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

technology  practice  research

All Our Tips

  • Practice

These days, a lot of lawyers are wondering how to make the most of LinkedIn. Some are wondering if they even can. So, for this week’s tip, we’re sharing news about a new group which may prove to be an easy entry point to greater participation on the site.

‘Keeping it Social: Practice Development for Lawyers TORONTO’, a collaboration between Bekhor Management and Toronto Lawyers Association is the antithesis to all social media groups! Of the various LinkedIn groups targeting Canadian lawyers, it is the only one that’s actually social.

The group will meet in-person to learn practice development tips and to network once every quarter. Each event will be focused on a different topic. The first 15 minutes will be dedicated to a formal presentation. The next 15 minutes will allow for participants to ask their questions or to practice the tips through exercises, templates or role-play. The second half hour will be dedicated to networking.

Given that this is a practice development group that offers live events, it is restricted to practising lawyers and articling students in the Toronto area. Lawyers in other cities can use this group as a model to set up similar groups in their area.

To learn more about Keeping it Social: Practice Development for Lawyers TORONTO:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

 

  • Research & Writing

John Laskin, late of the Ontario Court of Appeal, suggests in his ‘Forget the Wind-up and Make the Pitch’, that although ‘this advice may cause mutiny among lawyers and judges’, you should avoid writing sentences containing ‘The fact that …’

It’s much more effective just to state the fact, rather than to state the fact that the fact is a fact. So, not ‘The fact that my client has accepted your offer ..’ but ‘My client’s acceptance of your offer …’ The latter is direct, clear, less wordy.

Similarly, eschew notwithstanding the fact that in favour of the plain English although, and the dreadful due to the fact that for good old because. As Laskin notes, The fact remains that can simply be omitted; it adds nothing but verbosity.

I’m not sure why The reality is … bothers me as much as it does, but it does. Like The fact remains…, it’s useless. Just state what the current state of affairs is, without the pointless preface. And, please, don’t ever say or write The reality is, is that …

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Research & Writing

WestlawNext Canada includes an excellent Citing References tool. Today’s tip will help you in situations where you are dealing with a long list of citing references for a major case. My example relates to evidence law, but the technique will work with any legal topic.

I’ve recently learned that the law of evidence mostly originates in criminal law, and is transplanted, as needed, to civil law. Thus, most of the citations in Cudmore’s Civil Evidence Handbook are criminal cases. So, if you are a civil litigator, you may wonder from time to time how a criminal law authority on evidence has been applied in civil matters.

Take, for example, R. v. Cloutier 1979 CarswellQue 15, a case that rules that there must be a probative relationship between a fact introduced as evidence and the facts at issue in the matter. Start by pulling up that case in WestlawNext. Now find the Citing References tab and select “Cases and Decisions.” There are 207 references, and at a glance, most of them are criminal cases.

Is there an easy way to filter out the criminal case, and view the civil ones?

Look at the left-hand panel of the results screen. First, make sure you are only viewing Cases and Decisions, not all document types. Most of the filters are exclusive to case law. Going down the screen, you should see “Search within results,” Date, Depth of Treatment, Jurisdiction, Court Level, Treatment Type, Abridgment Topics, and Citation Frequency. Any of these can be used to limit the results to parameters of your choosing.

Note that the search runs immediately as you select a parameter unless you press the “Select Multiple Filters” button – which allows you to choose more than one filter at a time. Most of the time it is best to choose a single filter and see what the results are before adding another.

For the present example, the filter we want is “Abridgment Topics.” Go ahead and press the “Select” button beneath that heading.

A box appears listing possible Abridgment Topics in alphabetical order. When you select a topic, it appears in the right-hand panel of the box under the heading “Your Selections.” In this case, you might select only Civil Practice and Procedure, or to get a broader range of non-criminal cases, you could select a few other topics as well.

Then click the “Filter” button at the bottom of the box. With only Civil Practice and Procedure selected, we go from 207 hits to 15, a very manageable number – and likely to give us a good look at how that evidence rule has been applied in civil courts across Canada.

But don’t forget you have many other possible filters to work with – you can limit the results to recent cases, cases from a particular province, higher court cases, depth or type of treatment, any number of other Abridgment topics, or any combination of the above. So play around, but always being aware what each filter does to your results before adding more.

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

 

  • Technology

It’s common for people to replace their computers every three or four years. They seem to believe performance degrades so much that they need new machines to gain speed increases.

Sometimes that’s true. Hard disk drives,for instance, can wear over time. Inexpensive machines aren’t usually built to be upgraded.

But if you want to keep working with your current computer, there are a number of things you can do to keep it moving quickly.

I covered one tip in a 2016 blog post. (Here’s something I forgot to mention in that post: Even though I claimed useless utilities are a Mac issue, Windows PC users also need to know when such “utilities” are “recommended” to them. Cheaper Windows computers usually ship with “bloatware” i.e. trial versions of frequently useless programs that promise to keep your PC in shape if you just buy them and use them. My recommendation: uninstall these programs and, if you must, buy reputable stuff.)

Now for this week’s tip, something that applies equally to Windows PCs and Macs. Why? Because they both have desktops.

The problem

Rendering complex graphics on screen can take so long that users may need to wait while the computer churns through the task. “Rendering” in this sense means putting all the pieces of a picture together on a screen.

It’s a sacrifice people who work with graphics-intensive software (e.g. photo, video, graphic design, architecture) often had to make. This process is slower on computers with:

  • older, slower processors
  • less RAM
  • older, smaller hard disk drives

The solution

Somebody must have realized that the computer had to work just as hard to render the desktop as it does graphical element that people need to work with. The more stuff people keep on their desktops – from fancy images to icons for documents and folders and so forth – the more computing power the computer needs to render the desktop. Most people don’t realize how often they go to the desktop, when they quit programs, minimize windows and so forth.

To keep your computer from chugging along just to redraw your desktop:

  • turn the desktop background entirely black. A black screen is the easiest thing a computer can render. To that end, remove any fancy images, especially software that changes your desktop image periodically.
  • keep very few, if any, files on your desktop. Put them instead in your Documents folder, or subfolders you create in the Documents folder. Each icon is one more thing your computer needs to render when you go to the desktop.

Whenever you minimize your programs, your computer ought to show your desktop much quicker if it’s plain black. That makes for one less type of delay during your computing day.

Do you have any tips that readers can use to speed up their computers? Please share them in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

  • Research & Writing

For anyone looking a good guide to legal research, Catherine Best’s “Best Guide to Canadian Legal Research” has been updated by a team of legal research experts (Melanie Bueckert, André Clair, Maryvon Côté, Yasmin Khan and Mandy Ostick) and added to CanLII’s commentary section.

The revised Canadian Legal Research and Writing Guide is divided up into 13 sections (including “Step-By-Step Legal Research Process”, “Use Commentary to Define and Understand the Issues”, “Guidelines for Online Research”, “Researching Canadian Federal and Provincial Legislation”, “Searching Canadian Case Law”, “Stare Decisis and Techniques of Legal Reasoning and Legal Argument”, “Preparing a Legal Memorandum”, and “Legal Citation”) and includes lots of practical advice.

 

  • Technology

Is your computer slow right now? Maybe there’s something you can do about that – right now.

The problem

Generally, the more apps you run at the same time, the more your computer slows down.

The solution

Find out how many programs you have open at any given time. You can quit programs you don’t need at the moment.

You can browse the dock (Mac) or toolbar (Windows) to do this, but I prefer a keyboard shortcut that both computer platforms offer.

On a Mac, hold down the Cmd key (Windows – Crtl), then press Tab. Icons pop up in a row in the middle of the screen showing all the apps your computer is currently running.

App_switching

Stop on a given app and you switch to that application.

If your computer is running slowly, consider quitting apps you don’t need right now.

Want to try other things to help you speed up your computer? Consider these tips:

  • Get rid of bloatware on your computer
  • Clean off your desktop
  • Quit applications that demand a lot of energy from your computer

What do you do to speed up your computer? Share any tips in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

  • Research & Writing

As I’ve suggested previously, odds are if you insert the word clearly in your sentence you are trying to impose clarity on something that isn’t clear at all. If something really is clear, you don’t need to say so.

In the same vein is the phrase highly anticipated (‘This highly anticipated decision from …’; ‘The release of the OSC’s highly anticipated rule on …’). The phrase gets used a lot: according to Slaw’s Canadian Law Blogs Search Engine, it occurs approximately 5,080,000 times in Canadian blog posts.

That sure sounds like over-use – or, in other words, a reason not to use a hackneyed expression.

Not only hackneyed, but also far from the truth. What it usually means is ‘highly anticipated by a single law nerd or small group of them who need to make this blog post sound more important than it probably is’.

You can and should do better in your blogging: show your reader why something is important or interesting; don’t merely assert.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Technology

I like exploring ways to improve my Inbox Zero habit. This habit enables me to effectively handle everything that comes at me via email. I do this by:

  • putting the information in the right places
  • deleting or filing the original email

The email inbox is never the right place for contacts, calendar appointments, tasks or other things I need to act on. That’s why my inbox contains NO emails at the end of a day.

Making Inbox Zero easier

It’s easier to keep the inbox empty if I prevent unwanted emails from arriving in the first place. That’s why I unsubscribe from as many lists as I can. I also use email rules to file listserv emails for me when they arrive.

There are other types of emails I’d rather not deal with. These include:

  • marketing messages that don’t offer unsubscribe options
  • conversation listserv messages where the topic is contentious, unimportant and a waste of my time
  • messages from people I would rather not hear from (I can count these on the fingers of one hand, fortunately.)

Maybe you can add other types of messages to this list.

When you have your list, consider creating a “delete email” rule so you never need to deal with those messages again.

Here are the criteria I use for my rule.

  • I use the “any” option so that the rule is triggered under any of the conditions I list.
  • I list the criteria I want to have trigger the rule.
  • The actions involve both deleting the message and ensuring I never learn of the email in the first place.
  • I only use ONE rule for deleting ALL unwanted messages.

This graphic shows a “delete email” rule built in Mac Mail, but the concept is the same in Microsoft Outlook and the same or highly similar in most email software.

Would you use this rule? If you would, what would you block? Let me know in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]

 

  • Research & Writing

Not a question that arises in connection with drafting a contract or pleadings (one hopes), but certainly in composing e-mail.

Both are recognised forms.

On the traditional assumption that the expression was originally shorthand for all correct (rendered in humorous, dialectical or unschooled US English as oll (or orl) korrect), OK has the merit of being closer to the source.

There is something fishy-sounding about that etymology, I’ve always thought, but the OED and Fowler repeat it. The latter gives some other possible origins and a case reference to Nippon Menkwa Kabushiki Kaisha (Japan Cotton Trading Co Ltd) v Dawsons Bank Ltd [1935] 51 Ll LR 147 (PC (Burma), 1935), where Lord Russell of Killowen calls it a ‘commercial barbarism’ but accepts its usage in business transactions (even if, on the facts of the case, writing O.K. on an invoice did not give rise to an estoppel).

The older usage citations in the OED have OK (the first is from 1839), with okay appearing later in the nineteenth century, so OK also appears to have age on its side. Spell with or without periods (I prefer to omit them).

Okeh is a variant (and the name of a jazz record company founded in 1918 by Otto K.E. Heinemann, as an obvious play on his initials and the popular expression). Okey-doke and okey-dokey emerged in the 1930s, Ned Flanders’s okely-dokely circa 1990.

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

  • Technology

Researching articles. Writing school assignments. Quoting other people in blog posts. During each activity, I usually cut text from one document and paste it into another.

The resulting text may make sense, but it often ends up looking like a ransom note, with different sections of text cut out of the headlines of various magazines and newspapers. That’s because the original publishers of the source texts use their own formatting, which can make words appear in different colours, fonts, sizes and so forth.

This isn’t a good look. Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent this problem from happening. Here are two.

Use a web browser’s address bar

I sometimes copy text from a document and paste it into my browser’s address bar to search for that text. Recently, I read a tip about how the address bar strips formatting from any text pasted in it.

So I tried this experiment.

  1. Copy all the text from a seven-page PDF. This document uses formatting that’s distinct from the formatting of my target document.
  2. Paste that seven pages of text into my browser’s address bar.
  3. Select all (from the Edit menu or the keyboard shortcut, which appears in the Edit menu).
  4. Copy the text.
  5. Paste the text into my document.

Voilà! The text gets pasted, stripped of formatting. You may need to separate paragraphs and sentences, but you won’t need to reformat anything.

Paste and Match Style

Safari, the browser I used in the experiment above, has an option in the Edit menu called “Paste and Match Style.”

This option appears in many programs that handle text. It might also be called “Paste and Match Formatting.” In older software, it might be hidden in the “Paste Special…” option.

Options like these save me plenty of time when I want to write a document that not only reads well, but looks good.

Do you use any time-saving tactics when you create a document using pieces of other documents? Please share them in the comments below.

Luigi Benetton (@LuigiBenetton)

[This tip originally appeared on luigibenetton.com]