advice you can use — short and to the point — every Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday

technology  practice  research

All Our Tips

  • Practice

2019 is here and rather than lament about funds you already spent in 2018, now is the time to get back on track and set savings goals.  Statistics say the average millionaire saves at least 20 percent of what they earn.  Are you on track to create real wealth for yourself in 2019? If you are an incorporated professional pay close attention to this tip:  There are still ways to save for retirement using your corporation even with the recent tax changes.  Consider the benefits of creating your very own personal pension plan.

 WHAT IS AN INDIVIDUAL PENSION PLAN ?

An Individual Pension Plan (IPP) is a defined benefit pension plan. If you are a legal professional who owns a professional corporation, an IPP offers maximum tax relief and a maximum retirement pension.  The result is an owner of a legal corporation no longer has to rely on Registered Retirement Savings Plan’s (RRSPs) performance to provide for a long and happy retirement. That’s because IPPs also offer guaranteed lifetime income and any surplus in the plan belongs to you.

 WHY ARE IPPs SO POPULAR?

Incorporated legal professionals like the fact that the pension they will receive is known well in advance of their retirement date.  They also like that at age 50 the maximum contribution to an IPP is $7106 dollars higher than a traditional RRSP and is also creditor protected. They can also include past service to an IPP for years they did not contribute all the way back to 1991.  This can significantly increase what can be contributed to the plan along with increasing their tax deduction. IPPs can also be set up for the legal professionals spouse if the spouse is an income –earning employee of the corporation. Set up Fees are also tax deductible to the corporation.

WHAT IS THE TAX SAVING OPPORTUNITY?

 High Income Earners

Legal professional corporations who have income over $130000 will pay taxes over the 46 percent rate for each dollar they earn over that amount. If your income is over$220,000 you are now in the highest tax bracket of 52 percent. If you plan to maximize your RRSP contributions anyway this is an excellent vehicle to provide additional tax deductions and save for retirement while making the most of your tax bracket.

 Sale of a Business

Most law firms are sold to family members or partners. The proceeds from these types of asset sales are treated as taxable income. By setting up an IPP now using terminal funding, a deduction can be created against this income.

Early Retirement

Legislation requires funding projections to be based on a retirement at the age of 65.

However, anytime after attaining age 60, a member of an IPP can retire and supplement the benefits provided in the plan by adding unreduced early retirement benefits, cost of living increases and bridging benefits. These early retirement benefits can provide a significant additional tax deduction for the company.

Ideal Candidates

  • Legal professionals who own a professional corporation
  • Individuals age 40 or older
  • People who earn employment income reported on a T4 of at least $132,300 from the company sponsoring the Individual Pension Plan

Jackie Porter (@askjackieporter)

 

  • Research & Writing

I forget where we are in the series. Part 8? Anyway…

Avert/advert
One averts one’s gaze from something unpleasant; one adverts (turns one’s attention) to other matters. The two have been confused since the Middle Ages.

Forgone/foregone
My friend Ross Guberman has noted Warren Buffet’s confusion of these two words: the Sage of Omaha wrote to this followers that ‘Investing is an activity in which consumption today is foregone in an attempt to allow greater consumption at a later date’.

A nicely expressed observation, but for the error; Buffet means forgone (‘relinquished’, ‘given up’) not foregone (‘preceding’, as in foregone conclusions or foregoing reasons). Historically, though, the two spellings were more or less interchangeable.

Both have nice past tenses one ought to see more of: for(e)went.

Led/lead
The first is the past tense of the verb to lead (She led an expedition to the South Pole); the second, as a verb, is the infinitive form (to lead) or the present tense in the first or second person (I now lead the derivatives group at my firm or You lead and I follow).

Mistaken use of lead as the past tense of to lead is said to be one of the commonest errors on CVs: http://www.businessinsider.com/common-spelling-mistakes-resume-2017-11

Pedal/peddle
You pedal your bicycle; Donald Trump peddles more fake news than the so-called Fake News he decries.

Someone who pedals is a pedaller (if you’re American, pedaler); who peddles, a pedlar.

 Tenet/tenant
I’ve heard these confused, but I don’t think I’ve seen the crime in writing. Yet, anyway.

A tenet is a doctrine or principle; a tenant is a renter of property.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Research & Writing

There are many reasons to pity Melania Trump (although maybe she knew what she was signing up for and got what she deserved – hard to say, really).

Mrs T got into some linguistic hot water with the slogan for her campaign for children’s health and happiness, launched in May 2018: Be Best.

As Tim Hill has pointed out in The Guardian, this doesn’t hold up to what he calls ‘the laws of English grammar’ (I’d soften that a bit and call them rules; English is more flexible than laws would suggest).

One can be good and one can be better, but one really ought to be the best, not just best. That said, it would be idiomatic (and correct) to say It would be best not to do that.

The origin of Melania’s little solecism? Her not always grammatically correct husband, perhaps. Or a desire to outdo, with a superlative, Michele Obama’s exhortation in 2016 for men to be better. Or possibly a staffer’s subtle mockery of the First Lady’s somewhat shaky command of English and its use of definite articles (which are foreign to her native Slovenian).

Not, by any means, the greatest failing of the reign of Trump, but worth noting.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Technology

Administrator’s note: thanks to Lexum for sharing this tip by  first appeared on the Lexum Blog.

Lexbox was designed to make your legal research faster and easier. To help you use Lexbox to the best of its ability, we are sharing Lexbox tips with you from time to time.  Here’s one if you are using Lexbox on the CanLII website.

Today’s tip is about saving a specific paragraph from a decision on Lexbox, so that you can include it in your research record, and revisit it anytime.

  1. If you are not already logged in, login or create a Lexbox account here.
  2. On CanLII, go to the case that you are interested in and find the paragraph you want to save.
  3. Click on the blue paragraph number in square brackets.
  4. The paragraph is highlighted and a blue upload cloud button appears on the top right of the paragraph. Click on this upload button.
  5. A box appears that allows you to edit the case name, file it into a folder, and add notes. All saved items come with metadata, such as a citation, issuing court, decision date, and keywords.
  6. Once you click “Ok”, your paragraph is saved to your Lexbox account! You can access it from the drop-down located under your username, or by clicking on the Lexbox logo.
  7. Within your Lexbox account you now see the corresponding decision listed under the folder structure you selected. When clicking on the title, you are redirected back to that exact paragraph in the decision.

 

 

  • Research & Writing

Summons is one of those odd nouns that ends in –s in its singular form; so the plural is summonses.

Odder still is the use of summons as a verb, meaning to command someone’s appearance in a court of law by way of a summons. Verbs don’t typically end in –s either.

Not everyone is happy with this state of affairs: Glanville Williams wrote in Learning the Law, 11th ed. (1982) that ‘the horrible expression “summonsed for an offence” (turning the noun “summons” into a verb) has now become accepted usage, but “summoned” remains not only allowable but preferable’.

A little digging in the dictionary (Oxford, of course) shows, however, that summons is older than Williams suggests – if not entirely reputable.

The usage citations in OED go back as far as 1780, with a quotation from Martin Madan’s Thelyphthora: ‘A woman had but to summons her seducer before the judges’. Madan (1726-1790) was a barrister (and a clergyman), but a controversial one; Thelyphthora scandalised its readers in advocating polygamy as a remedy for the ‘female ruin’ brought about by what he called whoredom, fornication and adultery. Perhaps not the best authority, then?

Next in the citations comes a line from Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby (1828), where the sadistic schoolmaster Whackford Squeers (oh, those Dickensian names!) ejaculates, ‘Say another word and I’ll summons you for having a broken winder’. The dialectical winder may suggest that summons, too, is non-standard.

And the final example is from the novels of Marie Corelli, a forerunner of Barbara Cartland and EL James (so not exactly an exemplar of great literature): ‘You can summons me … if you feel so inclined’ (God’s Good Man (1904)).

All in all, not an impeccable pedigree for the verb summons, but it isn’t as newfangled a word as Glanville Williams suggests. I agree, though, that to summon is the better way to go.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Research & Writing

A very quick tip today: if you’re trying to print out a readable version of a web page, but the website doesn’t provide the content in a print friendly format, try using https://www.printfriendly.com to remove any extraneous information.

 

  • Practice

The last thing any busy lawyer wants to add to their already overflowing plate is business development.

Scratch that.

The last thing any busy lawyer wants is the pressure to come up with a ‘winning’ new idea for business development and then to work on implementing that idea on an urgent basis.

Here’s the problem. While you may be too busy to think about marketing today, you may not be headed for quite the same level of activity in the foreseeable future.

So, avoid setting yourself up to have to figure it all out while you’ve got your hands full with billable work. Build a system. A turnkey business development system that moves along at a steady pace, busy or not. That way, you’re always doing something to feed the pipeline.

Never too much. Never too little.

If you take the time to consider your business development system and build it strategically, you won’t need to come up with fresh, strategic ideas when your attention is, rightfully, placed elsewhere. You will already know what you (and others at your firm) are supposed to do, when and why.

And even better, when you finally do get some downtime, you won’t have to throw yourself into marketing just to get caught up. You will actually be able to enjoy your well-deserved break… guilt free!

For more reading on business development, see these past articles on Slaw:

Also, see the following related articles by Sandra Bekhor at Toronto Marketing Blog:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

  • Research & Writing

Let’s talk about Legal Information Institutes (LIIs). Every Canadian legal researcher knows about CanLII (I least we hope you do). But there is also LII (that’s the USA one), BaiLII (Britain and Ireland), AustLII (Australasia), AsianLII, HKLII (Hong Kong), PacLII (Pacific Islands), SAFLII (Southern Africa), WorldLII, and many others, all of which are part of the larger Access to Law Movement.

LIIs provide free access to current, primary law in their jurisdiction. But they do not always contain comprehensive collections of historic materials (in all cases, I assume, they are working on it). In the English-speaking world, the most earnest attempt to fill in the historical gaps is CommonLII, which covers the world of common law (assuming there is a high correlation between commonwealth countries and common law countries, that is).

Recently, CommonLII enhanced their historical vision with the Foundations of the Common Law Library (1215-1914). No, 1215 is not a typo. In addition to the Magna Carta, the site includes many obscure statutes from the thirteenth century and forward, including, for instance, the Treason Act of 1351.

The collection of English Reports goes back to 1220, but seems a bit patchy when compared to the statute law, as there are hundreds of cases tagged January 1220, but then nothing more until the year 1457. Despite being “reports,” many of these records are no more than what we would today call summaries or digests – an example from 1491:

Conusee. –A man had lands of ancient demesne in extent for debt, and they were recovered from him by the sufferance of the vouchee, whereby he was ousted ; in this case he shall be holpen here. Morton, Chancellor ; per Assent, Bryan, and Hussey, Justices (7 H. 7. 11 [1491-921).

It might require a historical legal scholar to determine in what way the debtor was “holpen” (helped) in this case, but it appears that people in 1491 got themselves into similar situations that many of us do in the 21st Century.

“Foundations” is perhaps an overused metaphor. Is the modern law really built upon these judgments, in the way that a courthouse is built upon concrete footings? In reviewing the above ruling and a few others, I am more inclined to think of them as the infancy of the common law. The law was smaller, simpler, and by appearances, more innocent. The modern law grows out of it, rather than resting upon it. In any event, to invoke yet another overused metaphor, this is the fresh spring that over time will become the mighty river that is the common law.

What else does this collection include? It’s a bit of a mixed bag. In the case of Canada, it includes only a link to the complete Supreme Court of Canada judgments on CanLII. For Australia, who led in the development of CommonLII, there are law report series for all provinces, each going back to the 19th Century or earlier. There are also collections for Uganda, Southern and Western Africa, Hong Kong, Burma, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Bahamas, and ever other country in the Commonwealth with a significant collection of reported case law.

So the next time you see a citation for a very old British judgment, or one from any common law jurisdiction, or you just feel like exploring the cracks and fissures in the footings beneath modern jurisprudence, remember to revisit CommonLII.org and return to the Foundations.

[This tip by Ken Fox originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]

 

 

  • Research & Writing

A regrettably continuing series.

Core
Almost as bad as key (when used, like core, as an adjective meaning ‘principal’ or ‘main’). Both have a distinct whiff of the 1990s to them.

My gut
Please, no one wants to imagine what your digestive tract is doing – much less what it is telling you.

Next steps
For the love of pity, can we stop talking about these at the end of every meeting? It’s not as though we can take previous steps at that point.

Action items would not be an acceptable substitute; it’s another piece of jargon. Tasks would work just fine, no?

Pivotal
Why, all of a sudden, are events deemed important now said to be pivotal? Besides being tiresome by its ubiquity, the word betrays an inherent teleological fallacy in assuming the inevitability of whatever resulted from a supposedly pivotal moment. This is rarely the case.

Please just say something normal like important or significant instead of this over-used piece of nonsense.

Scalable
Like a mountain, a fish that needs cleaning or a tea-kettle if your water is hard?

Better: adaptable, extensible, flexible, variable.

 Serial entrepreneur
Couldn’t this suggest someone who has left behind a trail of business failures masquerading as success? (A certain slum landlord turned real estate developer, TV personality and politician comes to mind …)

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Technology

You know what really grinds my gears? When I open a PDF file containing what appears to be digitally-formatted text and find that it is non-copyable and non-searchable. The ability to search, copy and paste text are essential functions of digital communications – so the idea that a text is born digitally and therefore ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) encoded, and that somebody wittingly or unwittingly should remove that functionality – it leads to much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.

Well just last week I was sent a large PDF document with more than 70 pages of text. So I opened it in Adobe Acrobat, and tried to execute a search for a key term, and found that it was (you guessed it) another one of those documents that had signs of ASCII-formatted text in its progeny, but through the manipulations of some kind of monster, been reduced to the mere semblance of text, no more searchable than a stack of paper.

So naturally I commenced with my usual process of wailing and gnashing, but after a few minutes of that I got a notion that maybe I should try something different. In near desperation, I got the idea that – just maybe – if I “select all” and paste it into a text editor then some hitherto-hidden ASCII-encoded text might appear. Worth a try, right?

So I hit control-A, and THIS happened:

Hello!

“Why yes,” I said out loud, “in fact I WOULD like to run text recognition to make the text on this page accessible – THANKS for asking!”

I clicked Yes.

Then I got asked for some settings, which I ignored and just clicked OK – opting for the default option in my excitement.

Adobe Acrobat then leapt through my document, systematically performing the miracle of breathing life into the dead letters at the rate of about a page a second – slightly faster for the “born digital” main portion, and a bit slower for some appendices that bore the stigmata of pre-digital technology.

The result was perfectly copyable, pastable, searchable text in the main body of the document. As for the typewritten appendices, Acrobat almost flawlessly converted them into digital text as well, while maintaining the visual features of the original typed text. Basically, the document looked identical to how it had looked prior to the procedure but was now digitally functional. The only letters and numbers that resisted the resurrection were data from a single table with a very small typeface – those few characters remained a heretical community of graphics in the midst of a near-universal mass conversion.

Optical text recognition technology has come a long way in a few short years.

Now if you work anywhere in the legal industry (or do any kind of office work), then there is a good chance you have been able to follow right along, and to some of you, this is already old news and why am I boring you. But if there are any among you who don’t know what I’m talking about with text that can be searched and copied – you need to learn a few tricks that will make your life a whole lot easier. Begin with learning these commands, which work on almost all text-editing software:

CTL-F … Find text in document

CTL-A … Select All

CTL-X … Cut selected text

CTL-C … Copy selected text

CTL-V … Paste the last text you cut or copied

CTL-Z … Undo last operation

CTL-Y … Redo undone operation

CTL-H … Find all identified text in document and replace with other text

You can use point-and-click menus for these operations as well, but I find the keyboard shortcuts easier. These features, and many others, are now standard practice in office work – so learning them will not get you ahead so much as get you caught up with the rest of us.

And if you ever come across a text, especially a longish one, for which the above commands do not work, try to do minimal weeping & wailing and tooth-gnashing. And when you are done that, wipe the tears off your keyboard and try the simple operation described above. Failing that, try something else. And if all else fails, ask your friend in IT to perform a miracle. Because there is no reason to tolerate text in a digital file that cannot function as digital text.

[This tip by Ken Fox originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]