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    Archive for January, 2014
    Hacker’s Guide to Being More Productive
    Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

    ♫ more productive
    not drinking too much
    regular exercise at the gym (3 days a week)
    getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
    at ease
    eating well (no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
    a patient better driver…♫

    Lyrics and Music by: Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Colin Greenwood and Phil Selway, recorded by Radiohead.

    sherlock holmes

    I don’t know about you, but I have been largely disillusioned by the ‘traditional’ ways of trying to be more productive. They have come to feel like, well, candy-coated panaceas. And frankly, if they worked, then all of us would be a whole lot more productive. But, at least for most of us,  they don’t. I suspect – if I am any example, that they don’t work for the majority of us because at the heart, we need fresh ways to get more productive than the ‘make up a to-do list’ every morning before you start work..yadda yadda….

    So it was encouraging to read “Six Ideas For a More Productive Work Day” by Kit Hickey, co-founder of Ministry of Supply on Seems she has been trying to figure out how to be more productive, too. Oh and she noticed that her well-being and happiness at the workplace was tied to her productively.

    Her first suggestion? Work out Regularly. This one REALLY resonated with me.  You see, I had some surgery this last November. Awaiting the surgery, I had to curtail my activites by necessity. Before this, for the last 30 years I have been a runner. More particularly, I ran at noon. I was happy and productive. I LOVED running at noon. But waiting for the surgery, I had to revert to the lifestyle of eating my lunch at my desk and working working working …long hours – 12 hours most days with no real workouts or breaks. Could I say my productivity climbed as a result of the long hours? No. Was I happier at my desk? No.

    Kit said that her best ideas came to her when she was running. I totally agree! My columns, papers and articles largely began as ideas on a run. Running made Kit feel more productive and creative. I echo that correlation. It also increased her well-being.

    So the first hacker tip to get more productive at work: is to get away from it. Go for a run (or swim or whatever works for you). Tune up your body and let your mind think freely. I think you will be amazed at how this can change your life.

    Kit’s other suggestions? Take meetings outside of the office. She schedules meetings with exercise classes. Wow.

    Mix it up – don’t just work from your desk in your office. Find out what works for you and give yourself permission to follow those ideas.

    Bring your dog to work. Well, ok, here I would have to say that I don’t have a dog. I am terribly allergic to them. So – Kit – this one is all yours. I can understand what you are trying to do here.

    Evaluate work output, not desk time. Yes Yes Yes! We have been telling lawyers to move away from billable hours as a metric of work for some time. Why ? It is an input metric..”how much time did you put into something”..rather than ..”what did you achieve in that time?”  If you evaluate results (and not just effort) you have moved yourself into a new paradigm. You can adjust your billing as well to bill for results and not effort.

    Her sixth suggestion? Set aside distraction-free blocks for creative work. Again I can’t agree more. Block off your calendar for specific tasks, tell the office ‘no interruptions’ unless it is truly an emergency and give yourself permission to go at the matter at hand.

    She advises that you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. After all, as Sherlock Holmes would say: “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?” If the ‘traditional’ ways of trying to be more productive are impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

    (cross-posted to

    Posted in Adding Value, Change Management, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    How to have a Successful Retreat
    Thursday, January 16th, 2014

    ♫  Yeah but I want to
    Walk on the water with you…

    Lyrics and Music by Steven TylerJoe PerryJack Blades, and Tommy Shaw, recorded by Aerosmith.


    This is another guest post from my friend and colleague Bob Denney.  So many law firms are facing issues today that I thought his article on how to conduct firm retreats to develop a plan that has ‘buy in’ to tackle these issues would be a timely and useful post.  Having been involved in firm retreats, I know that they are a fine art and require a skilled moderator to lead the discussions and keep everyone on track.  Having a plan and having someone skilled to guide you along it can make the difference between a successful retreat and an outstanding one.


    Planning and conducting a successful retreat is like walking on water – it’s a lot easier if you know where the rocks are. The best way to find the rocks is to follow certain guidelines. Some of them apply to every retreat, regardless of the firm. Others vary, depending on the purpose of the retreat and the culture and goals of the firm.

    Some of the reasons for holding a retreat:

    • To develop or approve a strategic plan. This is serious business.
    • To discuss a major issue – such as a possible merger or new compensation plan – or to launch a new marketing or business development program. This is also serious business.
    • To discuss the “state of the firm”. This may be serious business.
    • To provide an opportunity for the members of the firm – or all the attorneys – to communicate and socialize together. This is important.
    • Even if there is no serious business, it is wise to hold a retreat annually. It is no coincidence that the firms with strong cultures and good internal communications generally hold an annual retreat.

    Planning the retreat (more…)

    Posted in Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Why Embrace Leadership?
    Monday, January 13th, 2014

    And I’m hangin’ on best as I can
    Cause I know this whole crazy ride’s in Your hands
    It’s Your plan…


                Music, Lyrics and recorded by: Dustin Lynch.


    What business are lawyers in?  This is the fundamental question that we face at this time.  Many would answer that question that we are in the business of providing legal services.  But are we?  Is that the best way to characterize what we do? And why is this important?

    This is vital, in my view, for one simple reason.  The legal world today is in decline.  We are letting others eat our cake for the simple reason that we are failing to meet the needs of all of our potential clients. The evidence is everywhere if you look for it, such as the rise of the self-represented litigant, the growth of websites such as and the cry that the middle class can no longer afford lawyers.

    The railroads once saw themselves as being in the railroad business.  As a result, other methods of moving goods arose such as planes, trucks and automobiles. What the railroads failed to recognize is that they were in the transportation business, not the railroad business.  And I submit that we, as a profession, are caught in the same myopia.

    How do we define what business we are in? We need some thoughtful leadership here to help the profession build a business plan to its future.  We are problem solvers.  We are facilitators.  We are dispute resolvers.  But without leadership and a vision of where we can go, I fear that the profession will continue to decline.

    The new overriding theme for the profession should be leadership.  We need it at all levels and in all facets.  We need it in the governance of the profession, in the courts and in the bar associations.  We need to let go of the fear of change and see where the profession could go if it was allowed the freedom and creativity to grasp the new frontiers and with it, the new enabling technologies.

    We need, in my personal opinion, to loosen the regulations around how lawyers can provide services, such as forming new business relationships with other professionals.  Clients do not want lawyers or law firms. Clients want solutions to their problems.  If we don’t allow lawyers to be creative in how they can collaborate with other professionals to form the kind of businesses that meet those needs, then clients will look elsewhere. Over-regulation chokes off creativity and growth as innovators are stopped dead in their tracks, fearing professional discipline.  We are killing the future of the profession.

    Take CPD credits for an example. Across North America, topics on how to market a practice or how to financially run a practice do not typically qualify for CPD credit.  Yet a significant number of lawyers end up in trouble every year for not being able to profitably run a practice!

    Other jurisdictions have allowed these kinds of changes to start, such as in Australia and the UK.

    We need to instil entrepreneurial leadership deep within our profession to allow it to start changing to meet the new realities.  We need a dialogue and a plan of how to bring about this change, starting right from law schools to law societies and bar associations all the way into the courts.

    But first we must embrace a culture of leading change by embracing visionary leadership.  Nothing less but the future of the profession is riding on this.  Thank you to my colleagues Steve Gallagher and Shawn Holahan for seeding my thoughts on this topic.

    This post originally appeared in the CBA Publication BarTalk.

    Posted in Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    The Hacker’s Guide to New Year’s Resolutions
    Thursday, January 9th, 2014

    ♫ He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land
    He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
    And then he’ll settle down, in some quiet little town
    And forget about everything…♫

    Lyrics, Music and recorded by Gerry Rafferty.

    New Years

    New Year’s Resolutions?  Phfft.  Been there, Done That, Got that T-Shirt.

    We all resolve to get fit, lose weight and spend more time out of the office etc etc etc.  Speaking personally I have had my fill of resolutions that are born from the best of intentions but then die a cold hard death on the shoals of life.

    So here goes: The  Hacker’s Guide to New Year Resolutions: How to make real change in your life.

    First step:  Realize that you do things the way that you do because of how you are: the way  you find things enjoyable or appealing or not, the way that you reward yourself for doing certain things and avoid others, the way that you find that you are too tired at the end of the day to get out and head to the gym etc etc etc.  In other words, it is the structure of how you go thru life that determines, to a large part, how you do things (or not, as the case may be).  The problem with New Year’s Resolutions is that you set up goals without putting into place the mental supports that would allow you to change.  If you don’t change the structure of how you do things, don’t expect things to change.

    Second Step: Make ONE and ONLY ONE resolution and make it YOUR priority to get ‘er done before the first quarter is over.  Stick it on your monitor.  Put it on the top of your ‘To Do’ list.  Think about it.  Often.  Take small steps towards it every morning *(not every day because that is how you let it slip it down the priority chain  – because at the end of the day you will realize that yes, once again there it is sitting on the To-Do list)*.

    Third Step: Schedule time in your calendar to work on it for 15 mins every Monday to Friday (inclusive).  Rework and restructure your time, your schedule and how you approach life and work to intentionally fit in the time (and the energy) to achieve this one goal.

    Fourth Step: Most of all, hold yourself responsible for making this happen.  You have to change how you work before you can expect other things to change.  So resolve to not only change this ONE thing but also –  resolve to change yourself.  Use this resolution to be the motivation to implement change, starting with you.

    Fifth Step: Once you have achieved this ONE resolution, celebrate it!  Give yourself a reward for getting the job done. Make sure you make yourself feel good about achieving this change (*in yourself*).

    Sixth Step: Resolve to change something else. You don’t need to wait for a special day in the year to keep the changes happening.  You are becoming  – reworking – yourself into a person who can implement change.  Congratulations.  Now get started on your future!

    (originally published on

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Retiring into a Bright Sadness
    Monday, January 6th, 2014

    ♫ And I know less about you
    my heart loves you so much more
    your my pride in sadness
    your my brightness…

    Lyrics, music and recorded by Charlie Hall.

    (c) 2013 David J. Bilinsky

    (photo ©  2013 David J. Bilinsky)

    I thought I would start out 2014 by posting one of the most moving articles that I have read as of late. This article was originally published in the September 2013 issue of the NW Lawyer, the bar journal for the Washington State Bar Association. It is gratefully reproduced here with the written permission of both the author and the WSBA. All rights reserved. I thank my friend and colleague Jim Calloway (who like Charlie Hall is also from Oklahoma) for drawing this article to my attention.   It is by Daniel Farr, an attorney in our friendly neighbour State of Washington.  It is particularly relevant I believe, since so many baby boomer lawyers will be shortly facing the same issues with which Daniel has faced. Without any further ado, here is Daniel’s story:

    I was tired after 40 years of practicing law. It was time for a new road map: more music with the band, flannel shirts, bike riding, road trips, grandparenting, storytelling, teepee lodging, and embellishing memories with old pals. I wanted to be present with the people I love. Long ago, law practice began to rob me of living completely in the moment — reading to a grandchild; hiking with a son or daughter; sitting on a beach with my wife and friends — always a part of my mind was practicing law. Did we meet the filing deadline? I should have returned that phone call. Do we have enough money in the pot to meet payday? That elderly couple should have received a discount, but I don’t need one more box of overgrown zucchini.

    When the family business is transferred from one generation to the next, it always comes down to this: “Will my kids be okay, Dan?”

    After 40 years of lawyering, it was time to move into what author Richard Rohr calls a “bright sadness.” Life becomes more spacious and our view expands accordingly. Our goal is not to be held in bondage by the tyranny of the moment. Life becomes both bright and sad because we see more clearly as we review our past and look into the future. (more…)

    Posted in Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »