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    Archive for September, 2015
    The Long Tail..Innovation in Legal Services
    Thursday, September 17th, 2015

    ♫ Where you lead, I will follow
    Anywhere that you tell me to
    If you need, you need me to be with you
    I will follow where you lead..♫

    Lyrics and music by Toni Stern and Carole King, recorded by Carole King.


    Lawyers, I surmise, believe with their long history and experience that they are the innovators of any changes in the legal/justice system.  However, that theory may need further examination. In fact it may have to be turned onto its head.

    There is a countervailing theory, promoted by Eric von Hippel and others, that users and consumers of services, (in our case, legal services) are actually the innovators of new services rather than suppliers of those services, or in our case, lawyers.

    For example:

    “User innovation doesn’t only extend to tangible products but also services. von Hippel found that eighty-five percent of individuals self-provided themselves with accounting and banking processes before banks offered this service.”

    Imagine. Clients finding and directing the changes that they desire in legal services and providing them to themselves.  How could this happen?

    “An extension of user innovations is the idea of lead users. These are the individuals who first feel the need for a product or service and create it for themselves. Lead user identification is an essential method used by companies to identify the newest innovations in their product areas giving them crucial insight on the needs of their users.”

    How many lawyers and law firms are focused on the idea of lead users and innovation? How many of us are focused on this innovation segment?   Indeed how many lawyers and law firms are actually focused on innovation in the delivery of legal services?

    Professor von Hipple:

    “finds it interesting that in the UK, 8% (3-4 million people) of consumers modify the product that they use.”

    In fact,

    “He stressed the fact that the number of consumers modifying products and thereby innovating outweighs the number of people doing this in companies”

    Perhaps we need to be listening to our clients …much more than we are doing right now.  The consumers of legal services may in fact be showing us the innovations that we as lawyers need to make to our delivery of legal services.

    In fact, they may just be showing us the way..

    (cross-posted to

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    The 2015 Pacific Legal Technology Conference
    Thursday, September 10th, 2015

    2015 pltc logo

    On Friday Oct 2, 2015 in Vancouver, BC, the ninth Pacific Legal Technology Conference will take place. But it can also take place right in your office.  This year 13 sessions will be real-time webcast (the keynote will be recorded and made available for viewing after the conference due to logistical issues) allowing both in person and webinar attendees to fully participate in the conference.

    28 speakers from Toronto, New York City, Salt Lake City, Alaska and all across BC will speak on such sessions as “Blending Technology with Strong Advocacy Skills”, “Practice Management Tools: There has never been a better time”, “Securing Mobile Devices: Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones, USB keys and More”and of course the favourite “All the Gadgets, Sites and More we can Squeeze into 60+ minutes”

    One session will be a debate format: “How Tech is Changing the Practice of Law: Watson, AI, Expert Systems and More” and promises to be highly entertaining as well as deeply thoughtful on the future of the profession.  Simon Chester of Toronto will face off against Nate Russell of Vancouver in what should be a unique way to explore these emerging issues.

    The eight Tracks are focused on specific issues facing lawyers, such as the “Solo and Small Firm Track” (offering for example:  ‘No Brainer “Sweet Spot” Tech for Solos and Small Firms’), Front Office Technology: The Lawyer’s Desktop Track (offering for example: “Sharing Documents Securely with Clients, Lawyers and Others”), The Security and Threat Protection Track (offering: “What is an Appropriate Level of Protection and How to Achieve It”) and the Innovation and Advanced Track (offering: “Emerging Canadian Legal Technology”).

    Each edition of the PLTC is designed by the Advisory Board building an on-line survey of possible topics and issues and asking past attendees to tell us what they most want to hear about and see.  This results in the educational sessions being designed with the attendees needs uppermost.  This year the response was overwhelming:  Privacy and Security was clearly the #1 issue on everyone’s mind.  Accordingly our keynote will be Lincoln Mead, the IT Director of the Utah State Bar and a long-standing ABA TECHSHOW Planning Board Member, acclaimed speaker and expert on Legal IT and Security. His topic will be: Security and Privacy: Don’t be Worried, be Terrified! 

    There will be a discussion track of 4 sessions that will not be webcast due to their particular format.  Here the attendees will be joining our speakers to discuss issues of interest in such sessions as: “Going Beyond the Law Society of BC’s Cloud Checklist”, “Technology and Legal Ethics: What are a lawyer’s ethical obligations in connection with technology? How best can we meet these obligations?” and “The Strategic Reinvention of the Law Firm: People, Processes, Technology and Change”.

    At the CLC conference in Calgary this August, Madam Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin made it clear that resisting change is no longer an option.  LegalFeeds in writing about her speech, stated:

    “We’re part of it, and there’s no escape,” she said, referring to the technological changes making legal information available in other ways and players such as LegalZoom that are growing rapidly.

    In her speech, McLachlin focused on the major challenges facing the legal profession while outlining what she sees as new opportunities that provide some optimism for different ways of doing business, particularly for “nimble, tech-savvy lawyers.”

    We invite you to join your colleagues across Canada and participate in Canada’s online legal technology conference.  Sponsoring organizations this year are: The Law Society of British Columbia, together with the Trial Lawyers Association of BC, the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, The Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association and the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyers Association.

    The Sponsor floor is sold out and details of the sponsors can be found here, including our Platinum sponsor, Dye & Durham Corporation.  For the benefit of both in person attendees as well as webinar attendees, the last 10 minutes of each session will be allocated to one of the sponsors who will show how their product or service helps address the issues raised by our speakers in their presentations.  We are hopeful that this will allow all attendees to benefit in learning about the sponsors and the educational sessions and how they tie in together.

    The conference has been approved for 6 hours of CPD credit in BC which includes ethics and practice management credit.  Further MCLE credit approvals can be found here.

    Early-bird registration rates are available until Sept 12, 2015.

    I hope to see you at the Conference and join in with your nimble, tech-savvy colleagues!

    -David J. Bilinsky, Chair, The Pacific Legal Technology Conference. (posted concurrently with 

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Change Management, Firm Governance, Fraud and theft, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    How Long Should You Take to Return Phone Calls?
    Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

    ♫ One ringy-dingy…two ringy-dingies…♫

    Ernestine/Miss Tomlin (Lily Tomlin on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in).


    How long should you wait before you return a telephone call?  According to Debra J. Schmidt, Loyalty Leader:

    “Returning phone calls used to be a common courtesy. Now, busy people claim they don’t have the time. I don’t buy that excuse. I’ve found that the most successful, busy people I know are the ones I can rely on to return my call the same day. It’s a matter of setting priorities.”

    Indeed! What could be more important that meeting the expectations of those clients that have already sought your services and who are anxious to hear from you?  These are precisely the people who have placed faith and trust in you in meeting their needs and solving their legal problems. What kind of message are you sending them if you fail to return their phone calls promptly?

    Susan Dooley of the Dale Carnegie organization states that no response is a response. In fact, in failing to return a phone call promptly, rather than assuming you are busy with assembling the information to return their call (or you are away on vacation) the caller may assume something quite different:

    [T]here’s a risk that the person feeling “snubbed” by the offender may draw a completely different, and inaccurate, conclusion, such as:

    1. This is not a top priority to you
    2. You’re not a professional
    3. You’re a procrastinator
    4. You don’t have the answer
    5. I’m not important to you
    6. You’re disorganized
    7. You can’t be counted on
    8. You’re hiding
    9. You have bad news, but are not strong enough to communicate it to me

    Yikes! No professional would want to be labeled with these character attributes. Unfortunately, the wrong interpretation by the right person can harm business relationships and even careers.

    No one would intentionally send these messages to their clients that are noted above.  Yet by failing to return phone calls promptly, we are unintentionally sending these very negative messages…about ourselves and how responsible we are to our clients.

    So what to do?  There are a number of very good suggestions in these situations:

    1. The first thing is to recover your credibility. Acknowledge that the trust someone has placed in you has taken a hit. Your words and your actions have failed to align.  It is easy to lose credibility and hard to regain it afterwards. You made an explicit or implicit promise to your clients to care about their matter. Failing to return their phone call has broken that promise. Start by apologizing. This is NOT an excuse. Don’t say:  “I am sorry, but….” As soon as you say that word ‘but’ you have demolished any shred of credibility you had. Understand that you need to take ownership of the fact that you have disappointed your client and be real and honest to them. They are owed at least that much.
    2. Try to stop this from occurring in the first place by setting exceptions at the outset. If you are away from the office, on vacation, in court or on a personal matter, let your voice mail message shape the expectation of the caller as to when they can expect a call. If you have gone on an 180 day world tour, having your voice mail message state “Hi this is John Smith, I can’t take your call right now please leave a message” is completely different from “Hi this is John Smith. I am out of the office until March 2016. Please contact Jane Doe at extension 123 to discuss your matter or have this call answered by someone else at this office.”
    3. Ask yourself: “What kind of message do I want to leave with those who want to reach me?” If the answer to that is one of caring and commitment to their concerns, then you will implement policies such as having your assistant check your voice mail daily for messages and return your calls, if only to communicate that you are in trial and perhaps they could speak to someone else in your absence.
    4. Don’t wait to communicate bad news.  Failing to contact people promptly when things don’t go as expected sends a very powerful message – along the lines that  you are weak and don’t wish to face unpleasant facts and situations. Especially when things don’t go as expected is when clients will be looking to you as their source of strength to weather the setbacks.  If you fail them now, you will fail them in the long term.  Be their oak that stands up to the storm and let them know…in fair weather or foul ..that you will be there for them and be their source of strength.

    Above all, when that telephone rings…land line or mobile…recognize that you have a golden opportunity. You can build your reputation and your client trust or destroy it, one ringy-dingy at a time.

    (cross-posted to

    Posted in 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Adding Value, Business Development, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »