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Weekend reads

Family law Quebec Rulings Weekend reads

Ex-wife of wealthy businessman author of her own misfortune

In the end she was done in by spite, and greed.

She is the ex-wife of a wealthy Quebec businessman who had sought to maintain an exceptionally privileged and luxurious lifestyle, and fought tooth and nail. She hired and fired more than half a dozen lawyers all the while waging a relentless, and ultimately, vain legal battle to find hidden assets ostensibly stashed away by her husband. She frittered away about $4 million in legal and expert expenses, only for the case to be heard ex parte. She did not show up at trial nor was she was she represented by a lawyer.…

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Legal business Legal Practice Management LegalTech Weekend reads

Artificial intelligence and the legal profession: It’s complicated

The practice of law however has been largely shielded by technological developments over the past fifty years, suffering little more than glancing blows.

That may be on the cusp of changing. Fuelled by big data, increased computing power, and more effective algorithms (a routine process for solving a program or performing a task), AI has the potential to change the way that legal work is done, the way that law firms conduct business and the way that lawyers deal with clients.

But it remains that law firms are proving to be a hard sell. A recent survey reveals yet again that the vast majority of law firms are uncomfortable being early adopters.

On top of that, most lawyers view AI as a threat instead of seeing it as an opportunity to help deliver better outcomes for clients.…

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Business Financial services Intellectual property Weekend reads

Early days for fintechs in Canada

It may be early days in Canada for fintechs, a catchphrase for new innovative financial technology start-ups and major technology companies that are challenging traditional financial institutions on their turf by offering cheaper and easier-to-use Internet or smartphone based services like payment apps or peer-to-peer lending or digital currencies, but Canada’s Big Six banks are paying heed even though they appear to be on solid ground.

There is an inescapable sense that a transformation in the way that consumers access financial products and services is underway. Canada’s fintech sector is relatively new and small, with some 100 companies, but holds promise.…

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Business Financial services Internet Legal business Legal Practice Management Weekend reads

The sharing economy: A Pandora box for legal protection insurers

The practice of law is under duress.

Legal service innovations driven by digitalization and globalization are propelling seismic change. So too is the emergence of the sharing economy model which has taken the world by storm. Novel ways of delivering new products and services are seemingly materializing daily to satisfy increasingly demanding and fickle consumers.

The rapidly evolving landscape is putting a strain on traditional business models, while governments and regulatory authorities are scrambling to keep up with the dizzying pace of change. But with change comes challenges – and opportunities – for legal service providers and legal protection insurers alike, all of which was explored at a conference held in Montreal recently by the International Association of Legal Protection (RIAD).…

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Canada Legal Practice Management Weekend reads

Expert evidence under the spotlight

For as long as expert witnesses have been allowed to testify, expert bias has always been a concern. So too is the quality and reliability of their evidence.

Uneasiness over the disproportionate weight given to expert evidence too has raised alarms as has the acceptable bounds of conduct that counsel should observe when dealing with experts, be it in the preparation of experts’ reports and affidavits or in preparing experts to testify at hearings or trials.

Indeed, the courts are still grappling with the issues raised by expert witnesses in spite of jurisprudence clarifying and tightening the threshold requirements for admissibility, adding new requirements to ensure reliability, and stressing the role of the judge as a gatekeeper. That numerous jurisdictions across the country have in recent years provided explicit guidance over the duty of expert witnesses has not quashed questions.

“In our adversary process, we normally allow the parties to present their evidence so they are the ones who call in the experts, and we don’t want to interfere too much with the adversarial process,” noted Lee Stuesser, co-author of “The Law of Evidence.”…

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Legal business Legal Practice Management Weekend reads

Fire sales: Law firms resorting to deep discounting to attract new business

Some law firms are so determined to attract new business that they will go to lengths that confound even the most seasoned legal observers.

The current legal marketplace, characterized by lethargic growth, too many lawyers and a buyer’s market, has driven some law firms to literally conduct fire sales. Offers to work for free are atypical. But seemingly more prevalent are cases where law firms aggressively chase work, offering rates so low that they almost certainly will lead to an unprofitable engagement or at best result in a write-down.

Legal consultant Bruce MacEwen morbidly but aptly describes it as “suicide pricing.”…

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Legal Practice Management Weekend reads White-collar crimes

Information Governance: Taming a world of chaos

Thanks to the alarming surge of breaches and the inconceivable reams of data, clients are increasingly putting pressure – and in many cases demanding – higher standards on how outside counsel secure their data and manage access to it. A growing number of law firms determined to keep pace with the new challenges created by mounting security requirements and the data deluge are tackling the issues through a different prism, and turning their attention towards becoming shepherds of all the information in their hands by embracing a relatively new approach -- information governance.

Up until recently known generally within narrow technical circles, the enterprise-wide approach to the management and protection of a law firm’s client and business information assets has gained increasing attention, especially over the past year. It is a business process that covers the management of all facets of information during its lifecycle, from its creation, use, processing, protection, management, all the way to its disposition.

But information governance is much more than electronic records management on steroids.…

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Legal business Legal Practice Management Weekend reads

Dementia creeping into the legal profession

Dementia is beginning to creep into the legal profession in the same insidious manner it does in the lives of people, sneaking in and leaving hints before constraining regulators and law firms alike to make heart-wrenching decisions.

“The good news is that an ageing lawyer population means that there is a greater number of lawyers with tremendous experience that have insight and wisdom that could be shared with newer members of the bar,” notes Marian De Souza, the executive director of the Alberta Lawyers’ Assistance Society. “The other side is that as the lawyer population ages, statistically there will be greater numbers that will show cognitive impairment and other medical issues.”

Indeed, the spectre of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia facing the profession is harshly brought home by projections made this summer by the Professional Liability Insurance Fund of the Barreau du Québec -- of the 1,949 Quebec lawyers over the age of 65, about 200 risk being afflicted by what British John Bayley called the “insidious fog."…

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Canada Employment & Labour Law Federal Court of Canada Rulings Weekend reads

Montreal tax lawyer fights federal whistleblower watchdog

Yacine Agnaou is one of a handful of Canadian lawyers who took on Quebec tax authorities and plead a case so successfully that now others are trying to follow suit. Last year Agnaou won a precedent-setting ruling that condemned Revenue Quebec to pay nearly $4 million, including a staggering $2 million in punitive damages, to a businessman who was forced to shut down his business after it mishandled his case. Lawyers from different firms, evidently emboldened, are now working together to plead a case before the Quebec Court of Appeal to stop Revenue Quebec’s controversial policy of holding companies liable for the tax delinquencies of its suppliers.

Now Agnaou is immersed in another legal battle against another government department, and once again the odds of winning are stacked against him. Agnaou, a former Crown prosecutor, has filed a motion for leave to appeal before the Federal Court of Appeal in a bid to force the federal whistleblower watchdog to investigate his allegations of wrongdoing against the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.…

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Barreau du Quebec Canada Charter of Rights and Freedoms Criminal Code of Canada Public law Quebec Supreme Court of Canada Weekend reads

Controversial “dying with dignity” legislation brings discussion around euthanasia to the forefront

A landmark bill that has thrust debate around end-of-life care into the national political arena by legalizing medically assisted death in Quebec can withstand court challenges and even co-exist with provisions in the Criminal Code against assisted suicide and euthanasia, assert Quebec legal observers.

In a historic vote, after nearly five years of heart-wrenching deliberations across the province by a cross-party committee of the National Assembly that received 273 briefs and heard 32 experts as well as 239 individuals and organizations, about 80 per cent of Members of the National Assembly approved Bill 52, An Act Respecting End-of Life Care. Beyond providing guidelines to help patients who want to end their pain, the legislation sets protocols for doctors sedating suffering patients and aims to expand palliative care across the province.…

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