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  • Research & Writing

An assistant called me recently, asking whether the other side on a transaction was correct to keep inserting an extra L every time the word instalment appeared in an agreement.

The traditional/British spelling is with only one L; the Yanks now generally use two – so I told the assistant to stick to her guns if she felt strongly about it.

Similarly, the classic spellings are fulfil and fulfilment – but one increasingly sees a doubling of the second L in both. Fulfill is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary Online only in the usage examples up to about 1600, but is now usual in the USA. Take your pick (but I know which way I’d go).

Are there any rules? Yes, but they’re tricky and inconsistent. The Atlantic is (as ever) the great divide – leaving Canadians adrift somewhere in the middle.


UK: double final L if the preceding letter is A (befall, enthrall, install; but appal), single if it’s another vowel (distil, instil, enrol, annul)

US: inconsistent? Our American spell-check wants appall, instill and enroll, but is OK with the other single-L spellings in the previous line

Derivatives of verbs ending in L

UK: double the L, unless it’s preceded by a long vowel sound (so, travelled but failed)

US: only one L (traveled, traveler)

Derivatives of nouns or adjectives ending in L

UK: when you add –ed, –er, or –y, the L is generally doubled (jewelled, jeweller, gravelly; but unparalleled); before –ish, –ism and –ist, not doubled (devilish, liberalism, naturalist; but panelist or panellist – and the Oxford prefers the double-L form)

US: generally not doubled after –ed and –er (jeweled, jeweler); panelist

Before –ment

UK: never double the L (fulfilment, instalment)

US: double away (fulfillment, installment)

Derivatives of words ending in –ll

Sometimes the second L disappears: almighty, almost, already, altogether, always (but NEVER alright; it’s two words, all right), skilful (Yanks want skillful), wilful (willful in the US of A)

The second L used to disappear (and still could, really) in dullness and fullness

Totally confused now?

Next writing tip: fractured French

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  • Technology

When I start to write a document, the ideas in it never get to the page in publishable order. (I know I’m not alone in this.) Pieces of the “story” float about.

Many writers feel a compulsion to write from the start of a new document. That compulsion could make writing feel like cycling while gently holding the brakes. In more severe cases, it seems to lead to what some people call “writer’s block” and painful delays in drafting a document.

What writers need is a method they can use to create a first draft. Of course, lots of magic happens during revision of that draft, when writers refine their thoughts. (That’s when they apply Word styles.) But they need a first draft to work from. If getting to that first draft is difficult for you, read on.

Writer’s Block, Begone!

I don’t get writer’s block. That’s because, when I start writing, I just write the first things that come to mind. I write each “piece” as it “floats into view” and worry about order later.

In my pre-computer high school days, I was taught to write individual sentences on cue cards, or index cards. Then I could order the cards on a large surface (often a floor in my parents’ home) and move them around as I saw fit. I could also create new cards and remove ones I no longer needed. This was my introduction to mind mapping.

Enter Mind Mapping Software

I’m no fan of cue cards. Instead, I now write those individual sentences in “nodes” using mind mapping software. I open a document, label the central “root” node, then start adding nodes connected by branches. (Do you want to see what that looks like? There’s an example further down this post.) Later on, I move nodes or add and delete them as needed.

Here’s the big advantage of doing this using software: Once I have my nodes lined up the way I want them, I copy the root node into a text document so that I can begin writing. All my points appear in the order I set, waiting for me to link them together, to write from point to point. That’s when I have the first draft.

That first draft is half the battle, and it takes much less time to write than it would using other methods.

A Quick Demo

I use MindNode to create mind maps, but there are plenty of tools available, from free to “enterprise-grade” (i.e., pricey).

Here’s what the mind map for this article looks like.

This is a read-only version. However, you should be able to:

  • Navigate the map.
  • Zoom in and out.
  • Mouse over nodes to fold and unfold them.

(You can also go directly to the MindNode site, here, to play in a larger screen.)

(You might notice that this version does not read the same way that this post does. Remember — the map is only a first draft. I refined the post further after I mapped it.)

And here’s what the mind map looks like when I paste the root node into a text editor. The first line is the mind map’s root node. Subsequent lines are indented according to how “deep” they are in the map’s hierarchy.

As this video shows, MindNode diagrams can be exported in various formats and shared in different applications and devices.

Reasonable Expectations

Mind maps don’t fix all writing woes. (Other tools might help you handle some of those.) But mind maps do help you complete a first draft. Just don’t censor or edit yourself too early in the process. Worry about grammar, spelling and other corrections and refinements later.

Other Possibilities for Mind Maps

Mind maps have many other uses besides writing. You can use them to do things like:

  • Plan projects.
  • Create organizational charts.
  • Create lists of all kinds.

Explore mind maps beyond simply writing. You might find they boost your creativity in ways you never imagined.

Do you use mind maps? If so, what tools do you use? What do you create with them? Let us know in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on Attorney at Work]


  • Practice

What’s the most productive day of the week?  Most HR directors report that Tuesday has that honour.  And the least productive? You guessed right! Friday.

Monday is a contender for most productive day of the week but what tends to get in the way of the doing are the meetings and planning that tends to get jammed into the Monday slot.

To help you get more out of your Fridays and to turn Monday into a productivity zone – try a Friday afternoon planning session.

A Friday afternoon planning session accomplishes three great things:

  1. It sets you up for starting Monday morning with a deep dive into work, as you will have your priorities set out.
  2. It helps you get a head start on delegating.  You can see what you need to involve a junior or assistant on and can hand that off before the weekend so they can get a running start on it Monday morning.
  3. You get more peace of mind because all your outstanding To Dos are out of your head and onto your list and you have a plan of attack all worked out.

Once you get in the groove of Friday planning I think you will find you never want to give it up!

Allison Wolf (@thelawyercoach)


  • Research & Writing

While some of the paid tax resources provide reference tables that show what stage a proposed amendment to the Income Tax Act has reached, how do you figure this out if you don’t have access to one of these resources?

Step 1: What draft legislation are you interested in? Generally tax legislation is published as a “Notice of Ways and Means Motion” before it is introduced as a bill. The Department of Finance Canada provides a listing of all the Notice of Ways and Means Motions back to 2013 at You can also find them on Taxnet Pro at Federal Income Tax > Legislation > Proposed Amendments and Explanatory Notes (Special Releases) and on Knotia under Federal Income Tax Collection > Legislation and Treaties > Proposed/Historical Amendments.

Step 2: Check the Income Tax Act to see it includes these changes. If the legislation has come into force, the Income Tax Act should reflect this. If the changes are not shown in the act, you should check the “Amendments Not in Force” section to see if your draft legislation has got as far as Royal Assent. The House of Commons Procedure and Practice notes that a “ways and means bill must be “based on” but not necessarily “identical to” the provisions of its ways and means motion.”

Step 3: Check the bills that have been introduced since your draft legislation was released. The Department of Finance Canada produces a list of bills that amend the Income Tax Act at

For example if you were asked “has Royal Assent been given to the draft legislation that was dated October 3, 2016?” you could proceed as follows:

  1. Using the October 3, 2016 date, find the Notice of Ways and Means referred to. You can see that it amends sections 40, 54, 107, 108, 152, and 220 at the ITA.
  2. If these amendments have come into force, there should be the following subsection in the definition of “principal residence” in section 54 of the Income Tax Act: (c.1)(iii.1) beginning “if the year begins after 2016…”.  There is, so the answer to the question is yes.

Susannah Tredwell


  • Research & Writing

Linguistic redundancy, not the employment variety. In the linguistic category, there are both legal and non-legal redundancies.

The legal

We’ve seen these before (see ‘Gruesome twosomes‘), but they bear repeating.

Legalese is replete with pairs of words that mean the same thing and therefore don’t need to be used together (except to create a leaden, lawyerly effect).


  • cease and desist [how about plain old stop?]
  • free and clear [one or t’other, not both]
  • full and complete [same comment]
  • if and when [ditto]
  • null and void [just say of no effect]
  • of no force or effect [of no effect works here too]
  • save and except [I hate this]
  • separate and apart [except as a term of art in family law]
  • unless and until [I hate this more than save and except]

 The non-legal

Writing that is non-lawyerly (or not exclusively lawyerly) also suffers from redundancies. Here are some common ones:

  • absolutely necessary [you need something or you don’t]
  • added bonus [a bonus is always added]
  • armed gunman
  • blue in colour [no, it’s just blue]
  • close proximity
  • during the course of [please, just during]
  • each and every
  • exact same
  • face mask [where else?]
  • full gamut [there are no partial gamuts]
  • general consensus [consensus is, by definition, general]
  • mental telepathy [telepathy is communication from one mind to another; it’s always mental]
  • moment in time [a moment is, perforce, in time]
  • new recruit
  • outward appearance [can there be an inward one?]
  • personal belongings [unless you’re nicking someone else’s stuff from the overhead compartment, I guess]
  • personal opinion [it’s no one else’s]
  • PIN number [what do you think the N stands for?]
  • pre-heat, pre-arrange, pre-existing, pre-owned, pre-plan, pre-prepared [all of these involve a prior action or condition before something else happens; pre­- is unnecessary]
  • reason why
  • role model [just model, which doesn’t mean only the runway kind – ‘The rapper is not perhaps the best model for inner-city youth’]
  • safe haven [yeah, you want to avoid the unsafe ones]
  • software programme [that’s what software is]
  • sum total [that’s like saying debit deficit]
  • time period [one or the other; they mean the same thing]
  • terminal building [a terminal is a building]
  • United Together [optimistic but perhaps ill-advised slogan of the 2016 Democratic National Convention; as opposed to?]
  • very true [the truth is not relative]
  • very [or any other modifier] unique [something is unique or it ain’t]
  • weather conditions [weather is a condition, and the conditions would generally include the weather]

 Up next: one L or two?

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  • Technology

Does your firm or organization have shortened office hours over the summer? Or perhaps you’re taking some time off over the next couple months and therefore closing up your office for a week or two. Either way, you want to make sure potential clients aren’t showing up at your office but finding it unexpectedly closed.

If your office hours will be deviating from the norm this summer, make sure you load those exceptions into your Google My Business profile so that they automatically appear in your maps and search listing.

To do so, log into your Google My Business account and click on your business listing. Then click the “Info” tab on the left-hand side menu. Below the hours section, you’ll see a spot for “Add special hours” – click on that.

Now you can add your closures, and rest assured that your Google business listing will be working even when you’re not.

Happy summer holidays!


  • Practice

“Lawyer Norm Keith is 58 and laughs hard when asked about his readiness for retirement.”  There is an old adage that most good lawyers live well work hard and die poor”, he says referencing the quote from American Lawyer and statesman, Daniel Webster.  “Many probably for appearances sake, or life enjoyment or because they are not thinking or planning ahead.”  (Canadian Lawyer Mag, June 1st 2015)

As a lawyer who owns or works for a small or large firm, or in the capacity as a sole practitioner, you need to be prepared to take responsibility for your financial future. Most firms don’t offer group retirement plans and even when they do, would not properly address what would be required to replace lifestyle expenses at retirement or earlier.  Embrace the fact in most cases, You Are Your Retirement Plan.

Begin with the end in mind. Waiting too long to think about retirement means, working because you have to, not because you want to.  Put a plan in motion that will allow you to put your assets to work for you, so that at some point you can decide to stop working altogether. Keep in mind, planning to retire can occur only when there are sufficient assets or capital available to replace  your current lifestyle.


  1.  Loss of employment. The word on Bay street is that big firms are pushing partners out, in some cases in their late 40’s and 50’s in order to thin the ranks and make room for less expensive, younger lawyers.
  2. Divorce. Imagine you’ve been on track with a retirement plan and then it blows up because suddenly half of your assets are gone.
  3. Income declining or stagnant. Due to the reduced profitability of firms
  4. Market Conditions. Investment returns on portfolios have generally been lower since 2008
  5. Illness. A disability or critical illness can mean your tapping into assets sooner than planned  in order to maintain lifestyle until you recover

(Source  for point 1-4,  Canadian Lawyer Mag, June 2015)

Jackie Porter (@askjackieporter)


  • Research & Writing

Would you like to stay informed about Canadian legal news?  It is essential for members of the legal profession to stay current with new developments in the legal field.  However, this can be challenging. The multitude of blogs, websites, and information resources available online can make the task of staying up-to-date seem overwhelming.

Are you familiar with the Canadian Law Blogs List available at  The Canadian Law Blogs List describes itself as “open directory of Canadian blogging lawyers, law librarians, marketers, IT professionals and paralegals in Canada.”  It was launched in 2005 by Steve Matthews, founder and CEO of Stem Legal.

The Canadian Law Blogs List makes it easier to stay well-informed of developments in law.  It is a single online location that collects and categorizes authoritative legal blogs.  The blogs included in the directory are reviewed for authority, credibility, and currency.  The Canadian Law Blogs List can be browsed by legal practice area, category, and jurisdiction.  Readers can subscribe by RSS feed or email.

The Canadian Law Blog List homepage features recent posts from the blogs included in the directory.  I encourage you to check it out.

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


  • Practice

It’s June, already! It’s been a long winter. Yet, somehow it feels like summer has crept up on us.

For some law firms, that can mean the beginning of a slower period. A chance for some well-earned, rest and relaxation.

Not to be a downer about it, but that also happens to be a good time to do some planning for your firm.

Whatever has been on your mind for the fall – a new website, marketing plans for the associates, a succession plan for a retiring partner or even a retreat – it will be easier to get started if you take the time to consider the strategy before you’re faced with a deadline on top of your usual client work.

So, this week’s tip is to use your downtime well. Make a list of all the practice building projects you’ve been meaning to get to. Prioritize the list. Then focus on just your top priority items. Get at least some of the preliminary considerations underway by reviewing relevant information or data, setting up internal meetings and also consulting with outside advisors to get a better understanding of what might be involved. You will be setting yourself up to have the time and space for some of that critical, big picture thinking and also to make decisions about the time and resources needed, the sequence of events and even possible collaborators.

Once that’s done, pat yourself on the back for getting ahead of the curve and enjoy the rest of your summer!

For more reading on business and marketing plans, see these past articles on SlawTips:

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

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto


  • Research & Writing

Did your studies in French get you as far as the subjunctive mood and all its weird variations (que je sois, que je fusse, que j’eusse été)?

Things are a little less complicated in English, but still not straightforward. This partly because the English subjunctive, while falling out of use (since the eighteenth century), isn’t dead yet – and was never consistently applied when more alive.

To refresh your memory, the subjunctive is the form of a verb that is used for an action or state that is conceived (but not actual), hypothetical or prospective; or for expressing a wish or command.

You may use the subjunctive without realising it:

  • Go away!
  • Convention be damned!
  • Come what may
  • Come the revolution …
  • Be that as it may
  • Far be it from me
  • If I were you
  • I wish I were there
  • Would that it were true

There are times when you may need to think about it, though.

Not every if or though calls for the subjunctive.  If I were you does, because I am not (and cannot) be you; but it’s If she eats [not eat] strawberries, she breaks out in hives because that’s a statement of fact.

The use (or non-use) of the subjunctive can change meaning. I insist that the contract is signed and I insist that the contract be signed mean different things: the first asserts that the contract has, in fact, been executed; the second, the strong desire that it should be signed. Fowler’s examples in Modern English Usage are more subtle: Though all care is exercised … (= in spite of the fact that care is exercised) as opposed to Though all care be exercised … (= even on the supposition that care has been exercised …).

There are also times when we could do without the subjunctive. It sounds antiquated beyond belief to say If it be no bother … or If I be incorrect about this

The Economist recently took that view in the following headlines, which it decided would look ‘stilted’ (even if classically correct) with a subjunctive: If Donald Trump was president [no longer a hypothetical, that one], If the ocean was transparent. This prompted many letters from dismayed, subjunctive-loving readers: see ‘Would That It Were So Simple: The Strange Tale of the Subjunctive in English’ (Economist, 13 August 2016).

And then there is what is sometimes called the ‘American subjunctive’ (and the Yanks do seem to get into the subjunctive mood more than the Brits):

  • It is moved that X be appointed secretary
  • I suggested that he see a doctor
  • We demanded that the other side disclose the contents of the file
  • The associate insisted that she be admitted to the partnership

The meeting-minutes subjunctive is well-established, but in other constructions think about adding should (I suggested he should see a doctor) or using some other, less strained construction (We asked the other side to disclose; I insist that the other party is [or should be] present; The associate insisted on being admitted).

Next time: redundancy

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)