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    Archive for June, 2008
    On Judges, Bob Dylan and Maxwell Smart…
    Monday, June 30th, 2008

    ♫ Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again
    …For the times they are a-changin’…♫

    Words and Music by Bob Dylan.

    Adam Liptak in the online version of the June 29, 2008 Sunday New York Times “Ideas and Trends” feature did an article entitled: “The Chief Justice, Dylan and the Disappearing Double Negative“.  It seems that the Chief Justice of the United States in a written decision quoted Bob Dylan rather than legal precedent.  It seems he is not alone.

    The article states as follows:

    “Alex B. Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee and perhaps the nation’s leading authority on the citation of popular music in judicial opinions, said this was almost certainly the first use of a rock lyric to buttress a legal proposition in a Supreme Court decision. “It’s a landmark opinion,” Professor Long said.”

    It seems Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Bruce Springsteen are the three most quoted lyricists, with Bob Dylan leading the pack with 26 references according to a study written by Professor Long and published in the Washington & Lee Law Review.

    But the US Courts are not alone in drawing in musical or TV references to make a point.  There is Madam Justice Newbury’s decision in the McKenzie v. Smith, Lyons, Torrance, Stevenson & Mayer case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia wherein the Learned Justice brought in a reference to Maxwell Smart’s  favourite “Cone of Silence”.

    All this proves that Judges are busy keeping their eyes wide, looking for that chance that won’t come again to weave in a particularly apt reference, for as we all know, the times they are a-changin‘.

    A hat tip to my friend and colleague Jack Olsen for drawing this to my attention!

    Posted in Adding Value, humour, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    Size Matters…!
    Monday, June 23rd, 2008

    ♫ A view of the world so small
    it limits the size of the dream
    and you achieving it…♫

    Words and music by: Bedingfield, Frampton, Kipner, Wilkins, recorded by Natasha  Bedingfield.

    The Globe and Mail today reported that the number of computers in use today surpassed the one billion mark.  That is a staggering number but it is surpassed by the estimated number of users on the Web, which was estimated at over the 1.4 billion mark back in March, 2008 by:

    This really gives cause to pause and think about a lawyer’s marketing and how they view their market. The sheer size of the reach of the Internet should cause every lawyer to reconsider their approach to the marketing of their practice and how best to reach out to the world.  This is particularly so if they see their practice as having any national or international aspect to it at all.

    The message is to dream big and fully consider how you can extend your market by using the sheer size and power of the Internet!

    Posted in Business Development, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

    ♫ ..the signal is clear and strong
    Across the miles tonight
    And I am sending you this message through the wires tonight…♫

    Words and music by Frankie Sullivan and Jim Peterik, recorded by Survivor.

    We are accustomed to lawyer associations being oriented around geography – the American Bar Association, the Canadian Bar Association, the Vancouver Bar Association etc.  Accordingly, it is interesting to see the being formed whose stated purpose is to: “promote and shape the emerging online justice community.”

    The statement of purpose of the is illustrative:, Inc. is established to address issues associated with the practice of law in cyberspace and with harmonizing laws internationally that affect human rights starting with privacy, identity theft and e-commerce, and other issues that may emerge as globalization and virtual practices advance.

    We believe that lawyers must look for a way to make laws for a networked economy, starting by connecting with each other in cyberspace, across cultures, in trusted online communities. will seek to provide lawyers with the tools they need to practice legally, ethically and successfully in cyberspace, including developing best practices, technology tools, internet communications technologies (ICT), collaborative tools, tools to increase security in cyberspace, international referral for use by lawyers and the public and online dispute resolution. will create an international community of lawyers practicing in cyberspace to help shape the global dialog about the rule of law in a changing world, addressing transnational justice, national sovereignty, and corporate power in a global economy within the norms and cultures of the world. will seek law reform to benefit access to justice and the legal system.

    The use of the Internet as a way to bring together lawyers from around the world to work on the rule of law globally is to be commended.  The ability to focus on topics that transcend borders and which call for coordinated effort among different legal jurisdictions can only help to promote the dialogue, discussion and hopefully, solution of these meta issues.  The leadership of the are to be commended with their foresight and initiative.  I wish them well as they send out their messages thru the wires tonight and in the future.

    Posted in Business Development, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    The UN comes to BC!
    Thursday, June 12th, 2008

    ♫ Integrations, mediations,
    United Nations, congratulations
    All we are saying
    is give peace a chance…♫

    Words and music by John Lennon.

    On June 17, 2008, at Royal Roads University, BC will host a United Nations conference on Online Dispute Resolution (ODR).  This is an auspicious occasion – as BC lawyers and others – can play a role in the shaping of the future of dispute resolution in an online forum.

    Now lawyers have been involved in the settlement of disputes between parties for centuries.  However, as they say, the times they are a’ changing.  For example, ODR World ( offers an online dispute resolution method for the settlement of claims.  While the amounts that can be settled with this service are not typically large, the implications of such a dispute resolution service are potentially quite momentous.

    For example, buyers and sellers having a dispute can use the ODR World on-line dispute resolution service – currently $15 – for assisted or automated negotiation for 14 days.  If you wish, you can engage a professional mediator to help resolve the dispute in addition to the online dispute resolution process for $38 for 14 days.  By way of contrast, arbitration services are much more expensive: they range from $380 to $1200.

    Compare this to a Small Claims proceeding for the same matter – in terms of time, cost, delay and the availability of assistance. You can see how ODR can be seen as a “disruptive technology” to the entire dispute resolution process in general and the use of lawyers (and the courts) to resolve disputes in particular.  Now you may say that these claims are such that it doesn’t pay lawyers to handle them in any event.  Quite true.  However, the funny thing about disruptive technologies is that they don’t quite know when to quit – once they gain a foothold their obvious economic advantages start to work in favour of their application to a wider market. 

    New ODR systems that take advantage of ‘game theory’ (think of the movie “A Beautiful Mind” about its discovery and its discoverer) have application to multi-party, multi-issue disputes (for example,  These disputes are those that typically involve lawyers and large amounts of money.  The possibility that these disputes could be resolved by the use of Online Dispute Resolution techniques should cause lawyers (and the courts) to give pause – and to be concerned – in fact, to be very concerned.   For example, Access to Justice is enhanced under an ODR system.  Parties do not need to travel (access is via the Internet), they do not need to communicate in a synchronous manner (they can access the system as their timetables permit) and the process is not procedurally difficult. ODR  has already been used in family disputes, child custody, insurance claims and consumer claims. And more importantly, it has a future in resolving major international disputes.

    In your humble scribe’s opinion, lawyers are at a crossroads. If they adopt ODR as part of their arsenal of tools to be used to resolve disputes and immerse themselves into the development of ODR, they stand a fair chance of being involved in the growth of the ODR process.  However, if they choose to stand apart and allow the development of ODR in a manner that does not involve the use of lawyers, then they will witness the creation of an entirely different  but parallel system for the resolution of disputes. Those who have disputes to settle will face a choice: the use of the courts and lawyers (with the attendant delays, costs and uncertainty of litigation) or the use of ODR (which potentially offers speedy and inexpensive dispute resolution that allows the claimant to help craft the eventual resolution).

    I see it as vitally important for lawyers to be present at the development of ODR to ensure that their thoughts, contributions and ideas are included in the future growth of ODR.  This June 17th, the 7th International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution in collaboration with the United Nations Social and Economic Commission for the Asia Pacific will be held at Royal Roads University (  This UN Conference will be a major opportunity to help develop and guide the standards, certifications, the best practices underlying ODR and the future growth of ODR. Lawyers who have an interest in this area should be making plans to attend this conference.  I hope to see you there and hopefully we can all try to give peace a chance.

    (this post is based on a column originally published in PracticeTalk in the Canadian Bar Association – BC Branch’s newsletter BarTalk)

    Posted in Business Development, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    ET, I mean, Laptop – Call Home..
    Sunday, June 8th, 2008

    ♫ Oh you’re lost baby, and I ain’t funnin.
    But oh, when you call to me, well, I’ll come runnin’
    Safe to your side…♫

    Words and music by Gregg Allman, recorded by the Allman Brothers Band.

    Imagine finding your laptop, Blackberry or digital camera stolen.  A sickening feeling of loss and invasion of privacy overtakes you..along with the realization that confidential information – personal or professional – may be possibly accessed by the thief.  Until recently there was little that one could do other than pick up the pieces, inform the clients whose personal information may have been compromised and try to replace the stolen items.  And try to rebuild your faith in humanity.

    However, an online article appearing on Reuters on June 6, 2008 entitled: Lost Cameras “phone home” to catch thieves by Franklin Paul, showed a new – and gratifying – aspect of technology.  It seems that when Alison DeLauzon’s camera was stolen, the memory card in her camera – that was equipped with Wi-Fi technology – called home.  Specifically, it emailed to Alison the pictures on her camera – including the ones that the thieves had taken of themselves.  The reason being is the the Wi-Fi card was configured to email the pictures automatically to her home computer using an unsecured Wi-Fi network. Needless to say, this resulted in not only recovering the pictures that she thought were gone forever, but also in capturing the thieves and in having the camera restored to her.

    Franklin Paul in his article mentions that GadgetTrak of Beaverton, Oregon sells software that can be loaded onto PC’s, Mac’s, mobile phones, iPods, flash drives, external hard drives, digital cameras, GPS devices and others that helps provide information on its location and aids in its recovery.  Technology strikes back against thieves!  There are other competiting products as well – but the point is that *finally* smart technology can help not only recover stolen items, but it can help convict those who engage in unlawful activities.

    All we have to do is install the software and – hope against hope – that we never need to rely on it.  But if the occasion does arise, we can patiently wait for the device to call to us…and we – along with law enforcement – will come running to its side.

    Posted in Fraud and theft, Issues facing Law Firms, Technology, Trends | Permalink | 3 Comments »
    A Digital Scribe!
    Monday, June 2nd, 2008

    ♫ These things we do to keep the flame burnin
    And write our fire in the sky
    Another day to see the world turnin
    Another avenue to try…♫

    Words and music by Paul Brady, recorded by Bonnie Raitt.

    Not all of us are fortunate to have a Tablet PC.  Those that do can flip over the screen, take out a stylus and start to draw right on the screen, seeing their drawings and writing transformed into a digital document before their eyes.  This is the digital version of paper!

    For the rest of us, IOGEAR ( has brought out an electronic pen and receiver that can be used with any PC.  While others have brought out electronic pens in the past, they all had to use a special type of paper in order to work. Not so with the Mobile Digital Scribe. This electronic pen works on any type of paper. You can use the MDS while connected to your PC or not: if you are connected, the receiver will pick up the signals and you will see your drawing right on the screen. If you are away from your PC, you can store the drawings for later transmission to the PC.

    Handwriting recognition software will attempt to recognize your handwriting and OCR it (it helps to have good handwriting – I think my handwriting will need some polish before this is reasonably possible).

    You can also use the pen as a mouse by replacing the ink cartridge with an inkless one and pressing a special button on the pen.

    For those of us who are keyboard-challenged and who don’t use Voice Recognition, the emergence of digital pens will allow us to write our fire in the sky by giving us another avenue to try.

    Posted in Change Management, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »