The pros & cons of practising...

Practising personal injury law, in the B.C. Interior, IT law, in Halifax

Practising personal injury law

Nancy Young, Pace Law Firm, Toronto

• Constant opportunity to advocate and negotiate — in court, in arbitration, with insurance defence lawyers, with insurance adjustors, even with own clients. There are endless opportunities to “play lawyer.”
• Getting to meet many different people from all walks of life — clients range all ages and all career paths.
• Given that no two clients are the same, no two strategies are the same on a file. Keeps things fresh and interesting all the time. There is always something to learn.
• The satisfaction of seeing a file from beginning to end. There is immense fulfillment of bringing a client’s case through the litigation process to resolution.

• Many times, the clients have been in life-altering incidents. As a result, they are often emotionally raw and very emotionally driven. Knowing how to deal with emotions is a big part of the job.
• The job feels limiting at times. All the lawyer can do is obtain a fair settlement/decision for the client. The lawyer cannot treat the client’s physical condition the way a medical professional can.
• The litigation process is not the most efficient process in the world. Figuring out how to manoeuver around it in order to get your client a fast and fair settlement can be frustrating.
• In litigation, there are legal deadlines such as limitation periods that must be followed. Failure to adhere to those time limits may lead to a professional negligence claim from the client against the lawyer.

James Cuming, Cuming & Gillespie, Calgary

• Our personal injury practice involves acting only for plaintiffs. As such, we have the privilege of acting for individuals and their families and making a very direct and significant impact on their current situation, as well as their future.
• As a firm we have chosen to limit our personal injury practice to serious injury claims. By doing so we can expend whatever time and resources each claim requires.
• The benefit of being proactive and the independence in the scheduling of our practice allows us the ability to prioritize and schedule time for our families (and ourselves) to pursue rounded lives away from the office.
• Having a smaller practice allows us to create a non-bureaucratic setting where we can think “outside the box” and assist our clients in non-traditional ways. We go so far as to retain private health-care providers for our clients. Assisting in our clients’ recoveries can be as rewarding as resolving their claims.
• Practising at a high level in an area of national interest has given us the opportunity to create excellent referral networks. We literally have friends across the country to whom we refer clients and work together on claims. This symbiosis assists our clients at the highest level, and fosters friendships and camaraderie as opposed to
segmentation and competition.

• The most difficult days are those where we are contacted to consult on a catastrophic claim and we are unable to assist the injured party because their claim doesn’t have the requisite components to pursue a tort action.
• We typically enter our client’s lives at a time of grief, turmoil, and despair. We warn our staff that usually “no one calls us when they’ve had a good day.”
• As a contingent fee-based personal injury practice, our efforts and investments in time do not always result in revenue and other tangible benefits.
• Given the nature of our practice, and our internal financing of disbursements, we face significant pressures that those in a large partnership aren’t confronted with. We need to ensure we have trials and/or mediations set year-round to foster continuous cash flow, balancing to avoid potential overscheduling or significant cash flow gaps.

Practising in the B.C. Interior

Andrew Powell, Nixon Wenger LLP, Vernon, B.C.

• The Okanagan Valley is renowned for its beauty and its climate. Everything they say about the lakes, golf courses, ski hills, and wineries is true. The lifestyle opportunities are second to none.
• Also, one of the perks of living in a tourist area is you can enjoy a little cosmopolitan flair without the stress of actually being in a city.
• The relatively small size of the communities is terrific for raising a family and commuting is easy.
• Similarly, the small size of the local bar makes for a collegial feel and a comfortable familiarity with the local lawyers, judges, and other members of the legal community.

• I’m not sure this is a “con” so much as something to think about, but practising in a small community is a much less private affair than it might be in a larger city. Lawyers are very much known and recognized, which is great for developing business contacts, and leads to all kinds of opportunities for community service and involvement, but you do have to be prepared to be more of a public personality.
• Also, you have to have realistic ideas about the scope of work available: A small town may not feed a highly specialized practice. Although there is plenty of work available, it will pay if you try to stay a little more generalized.

David Brown, Doak Shirreff LLP, Kelowna, B.C.

• The Okanagan is a year-round playground. Our summers are perfect for the beach and the golf course, with hot, dry, and sunny weather. Our winters are mild with plenty of snow in the mountains for skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.
• There is a definite focus on work-life balance. Compensation may be less than the big cities, but nobody is billing 1,800 hours a year.
• Kelowna has a very entrepreneurial spirit, and is definitely a “who-you-know” type of town. Networking, business lunches, and afternoons on the golf course are an important part of business.
• The local riesling and pinot noir are outstanding, not to mention the abundance of fresh summer cherries, peaches, and apricots.
• Prominent local industries provide for unique opportunities in diverse practice areas such as construction litigation, real estate, and wine law.

• With so many people wanting the Okanagan lifestyle, there is a lot of competition among all professional groups, including lawyers.
• Being so close to the coast means a number of large clients make their way to Vancouver rather than hire locally.
• Due to the size of the community and the degree of competition, it can be difficult to establish a specialized practice in some areas of law.

Practising IT/Tech law
Lisa R. Lifshitz, Torkin Manes LLP, Toronto

• Working in an incredibly fast-paced and changing environment. Both the legal issues and the technology are constantly changing so you had better be the kind of person who thrives in that kind of pressure and is willing to keep up. Tech law issues are complex and the learning never stops.
• Having to constantly create new forms of innovative legal agreements that are responsive to changes in technology. You can’t rely on five-year-old precedents and clients are always looking to you to make agreements shorter and more understandable yet give them the same level of protection.
• You don’t have to hide your inner geek; it’s OK to be excited about your client’s technology/inventions.
• Our clients are smart and interesting people who expect us to provide them with both excellent and cutting-edge technology and strategic business advice, which is great.
• Tech law is global and complex so you have to stay abreast of legal trends in other jurisdictions (especially the U.S. and Europe) as well as Canada (which I really enjoy doing). In addition to Canadian tech law organizations such as the Canadian IT Law Association, joining non-Canadian legal organizations such as the American Bar Association or Itch Law and/or subscribing to foreign publications is very helpful.
• Since the technology bar is small in Canada, it is generally collegial/respectful and most technology lawyers avoid acting too badly to one another.

• Tech clients can be demanding. If I don’t respond to my e-mail/texts immediately I will definitely hear about it. Response time has shrunk to nanoseconds.
• Just because tech lawyers have the technology to react quickly doesn’t mean that we don’t need to take the time to carefully craft our agreements or think about issues. Unfortunately some technology clients think we can just push a button and provide them our standard “boilerplate” agreement(s) without understanding the importance/necessity of creating customized documentation.
• Some technology clients undervalue the importance of lawyers to their organizations and think we just push paper. We are seen as deal-killers rather than business advocates. It is important to dispel this myth and show how we can add strategic value to enable clients to get what they want while protecting their intellectual property, core assets, etc.
• Certain tech clients are fee adverse and do not want to spend much money on their legal services. They think that they can pull any necessary “precedents” from the Internet (often from other jurisdictions) and use them in Canada without any problem — not so much.

Eloïse Gratton, McMillan LLP, Montreal

• Incitatif pour l’avocat à s’assurer de bien comprendre les nouveautés technologiques,
ce qui est un avantage pour tout individu curieux, créatif et early adopter (dans le jargon de la consommation).
• Domaine en expansion, qui inclut souvent le fait de devoir se pencher sur des questions de droit nouvelles et intéressantes, et de représenter des géants du web dans des questions touchant à leurs nouveaux produits, services ou modèles d’affaires.
• Permet de toucher à un large éventail des secteurs de droit appliqués à de nouveaux médias tels que l’Internet : questions touchant les contrats en ligne, les contrats spéciaux, le droit de la consommation, les questions de responsabilité des divers intervenants sur le web, la propriété intellectuelle, la réglementation en matière publicitaire, ainsi qu’aux aspects touchant à la protection de la vie privée et à la protection des renseignement personnels des clients et employés.
• Les mandats ont souvent une portée internationale, étant donné le fait que les technologies sont souvent déployées dans plusieurs juridictions à la fois.

• Les technologies et l’industrie des TI ainsi que le cadre légal applicable étant en constante évolution, un avocat pratiquant dans ce domaine doit prendre le temps et s’assurer d’être constamment à jour, tant sur le plan des nouvelles technologies disponibles et des nouveaux joueurs de l’industrie que sur les nouvelles lois, réglementations, lignes directrices de l’industrie, standards et jurisprudence pertinente.
• Les lois sont souvent mal adaptées aux réalités, ce qui fait en sorte qu’un avocat pratiquant dans ce domaine doit souvent émettre des opinions et donner des conseils sur de nouvelles questions juridiques pour lesquelles il n’y a aucun précédent.
• Il y a de plus en plus de compétition des cabinets internationaux et des bureaux de comptable pour les mandats en TI d’envergure.

Practising in Halifax

George Ash, Boyne Clarke LLP

• It’s a collegial bar and easy to maintain close connections with other counsel in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
• CFB Halifax is Canada’s east coast navy base and the largest forces base in relation to the number of posted personnel. Due to the military’s relocation policies, the HRM area enjoys a constant influx of new military personnel on a regular basis and this is a bonus for any law practice. In addition, this transition of residents assists in strengthening the diversity and multiculturalism within the area.
• Lawyers in the Halifax area can have the best of both worlds and choose to run either a general practice or to concentrate on a more focused practice of law.
• Traffic is pretty bearable much of the time. With two bridges spanning the Halifax Harbour and a reliable Metro Transit Ferry system, travelling to and from Halifax/Dartmouth for court or client meetings is usually pretty effortless.
• The Schulich School of Law is at Dalhousie University in Halifax — having a law school nearby is a plus. Its location permits lawyers and law firms to maintain close relationships with the students, professors, and administration, which is a bonus during annual recruitment efforts.
• The area is blessed with easy and nearby waterfronts, including lakefront and ocean. Dartmouth boasts 23 lakes that offer wonderful recreation opportunities so we can unwind with family and friends. Swimming, boating, paddling, skating are all steps away.

• The weather in the Halifax area, and in fact, Nova Scotia generally, can be unpredictable. If you don’t like our current weather — wait five minutes; it’ll change.
Andrea Shakespeare, Stewart McKelvey

• Collegial bar. Nova Scotia has a small but very friendly bar, centered mainly in Halifax. Local events and conferences are always lively!
• Varied corporate matters. The size and scale of corporate matters in Halifax can range from very small to very large, allowing a corporate lawyer to specialize in certain areas while maintaining a general corporate practice.
• Nova Scotia’s companies’ legislation allows for the use of unlimited liability companies, which creates a number of opportunities to assist in dynamic cross-border transactions and other tax planning matters.
• Halifax’s smaller legal market allows for more client contact early on in your career.
• Community involvement. Local businesses are heavily involved with the community in Nova Scotia, as are the local law firms. Practising corporate law in Halifax gives rise to a number of opportunities to get involved with
the community, whether through boards, societies, pro bono, or fundraising efforts.
• If you can work a pair of rain boots into your wardrobe, Halifax is a small city offering all the perks of big city life — fine dining, a bustling nightlife, historical landmarks, a vibrant waterfront, strong school system, and beautiful parks.

• A corporate lawyer in Halifax must be prepared to allocate a part of their practice to general corporate matters: It is very difficult to develop a corporate practice solely focused on transactions as in larger markets.
• Being in a smaller region of Canada, it is also much more challenging to develop and maintain a highly specialized practice.
• Compared to larger urban centres in Canada, there are fewer opportunities in Halifax for lateral movement within corporate-focused law firms.

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