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

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All Our Tips

  • Practice

Our personal and professional lives have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19. We’re all trying our best to stay informed, remain physically and mentally healthy, and to live and work in this brave new world. I am not alone in suggesting that staying informed about this pandemic and experiencing this constant barrage of information about COVID-19 through the media, social media, and web has become mentally and physically exhausting. How do you stay informed, prevent information overload, and remain mentally well all at the same time? 

As a law librarian, one of my skill sets is navigating, curating, aggregating, and communicating sources of information and content. In my workplace, the Law Society of Saskatchewan, we are doing our best to guide you towards reliable sources of information about COVID-19 and its impact on your physical and mental health, the practice of law, and the judicial system. 

In this vein, we offer some suggestions that may help you to stay informed: 

1. Fight Fake News:

Misinformation and unsubstantiated stories about COVID-19 are rife. Don’t forget to critically evaluate and assess the content you view. In this infographic, the International Federation of Library Associations suggests you evaluate the source, check the author, consider the supporting sources, and more.

2. Follow These Information Sources to Learn More:

We encourage you to follow these excellent resources for frequent posts and accurate information regarding COVID-19 and the practice of law: 

This document provides practical guidance regarding the virus’s impact on Canadian employment law, commercial law, corporate law, and litigation practices.  This material is only available to those with access to LexisNexis Quicklaw.      

Canadian Lawyer provides a daily post aggregating updates from Canadian courts and law firms.   

Lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault are monitoring and reporting on all emergency measures being taken by Canada’s Federal and Provincial governments during the pandemic. 

WestlawNext is collecting and curating all case law, decisions, and legislation related to COVID-19.  Scroll to the bottom of the Westlaw Next homepage and select the “COVID-19 Legal Materials” link. 

The CBA resource hub provides legal and justice system updates, a great collection of mental health resources, and a variety of professional development resources you may want to take advantage of during the pandemic.   

One of the leading news sources for news about the legal and justice systems during COVID-19, follow The Lawyer’s Daily for multiple posts per day about the coronavirus.  

How is the pandemic driving innovation in the legal sector and the justice system?  Follow Jordan Furlong’s Law21 blog to learn more!

3. Take a Break!

Finally, don’t be afraid to take an “information break” from the news media, social media, or any other sources of information about coronavirus.  This is an overwhelming situation and we are experiencing a global pandemic, after all.   

A version of this tip by Alan Kilpatrick first appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog.

 

  • Research & Writing

I often feel like a grumpy old schoolmaster, rapping the knuckles of my hapless pupils with a ruler when they misplace a comma or mistake who’s for whose.

A certain amount of knuckle-rapping is necessary, but no one who writes about words and writing can afford to be overly prescriptive.

Language changes over time, sometimes for the better. I like text as a verb; it neatly captures a new kind of linguistic transmission we didn’t have when my knuckles were being rapped as a schoolboy. Readers of previous posts will be well aware of new words I am less fond of (productise, reference (as a verb), attendee, learnings, proactive, to name but a few).

I also don’t like the way crucial has changed in meaning from ‘that which finally decides between two hypotheses’ (crux being Latin for an instrument of torture and, by extension, a difficult problem) to merely ‘very important’, but there isn’t much I can do about it at this point.

What we think of as long-established rules sometimes turn out not to be that old: Shakespeare broke just about every grammatical and stylistic rule you can think of, mainly because it wasn’t until much later that many of them came into being (like coherent punctuation and consistent spelling). Many were invented (and the subject of vigorous debate) by writers of grammars and dictionaries in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Some rules turn out not to be as hard-and-fast as we think (between versus among, none is/are). Some are arbitrary, if useful for the sake of consistency (the ‘rules’ of legal citation, for example).

This doesn’t mean writing is a free-for-all, at least in a professional or business context. You want to write prose that your peers will recognise as technically correct and socially appropriate (in the sense of respecting norms, rather than polite). A certain amount of conformism is required, so if you want to be a linguistic radical then law may not be the best berth for you.

You don’t want to write exactly the way others do, though. That’s boring. A distinctive voice, an unexpected turn of phrase, a fresh metaphor or an unusual word will make your writing vivid and memorable. Heaven knows there are enough dull legal blog posts out there.

Writing like the herd is not only boring; it can also show lack of thought. This is what troubles me about buzzwords and jargon. In an exchange on LinkedIn, a reader suggested that what I call bad business jargon can often be useful shorthand that gets the job done when everybody understands the terminology. OK, but it can just as often be a cover for a problematic lack of actual content or analysis. The New Yorker cartoon on my desk calendar for the day of that LinkedIn exchange depicted a guy telling his audience in a business meeting, Enhanced branding metrics drive robust solutions for scalable monetization of jargon, which seemed apt. Jargon more often than not means nothing, or not much.

It’s important, particularly for lawyers, to think about the meaning of words and to use them with precision and purpose.

When words lose meaning, they can be manipulated and the underlying facts distorted. Think of the Twitterer-in-Chief or his precursors in Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

But perhaps I have just been spending too much time alone in my apartment.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Technology

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian legal tech industry is stepping up to help.

Joining Clio and Optimize Compliance in offering generous assistance during this challenging time is Lexum, which today made the following announcement: Need to Provide Open Access to Key Documents and Materials? Lexum Will Help at No Cost.

“Lexum is waiving the fees of its Qweri product for organizations in need of quickly providing public access to any kind of reference documents. We are waiving our onboarding fees, as well as our subscription fee for the next 12 months, so that important public information can be made available online in the best possible manner even if your organization was caught off-guard or is facing financial pressure because of the crisis. “

The offer entails no obligation to continue using Qweri at the end of the 12-month period.

Learn more about Lexum’s offer here and see how organizations use Qweri here.

 

  • Practice

Three standout posts on surviving and thriving during this abrupt change to working life:

Staying sane while shifting to remote work

Halifax lawyer Jennifer Taylor shares crowdsourced gems of wisdom on “how to be a lawyer, and a feminist, working from home in the age of COVID-19” (CBA National)

What Lessons Lawyers Can Learn From Week One of Working From Home

US lawyer coach Lauren Krasnow outlines 13 best practices for “how to remain effective, realistic, responsive and human.” (Law.com)

New work from home reality an opportunity for law firms

Toronto PR & communications pro Andrea Lekushoff posits that the coronavirus pandemic could be an “opportunity to begin moving away from the always-on, always-here law-firm culture, to step boldly into a new, flexible way of working.” (The Lawyer’s Daily)

 

  • Research & Writing

Never underestimate the tendency of people – and legally trained people, especially – to say things twice, unnecessarily.

Both
Think before you (over-)use this.

It is superfluous here: The plaintiff seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

Co-conspirator
To conspire necessarily involves combination or agreement with at least one other person to do something wrong. Co­- and con– come from the same Latin root indicating joint action, so you need only one of them.

Yes, the OED cites examples of co-conspirator from the 1860s, but they are in a list of co– words that are described as either rare or one-offs.

Co-conspirator, as used today, is an ugly and unnecessary creation of the Watergate years. Regrettably, it occurs in both the federal Competition Act and the Military Rules of Evidence.

More particularly
No, just particularly. It’s unqualifiable.

Better yet, avoid this weak adverb.

Pre-rolled joint
This contains two pleonastic elements.

A joint is a cigarette containing marijuana (or, as federal legislation still quaintly spells it, marihuana). A cigarette is, by definition, rolled into shape (whether by hand or by machine). There are no unrolled joints – that would just be loose weed.

Redundancy number 2 is the prefix pre-. As in formulations like pre-heated and pre-owned, that prefix adds nothing useful, because there is an implied priority to the verb. One doesn’t post-heat or post-own or post-roll.

To recapitulate, all joints are rolled in advance of smoking. And a joint is rolled anyway.

Just a joint, then.

Still remains
If something is still around, it simply remains. (and it doesn’t remain the same, either – remaining involves sameness).

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Technology

To say COVID-19 has sped up the pace of legal change is an understatement. Usually it takes months (or even years!) to make changes to Canadian laws, but now we are seeing significant amendments announced and in force on the same day. With many businesses worrying about day-to-day survival, there is little or no time to stay on top of legal compliance requirements.

We wanted to simplify this task.  So, to help Canadian businesses and law firms understand and stay on top of these quickly evolving legal changes, Optimize Compliance is offering time-limited, free access to its easy-to-use compliance app.

Optimize Compliance helps you build customized legal compliance reports — updated in real time to reflect changes across the country in response to COVID-19.

This offer is immediately available to HR, in-house legal and small law firms. To request free access, click here.

Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.

 

  • Practice

Clio has just announced a $1 million COVID-19 legal relief initiative in order “to help create business continuity and peace of mind for you, your law firm or your legal organization. Open to the entire legal industry, funding can be used towards financial assistance for legal technology, getting educational support from industry leaders, and onboarding support as you move to the cloud.”

Learn more and apply for help at https://www.clio.com/covid-relief/

 

  • Research & Writing

Elderly is a tricky word.

In North America, it’s used as a euphemistic — or at least less harsh — way to say old. Example: The elderly are considered among those at the greatest risk of contracting the coronavirus.

What the threshold age is for that is more difficult to determine. Sixty years is the number generally seen in relation to COVID-19, but otherwise it might be set at 65 or higher. Sixty-five is the new 55?

A further complication is that usage of the word is different in the United Kingdom (and perhaps Australia, New Zealand and other dominions beyond the seas). There, it is used to mean ’not old, but getting up there’. The -ly suffix operates like -ish or -like, essentially.So, anywhere from about 50?

North Americans seem not to like referring to harsh realities like old age: a senior citizen here would be an old age pensioner (or OAP) in the UK.

And heaven forbid that anyone should mention death in Canada or the USA; people now pass away or even just pass, both dreadful, mealy-mouthed circumlocutions.

That happens in the UK too, of course. It used to be that people who had completed their studies at Oxford (gone down, in university parlance) were called old members, regardless of age. Now they are alumni, the American, academic, Latinate, age-neutral term. The cricket and rowing teams for Magdalen College alumni are still called the Withered Lilies, however — a reference to the flowers, in more flourishing condition, found in the college arms.

A colleague recently bristled when someone described her as elderly, but perhaps the person using the adjective was British, in which case it was accurate.

But I didn’t point that out.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Practice

A very quick tip today: Bob Ambrogi has assembled a webpage that lists “products and services offered by companies for free to support the work of legal professionals during the coronavirus crisis.”

LawSites: Coronavirus Resources

If you have something to add to the list, email Bob (ambrogi-at-gmail.com) or tweet him (@bobambrogi).

Hat tip to Jordan Furlong for the heads-up.

 

  • Research & Writing

LegisInfo provides committee information (e.g. the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology) back to the 35th Parliament, 1st Session (1994). 

However if you need to research parliamentary committees prior to this date, you can use the Library of Parliament’s Canadian Parliamentary Historical Resources. These cover the 6th Parliament (1887-1888) to the 34th Parliament (1988-1993).

Unfortunately, while you can view the committee proceedings online, they cannot be downloaded as PDFs at this time. 

Susannah Tredwell