatory group, says her team has been working together extensively over the past year to develop new ideas for doing business.
The firm’s longtime CEO Andrew Kent, a restructuring and insolvency partner, will return to full-time practice.
“Innovation is a focus of the firm. It’s something that we’re independently developing,” says Dufort, adding McMillan is looking at various ways it could be innovative in its service delivery.
One of those is using technology to create a platform where lawyers can collaborate on the different kinds of work they’re doing for clients, explains Dufort. Such a platform would also allow clients to easily manage all of work the firm is doing for them.
Another priority is developing a cost-and-margin analysis model that would allow the firm to do a better job of coming up with proposals for alternative fee arrangements. This means McMillan’s lawyers would be able to tell their clients they understand what the cost of doing business in a law firm is, “which is something a lot of law firms don’t understand, I think,” says Dufort.
Although McMillan has six offices, the idea is to use “the one-office concept” when it comes to client service, she adds.
“Instead of being office-centric, which is the way I think a lot of national firms that have multiple offices can be, our thought was it would give us a lot of ability to draw from a much broader expertise in order serve clients if you could pretend that there was no geography between us,” Dufort continues.
Murphy says the legal marketplace now demands the kind of creativity and expertise that cannot be restricted by geographic boundaries.
“McMillan believes increasingly complex legal challenges require innovative and sophisticated legal solutions that are best delivered without regard to geographical or practice area boundaries through a combination of collaboration, strong project management, and technology,” he says.
Dufort says McMillan’s clients have successfully used the collaborative leadership model. “We thought it works for our clients, why wouldn’t it work for yourselves?” she says.
- Two ‘unapologetic feminists’ launch new litigation boutique in Halifax
For years, Nasha Nijhawan dreamed of starting her own business — she just wasn’t always convinced it would be a law practice with her name on the door.
|Kelly McMillan and Nasha Nijhawan have launched a litigation boutique in Halifax.|
“After moving to Halifax where the market is so different it dawned on me I could stay in the law, which I absolutely love. You don’t have to follow a traditional path and join a firm and become a partner as the only way to be successful in this industry.”
On Monday, Nijhawan and her partner Kelly McMillan launched Nijhawan McMillan Barristers on Maitland Street in Halifax.
The two women first met at Halifax boutique firm Pink Larkin. Prior to that Nijhawan was at Toronto’s Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP where she worked on class action litigation.
About a year and a half ago Nijhawan returned to Halifax, where she had attended law school at Dalhousie University, and met McMillan.
“Working together we discovered we have a set of skills that makes us a pretty effective team,” says McMillan who graduated from McGill law and is focused on employment, human rights ,and aboriginal law.
“It was Nasha’s long-time dream to start her own firm and when she did, I saw it as a good time for me personally to join her and take the risk and a new challenge.”
Nijhawan started a sole practice last fall and a few months later McMillan decided to join her.
Today the duo also announced they are lead counsel representing Abortion Access Now PEI in the challenge to Prince Edward Island’s abortion policy. It was something they started as a pro bono project at Pink Larkin.
“It’s the case that really brought the two of us together as lawyers and gave us the opportunity to discover we have really complementary skills and in how we approach cases. We have different strengths in the way we approach litigation that makes us as a team very strong,” says Nijhawan.
Their Twitter account bio describes Nijhawan McMillan Barristers as a “litigation boutique in Halifax with a special interest in equality issues. Run by two unapologetic feminists who love the law.”
“We are both dedicated feminists and have a really deep interest in equality issues and one of the interesting things for us in starting a firm is the ability to apply that lens to all sorts of cases,” says Nijhawan. “With the case in P.E.I. that’s a straight up constitutional challenge and a women’s rights issue on Charter grounds.”
But the desire to pursue equality issues doesn’t encompass everything they do. Their practice is largely focused on employment law, and corporate and institutional clients in civil, criminal, and administrative law.
“The reason equality is so prominent in our Twitter account is because Twitter is that place where you express views and personality but it’s not an all-encompassing description of the work that we do,” says Nijhawan.
Nijhawan focused on corporate-commercial litigation in Toronto but became interested in criminal law when she returned to Halifax.
“I had an interest in criminal law but in my first five years of practice had no exposure to it until I came to Pink Larkin where I had the benefit of junioring for Joel Pink, who is a wonderful mentor and teacher and he sparked that interest for me and we did some big trials last year.”
Nijhawan says she has enjoyed every aspect of launching the practice — from setting up a cloud-based management system with a goal to having a paperless office, to designing their web site, and giving thought to their own personal beliefs around access to justice.
The firm web site has a fee page indicating it offers flexible billing structures and a one-hour flat fee consult on any case for $100 plus tax.
“It’s not common to have a fee page on a web site. It’s not always the fairest thing to do to charge an hourly rate. I believe it’s part of my ethical responsibility to promote access to justice and this is the way to do it if you’re in private practice,” says Nijhawan.
“The mystique around hiring a lawyer is a real problem. We wanted to offer the ability for someone to just come and speak to us for an hour for whatever they have to talk about for a fee that is fair for our times and manageable.”
Year’s end invites assessment of what has past. For me, that includes reflection on the most significant developments in legal ethics over the year.
As usual, my assessment of significance isn’t one I claim to be objective or right; it is better characterized as, “things that happened in 2015 I thought were especially interesting” (with assistance from Richard Devlin, Adam Dodek, and Amy Salyzyn). Some things drop off the list that could have stayed on it; access to justice remains a crucial and unsolved problem in Canada, but fell off the list because it was more chronic than involving specific developments or discussion, at least this year. Others are on the list for the fourth consecutive year; Trinity Western’s law school was proposed in 2012, remains controversial, and law society decisions in relation to it are before several Canadian courts.
The one thing that constructing this list makes clear, however, is that the ethics and regulation of Canadian lawyers and judges remains an important and fruitful topic for our consideration: there is certainly no shortage of subject-matter.
1. Judges behaving badly
2. Trinity Western University before the courts
3. National competency standard
4. The Supreme Court on money laundering
5. Lawyer advising
6. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
7. Resignation of Quebec’s bâtonnière
8. Regulatory innovation
9. Campaigning in the LSUC election
10. Joe Groia and civility regulation
Nine lawyers were appointed to the Order of Canada this week including a former mayor of Toronto and former privacy commissioner of Canada.
Among them, four lawyers were named Officers of the Order of Canada with another five named Members.
Governor General David Johnston made the announcement of 69 new appointments Dec. 30.
Brian M. Levitt was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to the legal and business communities. The vice-chairman of Osler Hoskin and Harcourt LLP is known as one of the leading corporate governance and M&A advisers in Canada. Levitt is a supporter of the arts and serves as chairman of the board of trustees of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. He was also appointed as chancellor of the Bishop’s University in 2013.
Richard McLaren was also named an Officer and is known for his contributions to legal education in Canada. He is a professor of law with the University of Western Ontario. He is an expert in sports law and arbitration and alternate dispute resolution.
Former Chief Justice of Manitoba Richard Scott is now an Officer of the Order of Canada for his numerous contributions to the legal community. He is also a former bencher and president of the Law Society of Manitoba.
Jennifer Stoddart was also named an Officer of the Order. The sixth Privacy Commissioner of Canada has also worked tirelessly to remove barriers to employment based on gender and cultural differences.
Joseph Z. Daigle is honoured as a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions as a jurist and lawyer including his hand in increasing access to justice. Richard Tingley, a retired lawyer who — during his career — has practised before all courts of New Brunswick and the Supreme Court of Canada says Daigle's contribution is truly appreciated by the province and the francophone community in particular. Daigle is a former politician and Chief Justice of New Brunswick. He has served as a provincial court judge for seven years and is a parent to four children.
Recently retired chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights commission Barbara Hall is recognized as a Member for her contributions as a Canadian lawyer, public servant, and former politician. Most notably she is the 61st mayor of Toronto serving the city between the years of 1994 and 1997.
Scholar and litigator Kent Roach is now a Member of the Order of Canada. Roach is a professor and Prichard Wilson Chair in law and public policy at the University of Toronto.
Canadian lawyer Morris Rosenberg is also now a Member. In 2010, Rosenberg was appointed as deputy minister of foreign affairs and is currently president and CEO of the Trudeau Foundation.
Fiona Amaryllis Sampson is recognized for her commitment to human rights. Sampson is executive director of The Equality Effect, a non-profit organization that uses human rights law to transform the lives of women and girls in Africa.
Recipients will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.
Read the full list of appointees here.
Human rights lawyer Amer Mushtaq is trying to streamline access to justice for self-representing litigants going through the Ontario small claims court system with an online course he has developed.
Online course is aimed at helping self-represented individuals avoid common mistakes when it comes to the Ontario small claims court, says Amer Mushtaq.
Individuals hoping to represent themselves in a dispute — whether they are filing or responding to a claim — can take the $199 online course prior to filing or attending trial in order to understand the complex process. The video guide is broken up into steps with PowerPoint slideshow presentation addressing key issues self-representing litigants tend to face.
In the past few years, Mushtaq has become more aware of the problems potential clients have with small claims court cases.
“They want help, but they just can’t afford our firm,” he says.
After looking deeper into the issue last year, Mushtaq was surprised to learn that very little help was available online for the average individual.
“I found really nothing. There is some information from the Ministry of Attorney General, which gives you some guidance about what to do in small claims court, but nothing concrete,” he says.
And there is a whole array of topics individuals tend to find murky. Starting a claim, defending a claim, filling out the form, presenting relevant evidence, dressing appropriately in court, keeping with court decorum, and choosing the correct court location are among some of the concerns that come up, Mushtaq says.
“I’ve come across cases where clients have come to me, they have started their court action, let’s say, in Brampton and then the defendant stood up and said, ‘No you are in the wrong court, Brampton does not have a jurisdiction for this matter,’” he says, “and they are lost… they (self-representing litigants) don’t even understand that.”
It is essential for self-representing litigants to resolve that kind of issue prior to filing a claim, which undoubtedly will save them time and money
“Another common problem that people often face is, that they don’t have the right documents for the trial,” says Mushtaq.
Individuals may have a solid case, but they don’t provide the documents to prove it to the judge or to the opposing side, “and they are just hoping that they will tell their story and the judge will believe it,” he explains.
Sympathetic pleas rather than presenting the facts is yet another area of frustration for the judge that the self-represented individual may not be aware of. “You got terminated from let’s say, employment, whether you have three kids or four kids or you are single mother may not be a relevant thing for the judge,” says Mushtaq.
Finally, he says “there is no trial by ambush.” Those who self-represent often don’t realize they must present all their evidence prior to the trial rather than pull it out at a dire moment during the trial like “they see in the movies,” Mushtaq says.
Because all the evidence must be prepared and filed prior to the trial, it often costs more for a lawyer or paralegal to take on a small claims court case, rather than a superior court case.
Mushtaq says the course he developed will help save individuals money even when comparing its cost to the most modest pricing of representation.
To render services from Formative LLP, where Mushtaq is a partner — and settle as soon as possible at mediation the client will spend at least $2,500. The same service via a paralegal would cost $1,500 he says.
One of the most expensive small claims cases Mushtaq represented ended up costing the client $10,000. The figure heavily depends on the number of days of trial. “I had a small claims trial that lasted for six days and three sessions,” he notes.
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