The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

National Blog

The legal implications of Brexit

By National June 24 2016 24 June 2016

     

    After yesterday’s Brexit vote, everybody has Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union on his or her mind.  The provision allows member states to withdraw from the European Union “in accordance with its own constitutional requirements. Joshua Rozenberg discusses the (immediate) legal (and political) ramifications of the vote, following David Cameron’s resignation:

    The referendum vote has immense political implications but no direct legal effect. We remain in the EU.

    Of course, the new prime minister will be expected to respect the result of the referendum and, in due course, to notify the European council – which includes all EU heads of state or government – of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU under article 50. But we now have three months in which EU leaders can devise some sort of associate membership for the UK that just might be enough to stop that happening.

    And even if the government is led by Boris Johnson and/or Michael Gove, the new prime minister would probably want to take some time before giving notice to quit the EU. That is because article 50 is a wasting asset with no emergency brake. There is nothing in the Lisbon treaty that allows a leaving state to change its mind and stop the process – although that result could no doubt be achieved by treaty amendment if the other 27 EU states agreed to support it.

    So I would expect the UK’s negotiations with Brussels – ahead of an article 50 notification – to continue into next year. If there is a significantly better deal on offer, the new prime minister might choose to put it to the people – not, I suspect, by holding another referendum but by calling an early general election.

    But for all the talk from Brexiteers of “taking back control,” Richard Gordon explains the irony of yesterday’s outcome:

    Read More

    Deloitte makes its case

    By National June 22 2016 22 June 2016

       

      Deloitte has released its findings that GCs are generally dissatisfied with traditional law firms. According to its study, roughly half of those surveyed would consider hiring non-traditional legal service providers.

      That would include Deloitte.  Here’s a quote from Piet Hein Meeter, global managing director for Deloitte Legal:

      “The legal profession is undergoing a massive transformation. We at Deloitte Legal see a clear need for a new type of service that combines legal advice with strategic advice across other disciplines. This is not currently provided by other law firms. Our clients want us to bring new solutions to the table, and that’s exactly the gap we want to fill. Our ambition is to become the law firm of the future.”

      Read More

      Both private and public sectors must drive legal tech innovation

      By Selena Lucien and Nick Sowsun June 21 2016 21 June 2016

         

        The rise of legal tech is a pivotal moment of change for the legal services industry that many would say is well overdue.  Though much of it is market driven, it also reflects our society’s determination to bring some order to the disorder that is the access to justice crisis.

        Surprisingly, however, the mainstream discourse has remained almost silent on questions such as: what are the implications and effects of applying technical solutions to solve social and political problems? Is technology producing a particular framing of the access to justice problem? How limited is this framing? And is this framing constructed at the expense of structural considerations that genuinely underpin the access to justice crisis?

        Langdon Winner’s seminal work The Whale and the Reactor highlights that technologies not only aid human activity but are also powerful forces acting to reshape the activity itself as well as well as its definition. For example, when radiologic imaging became widely available for medical practice, it allowed doctors, who were previously only able to look at the external body for symptoms, to peer inside the body and determine the cause or presence of disease or injury. This transformed not only what doctors do but also the way people conceptualize health, sickness and medical care. Similar reasoning can be applied to the entwined relationship between access to justice and technology. Technology is not merely an aid to the access to justice crisis but also a powerful agent that transforms and redefines the meaning of access to justice itself.

        Read More

        The legal profession must prepare for AI

        By National June 20 2016 20 June 2016

          Lord Neuberger, the president of the UK Supreme Court, delivered a speech in which he discussed new ethical challenges facing the legal profession and argued for more focus on teaching ethics in law schools.  Referring to the latest book by Richard and Daniel Susskind, The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, he had this to say:

          Let me end with two thoughts about the future. First, the effect of IT and in particular artificial intelligence, AI. In their recent book on the future of the professions, Richard and Daniel Susskind predict that, as a result of AI and the Internet, the legal (and indeed other) professions will change more in the next twenty years than they have done over the last two centuries. We are all familiar with routine work being increasingly automated as a result of electronic developments. But the book suggests that professional work which appears to involve the very human qualities of expertise, creativity and interpersonal skills will be capable of being done by robots or AI. The recent electronic victories over the human world champions in in chess, quiz games and Go seem to me to support the view that this is not at least an outlandish suggestion. Indeed, there are reports of IT systems that can outperform human beings in distinguishing between fake and genuine smiles, and in the US of an electronic program which can predict the outcome of patent cases better than patent lawyers can. The Susskinds point out that this potential development has ethical as well as employment implications and they call for a public debate on the issue. There are many who are sceptical about the Susskinds’ predictions, but there is no doubt but that they could be right. The legal profession should, I suggest, be preparing for the problems and opportunities which would arise from such an enormous potential area of development, and one of the most difficult challenges will be to consider the potential ethical implications and challenges.

          Photo licensed under Creative Commons by by tsevis

          Read More

          State sanctions against Iran: Heavy lifting

          By Emily Alderson June 20 2016 20 June 2016

             

            In 2012, the same year that the Harper government cut diplomatic ties with Iran, it also adopted the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows victims to sue terrorists and those that support them, including certain foreign states, for any damages caused by terrorist acts anywhere in the world.

            As the new Liberal government considers thawing relations with Iran, how much will the Conservative’s JVTA get in the way?

            Indeed, Canada has slowly begun re-engaging with Iran, lifting the majority of sanctions against the country in February. Lifting the sanctions is intended to make life easier for many of the hundreds of thousands of Iranians living in Canada to move assets out of Iran. It also opens up a market of 80 million people to Canadian businesses. Global Affairs Canada is considering re-opening the embassy in Tehran, saying it is better to have dialogue with opposing countries than silence. Having an embassy might also make it easier to resolve cases like that of Homa Hoodfar, an Iranian-Canadian anthropology professor imprisoned in Iran on unspecified charges.

            Read More

            Legal Futures round-up: June 20, 2016

            By Emily Alderson June 20 2016 20 June 2016

               

              Inspired by the CBA Legal Futures report on Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada, here’s our biweekly round-up of noteworthy developments, opinions and news in the legal futures space as a means of furthering discussion about our changing legal marketplace.

              A rash of big law firms across the U.S. are raising junior associate pay after trend-setting firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP bumped up starting salaries to $180,000 USD. Stephen Poor, quoted in CBA National, argues the increase will push firms to embrace new staffing models to reduce costs. Some clients are pushing back against the raises, saying they won’t pay so much for inexperienced lawyers. American law graduates do not have to article and can start as associates after passing the bar exam.

              UK-based Herbert Smith Freehills has launched a program to facilitate re-entry to the profession for female lawyers who’ve taken extended time away from practice. The OnRamp Fellowship is a one-year program that gives returning women “tailored support and on-the-job training.” Herbert Smith will offer the program in its UK and Australian offices following a successful pilot edition in the U.S.

              Read More

              The Pitch: Expert judges survey the field

              By National June 16 2016 16 June 2016

                 

                The Pitch, the first-ever legal innovation competition hosted by CBA and LegalX is off to a rousing start, with 31 submissions received by midnight on Wednesday.

                It’s now up to the committee of experts to survey the field and deliver, by June 23, the names of the five entrants who will go on to compete at the CBA Legal Conference in Ottawa in August.

                The virtual judging panel is replete with names familiar to those in the legal futures/tech world. They are:

                Read More

                What Cravath's associate pay raise means

                By National June 14 2016 14 June 2016

                   

                  Last week, Cravath announced that starting salaries for associates will jump to  $US 180,000 from $US 160,000, which in turn set in motion dozens of firms to follow suit. Stephen Poor calls it a “Bernie Sanders” moment in which partners are redistributing wealth from partners to associates so that they can retain them.  He distinguishes from the last major compensation move in the 2000s:

                  This time is different. Not because Big Law has moved into some form of corporate socialism, but because circumstances have changed. As power has shifted to buyers of legal services and the options for legal service delivery have expanded, the idea that firms will be able to shift some or all of the cost of associate compensation to rate increases seems almost inconceivable.

                  […]

                  The fact is, the industry is facing a redistribution of wealth scenario whether one likes it or not. The question now becomes, how far down into Big Law will the compensation change go? If history is any guide — and history is a pretty good predictor in this industry — the compensation adjustments will ultimately permeate most of the AmLaw 100. There will certainly be hold-outs. And there will likely be modifications to the scale in various cities and firms. Nevertheless, history predicts an industry-wide move to increase starting associate salaries.

                  Poor argues that the hike will likely push firms to embrace new staffing models

                  Read More

                  Respect your support staff: Trust me (and them) – it’ll make your job easier

                  By National June 14 2016 14 June 2016

                     

                    How do you rate your skills when it comes to dealing effectively with support staff? How well do you think that staff rates them?

                    Ahead of a May webinar on working effectively with support staff, part of our Solutions Series, the CBA sent out a survey to law firm support staff to help identify areas where things are going well, and areas that could use some work.

                    When asked to rank a list of characteristics of an ideal working relationship, the respondents put these as the top five things lawyers can do to help them do their best work:

                    Read More

                    On the importance of process

                    By Mélanie Raymond June 14 2016 14 June 2016

                      It was one of my first court appearances. I was there to contest the discharge of a bankrupt on grounds of fraud. The bankrupt in question came from a South Asian country, and I had heard rumours of corruption in his community. What it boiled down to was that some people were being forced to pay to come to Canada by charging up debt on numerous credit cards and then declaring bankruptcy.

                      He was there with his brother and he understood nothing of the proceedings. At first he thought that I was the lawyer the government had assigned to him. Fearing I might be accused of misleading him, I made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that I was working against him, then I strove to explain the process to him.

                      The result: I won my case, his discharge from bankruptcy was delayed, and I left with a heavy heart.

                      My motto was “the end justifies the means.” I was 23 years old, I wanted to change the world, and I did not understand how I would manage to do it in my new position as an insolvency lawyer. Especially since it was because of me that this man, who was in a precarious situation, now had to work even longer before he would get a second chance.

                      A few months later, while I was picking clementines at the fruit market, someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was him, the man from the bankruptcy case, with his wife and children, all lined up by height, like the Von Trapp family. He was ready to give me my first big lesson as a jurist.

                      Read More

                      The real reason why Canadian law firms are in big trouble

                      By Davide Pisanu and Mike Ross June 13 2016 13 June 2016

                         

                        No, it isn’t the ranks of innovative legal tech start-ups springing up now that the fintech boom is starting to move into the mainstream. And it isn’t a result of fee pressure from increasingly budget conscious in-house departments. It’s the hubris, the belief that they don’t have to change, that will most harm Canadian law firms. As one of the firm leaders we interviewed during an informal survey conducted among ­­­partners at the biggest law firms across the country and their largest clients, said “I think that we’re pretty much immune from disruption.” This is not a recipe for survival. Survival requires boldness and innovation. From the multiple interviews we’ve done it seems that not only are Canadian firms structurally difficult to change, many still don’t see a need to do so.

                         

                        While there are a few firms that are trying new things — some are moving basic legal services to less expensive jurisdictions, others are experimenting with fixed-fee billing models —  these are innovations that more progressive firms in more progressive countries brought to the market more than a decade ago (e.g. the legal process outsourcing boom in the early 2000s). Not only that, getting these basic changes through the management committees of those firms must have been a hard-fought battle.

                         

                        Read More

                        Preparing law students: Whose responsibility is it anyway?

                        By Shreya Tekriwal June 10 2016 10 June 2016

                           

                          One of the biggest debates I've been part of in the past two years is, who is responsible for providing law students with the skills necessary to do well in the real world?

                          Unfortunately, it's not a debate that concerns the majority of my classmates (yet) but it is one that always comes up in a room full of legal educators.

                          In trying to figure out where I stand in this discussion, I tried to answer the following questions:

                          1) Why did I go to law school?
                          2) What do I want to do after law school?
                          3) What expectations did I have of law school?
                          4) Did it live up to my expectations? Did I get what I wanted out of it?
                          5) And finally, how would the answers differ if I substituted law school with another professional school (such as business school)?

                          Read More