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    Do We Frustrate our Clients?
    Thursday, November 26th, 2015

    ♫ Confusion’s all I see
    Frustration surrounds me
    Solution, bid farewell…♫

    Lyrics and music by Deryck Whibley, recorded by Sum 41.


    (Image: Creative Commons license, courtesy of Evil Erin)

    I had to rent a car today. The reasons are not terribly relevant except to say that I didn’t need any additional stress in my day.

    The car that I rented was a 2015 Chrysler 200. Nice car. Peppy, nice bluetooth that connected to my Blackberry without any difficulty and great satellite radio when I was not on the phone. I enjoyed the vehicle.

    All that changed when I pulled in to fill the tank before returning it. Now I have been driving for decades and have also rented many rental vehicles. I don’t think much about filling them up with gas.  What could be easier, right?

    I pulled into the filling station and got out only to find that the gas cap had a door over it that didn’t have a finger dent that allowed you to open it from the outside. OK no worries.  Went back into the car and started looking for the release button or lever…and looked and looked…everywhere.  All the other cars around me were filling up and driving away while I sat there and went thru the car with a fine-toothed comb.  Not on the dash. Not in the glove box. Not on the door. Nothing. Nada. Complete blank.  OK then …next step: take out the owners manual.  Give it a quick scan..nothing in the Table of Contents.  Check the Index…both silent on how to open the gas cap door.

    Got  out and looked at the door again. Pushed and prodded, tried to pry it open…I even said “Open Sesame.”  Nada.

    Getting back into the car, I started going thru the owners manual carefully. Being a lawyer I am accustomed to looking closely and trying to find something in a long document. Believe me I covered every page. There was a complete absence of any mention of the fundamental task of how to open the gas cap door.

    Third step: grab my Blackberry and start searching.  Turns out I am not the only person who has had difficulties in trying to figure out how to open the gas cap door on various Chrysler vehicles.  Problem is all their proposed solutions didn’t work.  And there were a lot of them.  Nice car but in this instance, bad design combined with no explanation.

    I finally head home, sans any gas and change into more comfortable clothes only to start searching on the Internet with a bigger screen and a proper keyboard.  Finally find a site that says that the gas cap is pressure sensitive and you have to press in just the right area to cause it to pop open.

    From that point onwards, driving to a filling station, popping the cap and filling the car and returning it was all straightforward except for all the unnecessary frustration caused by the whole experience. Since this is obviously a vehicle used by many car rental companies, there must be many, many others out there who have or will shortly go thru the same needless experience.

    Trying to make lemonade from these lemons, I turned to my usual technique which is to try to learn from the experience and place it in a wider context by writing about it.

    Why didn’t Chrysler think to put something in the owners manual to tell people who are unfamiliar with the car how to do a task as simple as fill it with gas?  Beats me but it must have been an oversight by someone. You can have the greatest product imaginable but if people can’t figure out how to use it, it is really an expensive paperweight or worse.

    As lawyers we can deliver a fabulous service for clients but if they don’t understand what is happening or what is expected, they could experience a great deal of frustration with the process. I once talked to a lawyer who drew a process map (or as I used to call them a flow chart…thank you Darin Thompson for pointing out that this was the term used in the Dark Ages) for his clients. This process map showed graphically what would be happening in his client’s case, what to expect when and in what order.

    I thought it was a great idea at the time. I think it is an even better idea today after my experience.

    Our services may be well understood by us but for someone not familiar with the legal system, they could find the experience to be baffling, confusing and frustrating. We can help them a lot by outlining graphical ways that explain whatever it is that will be happening to them. We can also streamline the justice system to make it more straightforward from a design perspective to simplify the process.

    What we don’t want is these people claiming that the entire legal system is failing them and that the solution is to bid farewell with lawyers and their present way of doing things.





    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    We Need to Hear from You
    Thursday, October 8th, 2015

    ♫  I need to hear from You 
    Before this night is through 
    I need to hear from You 
    So I’m waiting, waiting just to hear from you…♫

    Lyrics and music by: Robert Hartman, recorded by Petra.


    This week, Garry Wise and I chatted about the possible topics that we could cover in this column (posted at slawtips.ca and on this site) over the next while.  Without being exhaustive, I pulled together the following list from our discussions. Now it is up to you. In the comments section, please indicate which topic(s) are of greatest interest to you!  We really want to hear from you and to write on the topics that you most wish to hear about.

    Here is the (incomplete) list of possible topics:

    New ways of working:

    • Virtual office examples
    • Virtual assistants
    • Virtual contract lawyers
    • Using Skype and other communication methods to reach out
    • Portals
    • Collaboration tools/applications/websites
    • Dragon Dictate and VR on the Mac
    • IBM’s Watson and AI: What are the implications?

    New Software/web tools:

    • Emerging Canadian software
    • Apps, Apps Apps!
    • Websites: Are they relevant anymore?
    • Blogs: Are they relevant anymore?
    • Vlogs: Are they the way to go?
    • Smartphones
    • Tablets
    • Sony paper
    • Microsoft’s Matter Center
    • Why use Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Other SM ?
    • Windows 10
    • OS X El Capitan
    • Do Process Software

    Capturing, Organizing and Using Information

    • Evernote and OneNote
    • Don’t Forget the Milk
    • Wunderlist
    • IFTTT recipes
    • Wikis and law firms
    • CanLII Connect
    • SurveyMonkey and lawyers/law firms
    • MindMapping: The New Way of Legal Thinking?

    Security and Privacy

    • Portals
    • Encryption
    • Cryptolocker and other ransomware
    • Ethical Hacking?
    • How do you handle a security breach?
    • Canadian Backup and Storage Services
    • Canadian Hosted and Managed Services

    Practice Management Software Reviews

    • CLIO
    • Amicus Attorney
    • MyCase
    • RocketMatter
    • PracticePanther
    • HoudiniESQ
    • LegalFiles
    • PCLaw
    • ProLaw
    • TimeSolv Legal
    • Synergy Legal Suite

    Legal Accounting Software and lawyers

    • PCLaw
    • ESILAW
    • Brief Legal Software
    • Quickbooks
    • Sage50
    • XERO
    • BillQuick
    • CosmoLex

    Stages in a Lawyer’s Life

    • Entering law school
    • Finding Articles
    • Life as an Associate
    • Life as a junior partner
    • Life as a senior partner
    • Life as a managing partner
    • Life as ‘of counsel’
    • Going out on Your own
    • Moving Firms
    • Finding an Associate
    • Office Sharing
    • Easing into Retirement
    • Moving an Office
    • Closing an Office

    Using Consultants and Service Providers

    • Bookkeepers
    • IT providers
      • In house IT
      • Managed IT services
      • Hosted services
    • Working with Security professionals
    • How to use IT Consultants to Max Advantage
    • Apple vs Mac vs Does it Matter Anymore?
    • Finding and working with an Office Administrator

    Setting up in Practice

    • Finding the right location
    • Finding the right staff
    • Working with staff
    • Balancing life and work
    • Hiring, firing and managing staff

    New Ways of Handling Legal Matters

    • ADR
    • ODR
    • Virtual courts and trials
    • Setting up a virtual practice/services
    • Taking Technology to Court/Mediations/Arbitrations
    • Taking Technology to clients

    Other Legal Software

    • Optinet Systems
    • Emergent Solutions
    • Tracument
    • Triage Data Solutions
    • Dye & Durham
    • Thomson Reuters
    • Lexis Nexis
    • Econveyance
    • Esentire
    • Worldox
    • Primafact
    • SAI Systems Auditing
    • LexBox
    • WordRake
    • SimplyFile

    Innovative ways of Practising:

    • Cognition LLP
    • Axess Law
    • ABS across the world

    New Ways of Thinking about Legal Practice

    Whatever we have missed.

    Please indicate in the Comments (below) the topic(s) that are most important. Or drop me a line at slawtips1@gmail.com. We hope to hear from you!

    Posted in 30 Questions for Busy Lawyers, Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, I'm a Mac, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 4 Comments »
    How to Avoid a Dead Cell Phone When Travelling
    Thursday, August 13th, 2015

    ♫ Cell phone’s dead
    Lost in the desert
    One by one…♫

    Lyrics and music by Beck Hensen.

    tossing cell phone

    [Image courtesy of holohololand at FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

    Having just returned from a long tenting camping vacation where my Blackberry was dead for most of the trip, I thought I would pass along some tips on how to avoid the kind of experience that I just went through.

    Notwithstanding that we were travelling with both an iPhone and a Blackberry and charging them equally in the vehicle when on the road (courtesy of having USB connectors that allowed us to use the 12 volt ports and plug in the phones to charge while the vehicle was running), the iPhone would have a charge of about 90-95% the next day and the Blackberry would be dead.

    Furthermore, the Blackberry kept on stating that it has exceeded its data limit plan (we were in the States for the most part and had data plans that had to be continually renewed) even when it was only ‘alive’ for 1 out of every 3 days (due to the fact that it would only be charged every 3 days due to our travel/camping schedule).

    What I found out on my return was that there was a big software update from Blackberry that it kept on trying to download when on the road.  If there was a notification of this, I have to say that I didn’t see it.  As a result the attempted download ate up the data limit on the plan and also ate up the battery life as well.

    So here is a collection of tips to hopefully avoid some of the problems encountered when travelling with a cell phone:

    • Get a data roving plan before you leave.  It is much better than getting hit with the pay-as-you-go rate in whatever jurisdiction you find yourself.
    • Use WIFI whenever possible and turn off the data on your phone.  Starbucks is my best friend on the road. For the price of a coffee you can connect to their Wifi network and check your email messages.  If you are lucky you can find a table with a power connection too and top up your battery charge.
    • If you can, use an unlocked phone or a small tablet that can accommodate a SIM card and purchase a SIM card in the jurisdiction of travel to cut down on your data costs.
    • Consider buying a disposable phone in the jurisdiction where you are going.  Often these are much cheaper than a roaming plan using a Canadian phone.  Furthermore, Canadian cell phones may not work in other jurisdictions.
    • Check to ensure that all software updates are installed BEFORE you leave.  Or if you find out there is one released while you are travelling, find a WIFI hotspot and do the update there, if possible.
    • Make sure you can charge your device wherever you may be. You may need extra plugs and adapters to accommodate the AC power in foreign jurisdictions.  See a travel store before you leave.
    • Get the apps, music and entertainment files you need before you leave.
    • Take photos of your passport, important documents, serial numbers etc and put them in the cloud where you can get at them in the event your device and such are stolen or lost.
    • Set up one HTML based email service with an easy to remember password that you can use in the event of an emergency, such as losing your device.
    • GPS applications are wonderful when travelling, but remember that they also eat up data at a horrendous rate (at least in my experience).

    I hope this helps ease some of the pain when travelling.  You don’t want to end up in the middle of the desert with your cell phone dead!

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    What’s Your Bag?
    Thursday, June 25th, 2015

    ♫  He ain’t no drag 
    He’s got a brand new bag… ♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by: James Brown.


    solo ultracase

    This post continues the ‘no brainer’ posts about technology.  This time it is about a bit of technology that most people don’t put much thought into, I suspect, namely their computer laptop bag.

    Now some people will say that a bag is a bag is a bag.  I am not one of them. In fact I can say that I am quite particular about my bag.  I had a nice laptop bag given to me by our local Continuing Legal Education provider for being a volunteer that fit the bill nicely, but when it finally wore out after many years of hard use, I started looking for a replacement.

    I first settled on an Eagle Creek bag – the “Strictly Business” carryall.  Prior to this purchase I had had a number of bags from Eagle Creek of various sorts and liked them all. However, I discovered that the handles on the Strictly Business were too long…the bag almost dragged on the ground when carried by the handles rather than the shoulder strap- and I am a fellow who is 6’2″ tall.

    But when the zipper blew after only 6 months of owning the bag, I went in search of an alternative bag.

    What are the features that one looks for in a laptop bag?  To me the important features are:

    •  Size: Look for a nice padded internal compartment for the laptop that is well-padded and once inside, won’t allow the laptop to slide around much.  The compartment should be wide enough to take your laptop without a lot of extra room. The standard is to fit a 15″ laptop…if your laptop is bigger or smaller you may want to consider a larger or smaller bag.
    • Durable construction.  The bag that I received from CLE-BC lasted years of heavy use.  That was my measure of durability. Look for good padding, stout seams and good hardware, especially the zippers.  If you live in an area of significant rainfall or other harsh weather, ensure that the laptop will stay clean and dry inside.  I prefer a soft-sided laptop bag but some may prefer a harder case.  Personal preference.  Velcro should close easily and be secure. Magnetic fastenings should stay closed.  Seams should be well-sewn.
    • Style:  You are going to be taking this laptop bag to business meetings, on airplanes, checking into hotels and generally having it with you most days.  Accordingly the bag should match your style.
    • Weight: Leather may be a good choice in terms of durability and style; personally while I like the look and feel of a great leather bag, weight was also a consideration.  I carry a great deal of ‘stuff’ and the extra weight of a leather bag was too much for me since I walk to and from the office.  Accordingly, a fabric bag that is largely waterproof is high on my list of requirements.
    • Size: As I mentioned, I carry a lot of ‘stuff’ from the laptop power cord to various other cords, papers, USB drives, my chequebook etc…so I want a bag that has lots of compartments, pockets, internal zipped pouches etc to organize things such as your cell phone, business cards, pens, a chocolate bar or two, your wallet and passport and even your toothbrush and toothpaste. Ensure that your laptop bag meets the new restricted size limits if you plan to use it on airplanes.
    • Color: I am not referring to the color of the outside of the bag…that is a matter of personal preference.  But the new bag that I acquired..the Solo Urban 17.3″ Ultracase, while black (with orange trim) on the outside is bright orange on the inside. If you are accustomed to ferreting around trying to find something inside a black bag you will totally appreciate the difference a bright orange lining makes.  Finding something is now effortless.  Plus the bag is perhaps one of the sharpest I have seen for looks.  It it is a joy to carry and easily organizes and stores all my ‘stuff’.

    A laptop bag can be one of the most important overlooked items in your business life.  When it works well it is practically invisible since it performs its duties effortlessly and in a way that matches your lifestyle.  I am quite pleased with my Solo Urban Ultracase…Daddy’s got a brand new bag!!!

    (published concurrently on tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Adding Value, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Make it Work!, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | 1 Comment »
    Fitbit is Here!
    Thursday, May 7th, 2015

    ♫ wheeeeeeeeeefit

    Lyrics and music by Seth Olinsky (Akron/Family).

    Who knew that keeping track of your fitness could be addictive – and fun? Welcome to the world of wearable technology and in particular, the Fitbit.


    The FitBit Flex is a wearable fitness wristband that helps you track your daily activity in terms of steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes.

    It tracks how long you slept and the quality of your sleep. It buzzes when you have achieved 10,000 steps in a day (the first time mine did this I almost jumped out of my skin!).

    It synchs wirelessly to your computer and smartphones. You can log additional activities such as biking, skiing, running and more.

    As you achieve your fitness goals, you get email reminders and badges that reinforce your progress. You can also track drinks of water and calories eaten in the food log section.

    If what gets measured gets done, the FitBit is a fun and novel way to keep on top of your fitness goals and see how you are doing.

    There are different devices ranging from the Flex (above) to the Surge that incorporates a heart monitor and is classified as a ‘Fitness Super Watch’ with GPS, notifications, music, Auto Sleep monitoring and alarms.

    Since keeping fit is something that all of us need to do more of, it is good to know that the Fitbit can be a great little way to get that little bit of motivation to achieve your goals with a tiny bit of wheeeeeeeeee….

    (cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca)

    Posted in Change Management, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    Ethical vs Effective Marketing?
    Thursday, April 9th, 2015

    ♫  What’s left to lose?
    I painted all these pictures but you couldn’t choose,
    All of your company.
    But is this distance, calling my name?
    I think persistence is this price that we pay in the end…♫

    Lyrics, music and recorded by State Champs.

    thanks Danthanks Dan

    This is an image taken from a YouTube marketing video created by a  Pittsburgh lawyer named Daniel Muessig.  This particular video has been described as “clever, effective, legally ethical and thoroughly despicable” by ethicsalarms.com.  They state:

    Is this an ethical ad? According to the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct, it is within the conduct permitted by the state’s legal ethics rules. The ad isn’t misleading. It doesn’t make promises the lawyer cannot keep. It doesn’t represent dramatic recreations as fact, or use broad metaphors and exaggerations. (Lawyer ads are held to a standard of literalness that presumes the public has never see any other kinds of advertising in their entire lives.) Once upon a time the various state bar advertising regulations included prohibitions on “undignified” communications, or those that undermined public trust in the profession, but those days are long past: the standards were necessarily vague, and breached free speech principles.

    So we have this: a lawyer who appeals to his future criminal clients by saying that he thinks like a criminal, believes laws are arbitrary, that other lawyers will “blow them off” and that he visits jails frequently because that’s where his friends are. He attacks his own colleagues and profession, denigrates the rule of law he is sworn to uphold, and seeks the trust of criminals not because of his duty as a professional, but because he’s just like them. Muessig is willing to undermine the law-abiding public’s belief in the justice system and the reputation of his profession and his colleagues in order to acquire clients. I’m sure his strategy will work, too.

    This YouTube video has received over 282,000 hits at the time of writing this column.

    Daniel Muessig has no disciplinary history according to my colleague Nancy Carruthers, of the Law Society of Alberta, who incorporated this into her paper “Ethics and the Business of Law” and displayed the full video to The Business of Law conference by the Legal Education Society of Alberta where I am honoured to be a speaker.

    What do you think?  Is is over the top and beyond the bounds of ethically allowed marketing by lawyers in Canada?  It is certainly creative and ‘in your face’ as Nancy has noted in her paper/presentation. Is it a sign of lawyers engaging in advertising that while  undoubtedly effective and distasteful to some, is too close (or perhaps even over) the ethical line? Or is it a sign of lawyers saying, when it comes to the legal battlefield, what’s left to lose?

    Cross-posted to tips.slaw.ca.

    Posted in Adding Value, Business Development, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    One Man, Two Guvnors
    Friday, February 6th, 2015

    ♫ Ah, she’s gonna love you
    She gonna leave you with a smile
    Ah, she’s gonna love you
    She gonna leave you with a smile..♫

    Lyrics and music by: Odie Blackmon and Jay Knowles, recorded by George Strait.

    one man

    The comedy “One Man, Two Guvnors” is playing at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until Feb 22, 2015, hosted by the Arts Club Theatre Company in Vancouver, BC.

    This is a delightfully different play.  For one, there is wonderful live music throughout.  Two, it breaks the barrier of separation between audience and actors and evokes delightful memories of Woody Allen in Annie Hall, where Woody Allen, standing in line to get into a movie, gets into a discussion with an academically officious film professor who cites Marshall McLuhan. Woody, of course disagrees with the professor and his views regarding Marshall and to prove his point, famously reaches outside of the cinematic window to bring Marshall himself into the scene to confront the professor. Marshall of course states to the professor: “You know nothing of my work!”.  Woody Allen concludes with: “Boy, if life were only like this.”

    Well if only other theatre was like this we would do a whole lot more laughing.  This is a bit of British irreverent humour involving food and love mixed with improvise lines and served with a dash of nostalgia and a twist of saucy undertones. The acting is wonderful and the fast-paced entries and exits only heighten the long-anticipated collision of paths at the end.  The scene changes and intermission will leave you dancing in your seat.

    Andrew McNee as Francis and the rest of the talented troupe of actors and musicians will leave you smiling and wishing for more.

    Posted in humour, personal focus and renewal | Permalink | No Comments »
    When the Going Gets Tough..the Tough Go for a Walk
    Thursday, January 29th, 2015

    ♫ Walking in Memphis
    I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
    Walking in Memphis
    But do I really feel the way I feel?  ♫

    Lyrics and music by Marc Cohen.


    The New York Times on Wednesday Jan 21 published an article “The Benefits of a Lunch Hour Walk” by Gretchen Reynolds.  It has important implications for those feeling stressed, out of shape and suffering from a less-than-optimal mood. She states:

    “A new study finds that even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.”

    What is different about this study is that it doesn’t focus on long term results – it looks at the short term results of walking just 30 mins at lunch.

    This study was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and involved researchers at the University of Birmingham and other universities.

    According to the abstract of the study:

    “During the intervention period, participants partook in three weekly 30-min lunchtime group-led walks for 10 weeks. They completed twice daily affective reports at work (morning and afternoon) using mobile phones on two randomly chosen days per week.”

    This is not getting out and running 6 miles at noon.  It is simply walking – getting out of the office, hitting the sidewalks and taking in some (hopefully) fresher air, sunshine and conversation.

    What did they find?

    “Lunchtime walks improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work, although the pattern of results differed depending on whether between-group or within-person analyses were conducted. The intervention was effective in changing some affective states and may have broader implications for public health and workplace performance.”

    Gretchen Reynolds stated:

    “To allow them to assess people’s moods, the scientists helped their volunteers to set up a specialized app on their phones that included a list of questions about their emotions. The questions were designed to measure the volunteers’ feelings, at that moment, about stress, tension, enthusiasm, workload, motivation, physical fatigue and other issues related to how they were feeling about life and work at that immediate time.”

    And what did they find from those who went for a walk?

    “On the afternoons after a lunchtime stroll, walkers said they felt considerably more enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they hadn’t walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk.”

    All the volunteers showed gains in their aerobic fitness from the exercise. Unfortunately many could not continue with their exercise as they felt pressured by management to work through their lunch. Just a suggestion, but when it comes to improving people’s performance at work, perhaps management needs to take a walk…

     -cross posted to tips.slaw.ca.

    Posted in Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Make it Work!, personal focus and renewal, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    What one thing (or two) that we all know we should be doing in 2015 but aren’t?
    Monday, January 19th, 2015

    ♫ If I could do it all again I’d take it a little slower
    make a few more memories I could keep
    crawl in bed beside my child, just lay down and watch her
    soaking up the beauty while she sleeps

    I’d work less hours
    buy more flowers
    make more love on rainy afternoons
    I might make less money
    but I’d make a better friend
    if I could do it all again…

    Music and lyrics by Rivers Rutherford and George Teren, recorded by Gretchen Wilson.


    I thought that, rather than do a New Year’s Resolution-type post, that I would reach out to my friends and colleagues and pull together a collection of  ideas all on the theme of: “What one thing (or two) that we all know we should be doing in 2015 but aren’t?”  

    We all know that there are things that we should be doing but always we don’t seem to find the time to do them.  Like exercising more, eating less and laughing…like getting out and enjoying the company of friends, reading a good book or playing that guitar.  But this also applies to our law practices as well.  Turn on encryption!  Be attentive to security concerns.  So here goes – the best advice for making the most of 2015:


    Roger Smith OBE:

    roger smith

    What one thing (or two) that we all know we should be doing in 2015 but aren’t?

    Look up as well as down

    Here is what a Brit would recommend to a Canadian – make of that what you will. Resist the pull of the provincial – with a big P and a small one. Remember that law is supremely national but that technology is international – and values are eternal. Of course, everyone sees life through the eyes of their home jurisdiction and circumstances. Here in London, this is just downright depressing. Cuts to legal aid are as big as BC faced a decade or so ago. Practitioners and activists are exhausted by the fight to maintain any level of effective legal aid. Few – particularly in the traditional legal aid community – have the energy to lift their eyes to the horizon. As a result, innovation is slow, scattered and even somewhat disparaged.  So, what should we be doing that we might not? Combining an excitement about the new approaches developed in other jurisdictions (like BC) with a commitment old values – like a commitment to access to justice for all (even those currently excluded from the new digital world) and the right to appropriate independent legal advice (which must not be fudged in the rush to mediated and mechanised approaches).

    Roger Smith is a London-based researcher, journalist, activist and consultant on access to justice and human rights. Editor bimonthly newsletter on latest developments for International Legal Aid Group. Author of  the global survey, ’Digital Delivery of Legal Services to People on Low Incomes (thelef.org). Former director of JUSTICE and the Legal Action Group. Visiting Professor, London South Bank University. Awarded an OBE in 2009.


    Andrea Cannavina:


    I think the one thing we ALL should be doing more of and are not is MOVE.  Get up at least once per hour and move around – get the blood flowing.  Don’t forget about proper posture while computing – feet flat on floor, monitor eye level, arms perpendicular to work surface and wrists resting.

    For over 13 years Andrea has been helping practicing attorneys, law firm administrators, consultants and business owners with the selection and integration of processes, systems and technologies to get the paying work done. She answers questions regarding telephone/reception, client, file and email administration, time and billing; achieving and maintaining a professional web presence; getting paid; and setting up/maintaining many web based services and technologies aimed at attorneys and “legal”. Andrea is recognized as the CEO of LegalTypist, Inc. a NY based legal transcription and secretarial service and founder of The Legal Connection Community. You can learn more about Andrea at: http://www.andreacannavina.com and the Community at: http://www.thelegalconnection.com


    Michael McCubbin:

    michael mccubbin

    All great objectives to aspire to – I have a hard time choosing one, but I think that the #1 thing we should focus on is digitizing information and building our practices around that as “the file” as opposed to just a complement to “the file” or something we need to do before emailing/uploading a document from “the file”.

    The reason? It is just the most basic thing underlying so many of our progressive legal technology practices. I am seeing fewer and fewer email attachments show up with a default scanner-assigned file name that it suggests to me that more users are getting organized.

    Of course, many of your readers will be here already, but I do not think that we have crossed the chasm in the adoption curve yet, which some writers suggest only happens after about 16% of consumers adopt a new technology or practice (although I have no idea how such general stats might apply to the legal profession).

    Michael draws on a broad variety of life experience that allows him to understand and relate to most clients that walk in the door.

    He opened his office with the view that there was a better way to practice law, one that avoids the needless expense of conventional law firms and focusses on client outcomes. Today, his clients value things like not being charged for printing and file storage fees, as well as the responsive, efficient service associated with a digital practice that still has a bricks & mortar office in a Vancouver heritage building.

    Michael frequently speaks on legal technology issues and participated in one of the first paperless Court of Appeal hearings in British Columbia. He is an active member of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC and sits on its Legal Aid Action Committee.


    Sharon Nelson:

    Sharon Nelson 2


    1. Moving to an encryption by default world with the client data we hold.
    2. Making sure that all third party vendors that hold our sensitive data are also encrypting it.

    Sharon D. Nelson, Esq. Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., is the President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc, a digital forensics, information security and information technology firm in Fairfax, Virginia. Ms. Nelson is the author of the noted electronic evidence blog, Ride the Lightning and is a co-host of the Legal Talk Network podcast series called “The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology” as well as “Digital Detectives.” She is a frequent author (twelve books published by the ABA and hundreds of articles) and speaker on legal technology, information security and electronic evidence topics. She was the President of the Virginia State Bar June 2013 – June 2014. She may be reached at snelson@senseient.com.


    Mitch Kowalski:

    Mitch Kowalski

    I was recently told the story of Lord Hailsham’s response to a question from a young law student.

    “My Lord, what is the best advice to a young lawyer starting out?”

    There was a moment of contemplation before Lord Hailsham responded.

    “Take lots of baths.”

    At first blush, he could have been referring to the general lack of hygiene among students, but Lord Hailsham went on to explain that everyone, young and old, should take time out from practice to look ahead and plan your future – one musn’t get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life.

    So this year, I will take lots of baths.



    Mitch was recognized as a Fastcase 50 Global Legal Innovator in 2012, and he is the author of the critically acclaimed American Bar Association best-seller, Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century. The American Bar Association will be publishing his forthcoming book, The Great Legal Reformation, in the Summer of 2015. Mitch is a principal of Cross Pollen Advisory which redesigns how in-house counsel deliver and buy legal services. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Calgary Law School where he teaches worldwide trends in the legal services market, and what they mean for lawyers and clients.


    Nikki Black:
    ABA Editorial
    1) In 2015, lawyers should make an effort to selectively use technology tools to streamline their work processes, thus saving time and leading to a happier, less stressful law practice.
    2) Lawyers should also ensure that they use two-factor authentication as much as possible in order to secure their online presence and any web-based software platforms that they use in their law practices.

    Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase.com, a law practice management software company. She is the author of “Cloud Computing for Lawyers” (2012) and co-authors “Social Media: The Next Frontier” (2010), both published by the American Bar Association. She also co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a Thomson West treatise. She writes a weekly column for The Daily Record and has authored numerous articles and has spoken at many conferences regarding the intersection of law, mobile computing and Internet-based technology. 


    Garry J. Wise:

    Garry Wise

    Get a digital checkup.

    Like it or not, law firms are increasingly vulnerable to malicious actors online; we are also perpetually vulnerable to the consequences of our own neglect within.

    One solution to these very real threats is to institute an Annual Digital Checkup for your firm.

    Have a qualified professional inspect your systems to identify any potential vulnerabilities, and to provide recommendations as to any necessary steps your firm should be taking to protect its data.

    In an era where it has become predictable that hackings and security breaches will regularly affect even the largest and most secure of our nation’s institutions and enterprises, lawyers need to become more proactive in fulfilling our basic ethical duty to protect our digital data through appropriate security safeguards, backup procedures and in-house computer-use policies.

    Garry J. Wise was called to the Ontario Bar in 1986, and practices with Wise Law Office (www.wiselaw.net), a Toronto litigation firm with focus on Employment Law, Family Law and Civil Litigation.

    He is primary contributor to the award-winning Wise Law Blog, and is also developer of WISELII, Canada’s Mobile Legal Research Tool, a free iPhone application enabling users to research Canadian case law, statutes and regulations via CanLii.

    Garry has contributed to Bar-eX News, SlawTips, Huffington Post, CCH Labour & Law Newsletter, Canadian Bar Association’s Solo and Small Firm Addendum, Divorce Magazine and CCH Canadian Family Law Guide.

    He has been a Continuing Legal Education presenter for organizations including the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ontario Bar Association on social media, legal ethics, Web 2.0, cloud-related security issues and legal innovation.

    Garry has been featured in the National Post, Toronto Star, LawPro Magazine, Lawyer’s Weekly, Canadian Lawyer Magazine, CCH Student E-Monthly and Toronto’s Now Magazine.

    In addition to his professional and blogging activities, Garry dabbles as a writer and musician.

    Garry can be reached by email at gwise@wiselaw.net. Follow Garry J. Wise on Twitter: @wiselaw


    Andrew Clark:

    Andrew Clark

    I went to a World Religions Conference on the weekend that had representation from the Buddhist, Christian, Islam, Jewish and Sikh faiths addressing the world wide problem of radicalism.  One of the key take aways for me, and that all speakers appeared to agree with, is that it starts with us as individuals.  How do we change our own thinking about other people, other beliefs, other cultures?  Let’s stop our own thinking that goes down the wrong path of how we think of others who are different or think differently.  Then maybe we can influence others to do the same.  I can apply that same concept to technology projects that introduce change.  Many of us resist change ourselves, and we are critical of others who resist change.  So the one thing I need to be doing in 2015?  I need to start with myself, to be more adaptable to change, and more understanding and acceptable of others who resist change.

    Andrew Clark is an independent consultant specializing in management consulting and project management in the Justice Sector.  Andrew has spent the last ten years providing management consulting for a number of clients worldwide.  Andrew started his career over 20 years ago in software engineering as a specialist in user interface design.  Andrew worked as an IT Director for the BC Ministry of Attorney General where he was the project director for the JUSTIN project, BC’s criminal case management system.  After managing a software company for 8 years, Andrew started his own consulting company.    Throughout his career, Andrew has focused on Project Management and Team Building within an organization.  He is a UVIC graduate with a B.Sc. and an MBA.  Andrew is also a Project Management Professional certified by the Project Management Institute and an associate faculty at Royal Roads University where he has taught project management education within the MBA program for 6 years. 

    For the past nine years, most of Andrew’s work has been in the Courts, highlighted by his work in British Columbia.  He’s also had the opportunity to work with the Courts in Vietnam, Rwanda and the Yukon.   Currently Andrew is managing the BC Provincial Court Scheduling Project.

    Andrew has spoken at several conferences including the Court Technology Conference (CTC), the Canadian Forum on Court Technology, the Center for Legal and Court Technology Affiliates Conference and the Pacific Legal Technology Conference.

    Email:  andrewclark.willowtree@gmail.com

    URL:  http://www.linkedin.com/pub/andrew-clark/4/247/937


    Karen Dunn Skinner:

    Karen Skinner

    Here are our top three things lawyers should do in 2015 but probably won’t.

    1. Overcome improvement inertia. More and more firms are talking about process improvement and project management. But they need to do more than just talk. Firms should be working hard to improve their legal and business processes so they can deliver better value to their clients (and become more competitive and profitable at the same time). We suspect most will talk and few will do.
    2. Stop jumping to solutions. Firms large and small often look for quick fixes and new technologies to solve problems, without looking for the root causes of those problems. It’s a Ready, Fire, Aim approach that risks wasting time and money on the wrong things.
    …and finally:
    3. Floss more. Because everybody should, and most people won’t.
    Karen Dunn Skinner is a certified Lean Six Sigma Sensei with over 18 years of practical legal experience in Canada and Europe. Working with large and small clients in law firms, as a solo practitioner and a legal process outsourcer, Karen has been part of the new legal landscape. Her diverse experience includes major privatization work and development of regulatory frameworks for the energy industry in Eastern Europe, as well as doctoral studies on corporate governance at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London, England. She combines this experience with her training in Lean Six Sigma to provide practical solutions to the competitive and budgetary pressures on practitioners and clients alike.


    Brian Mauch:

    Brian - Linkedin photo

    Passwords are our main protection for our online life, but most people use simple passwords with minimal variations and keep the same password forever.  We should all be using strong passwords (at least 8 characters long, including mixed case, numbers and symbols) and change them on a regular basis.

    Brian Mauch is President of BMC Networks, a Vancouver-based outsourced IT provider that specializes in law firms.  Brian obtained both law and commerce degrees from the University of British Columbia, and then combined his education with his passion for computers to form BMC Networks in 1997.
    E-mail:       bmauch@bmcnetworks.ca


    Ross Fishman:

    Ross Fishman LAW headshot 2012

    Drink more water!  Get more exercise!  Walk 10,000 steps daily!

    Or, wait, was that drink 10,000 glasses of water?  Exercise in the water?

    Aw heck, I can’t remember.  I guess I’ll just go sit back down on the couch.
    Ross Fishman, JD, is the CEO of Fishman Marketing, one of the legal profession’s leading branding and website-development firms.


    Joe Kashi:

    Joe Kashi
    1.  Encrypting everything from office server to cloud data
    2.  Using more audio/still photo/video evidence
    3.  Returning critical data from “nebulous” cloud vendors to our own control and

    Joe Kashi received his BS and MS degrees from MIT in 1973 and his law degree from Georgetown University in 1976.  He has been a full-time litigator since 1977.  Since 1990, he has published in excess of 200 articles and made dozens of presentations about legal technology on behalf of various bar associations and private publishers. Between 1990 and 2000, he also owned and operated a small computer store.


    Bjorn Christianson:

    Barney Christianson

    Treating with respect the power to form an opinion.

    Bjorn is the managing partner of the Christianson TDS offices in Portage la Prairie, MacGregor and Gladstone, offices which have operated with the Christianson name since 1970. His current practice is focused principally on transactional matters in the areas of Farm Real Estate, Corporate, Commercial, Estates, Municipal Law, and litigation relating to those matters.

    Born and raised in and around Westbourne and Portage la Prairie, Bjorn has spent his working career in South Central Manitoba. His clients are the individuals, businesses and institutions who live, work and shape the communities in the area. The concerns his clients bring him involve the acquisition, growth, and protection of their family, farm, and business assets.


    David J. Bilinsky:

    2013 20 years with bartalk


    Well I hope you have enjoyed reading the ideas put forward by our colleagues! Here are my thoughts on what we all know we should be doing in 2015 but aren’t (or perhaps could do a bit more…):

    1. Look after our world. Be a part of a group that is trying to make the world a better place.  We all say that ‘someone should be doing …X…” well that someone is really each of us.  We can’t to everything but we can help out in some way, at some level, by being in some group that is trying to do things better.  Someone once said that the best thing you can do for yourself is to help someone else.
    2. Look after those closest to you.  Time slips between our fingers all too quickly.  Hilary Cooper said “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”   Set time aside to catch as many of those breath-taking moments as you can with those you love.
    3. Take time to look after yourself.  The fact is that if you don’t, no one else will.  You have a gift of life, time and intelligence.  Use these gifts well to not only look after others but look after yourself, too.

    So buy more flowers!  Be a better friend!  Play that guitar that gets lonely sitting in its case! We have the incredible advantage that there is still time ahead of us…

    Posted in Adding Value, Budgeting, Business Development, Change Management, Firm Governance, humour, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, personal focus and renewal, Technology, Tips, Trends | Permalink | No Comments »
    2014 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

    ♫ Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
    It’s the best time of the year
    I don’t know if there’ll be snow
    but have a cup of cheer
    Have a holly, jolly Christmas;
    And when you walk down the street
    Say Hello to friends you know
    and everyone you meet..♫

    Lyrics and Music by Johnny Marks, recorded by Burl Ives.

    As in past years we would like to (finally!) take a moment from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and wish everyone the Best of the Holidays and a Happy New Year!  This year in particular I would like to thank all my guest contributors who have enriched this blog with their wonderful and thought-provoking ideas.

    2014 screen shot


    Our gift to everyone is a few minutes of images set to music.  To see this year’s complete slide show to music (turn up your speakers!) click on the link below (please be patient it may take a few minutes to start):

    For those with a photography bent, most images were taken with either a Panasonic DMS-G3 camera with the 14-42mm Lumix G VARIO f/3.5-5.6 lens or an Olympus TOUGH with an Olympus 4.5-15 mm f/2.0-4.9 lens.  A few were taken on cell phones.  All were taken within the last 12 months.

    The music is “A Holly Jolly Christmas” which is a Christmas song written by Johnny Marks and most famously performed by Burl Ives (per Wikipedia).  It is performed by the Argyle Alumni Choir, Argyle Senior Secondary School, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, copyright Frances Roberts, Director. Used with permission.

    We hope you enjoy the images and the music. Best wishes for the holidays and all the best in the New Year!

    Prior Seasons Greetings slide shows can be viewed here:

    2013 Christmas Greeting

    2012 Christmas Greeting

    2011 Christmas Greeting

    2010 Christmas Greeting

    2009 Christmas Greeting

    2008 Christmas Greeting

    2007 Christmas Greeting

    Posted in humour, Law Firm Strategy, personal focus and renewal | Permalink | 3 Comments »