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

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All Our Tips

  • Practice

There I was at the office, churning away, berated by my boss, being laughed at, missing meetings, leavings tasks unfinished. Everywhere my heart raced, a test around every corner. Perform or perish – I was perishing. But then the fog of sleep lifted, the grey clouds of my old job giving way to the sunshine of reality. The old job long gone, I breathed in the heaven of the here and now. Sometimes a nightmare is good for the soul.

Perhaps because I love giving advice more than taking it, I often talk to lawyers considering a career change. I have seen lawyers write out a list of all the pros and cons about their current position, do the same about another position, and compare the two. I have seen flow charts looking like Nobel prize-winning chemistry equations diagramming possibilities and priorities. I have seen lawyers meander about from story to story, soul-searching their personal histories for the holy grail of meaning. I have seen calculations measuring income adjusted for standard of living, taking into consideration the cost of health benefits, sick days, vacation days, commuting time and cost, and pension matching programs, to arrive at the best possible total compensation. But it is the rare bird who thinks about the question under the three heads of happiness: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Strong research, and now popular psychology, supports the theory that happiness correlates with your own perception of your level of independence, the quality of your relationships, and how good you think you are at what you do. Young lawyers, you may have low levels of autonomy depending on the kind of files you are working on. Do you have the patience to wait it out, gain experience, and eventually achieve autonomy as a more experienced lawyer? Can you find autonomy and satisfaction in the task assigned to you? It may well be a matter of perspective and delaying gratification. Relationships at work can vary from place to place. If you are unhappy with your friendships at work, or lack thereof, is the problem the workplace or you? Might a change of scenery affect that? Feeling competent is hard for a lawyer. Most of us are perfectionists and little mistakes can be costly. Do your colleagues support you enough? Can you improve your resilience? (Research shows that resilience is one of the most train-able skills.)

So today’s tip: if you’re considering a change of scenery, take stock of your levels of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Assess your abilities in each and determine if the weakness lies in you or the job. You’ll have a better idea of what to do about the former (train up!) and about the latter.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)


  • Research & Writing

The following is based on a post made by John Sadler of Western University on the CALL listserv.

CanLII does not offer a custom field that permits searching by counsel.  However, there is a technique for finding cases in which a particular lawyer appeared for one of the parties. It relies on the fact that most cases follow a uniform syntax when identifying counsel. For example in a case in which Ms June L. Carter was counsel, the reasons for judgment will say something like the following at the beginning:

               June L. Carter, for the respondent

To search for Ms. Carter’s cases one might try this search in the “Document text” field

               “Carter for the”

For greater precision, try a qualifier that describes who the lawyer is representing, e.g.

               “Carter for the respondent”

Other “qualifiers” that could be used include “accused’, “plaintiff”, “defendant”, “applicant”, and “appellant”.

The technique is not foolproof, of course. Sometimes one will get false hits with common surnames, so the searches above would also pick up cases where John Carter was the counsel. You may need to play around with variations of the counsel’s name such as surname only, given name and surname, initials and surname, etc. Still, the above approach is a refinement on simply throwing the lawyer’s name into the search statement.

Many thanks to John for letting me use his post.


  • Research & Writing

Or even –uble?

Perhaps not one of the burning questions of the day, but I bet you’ve hesitated over this at least once.

I did recently, when trying to Google an antiques dealer who had a well-priced early 20th-century silver snuffbox. The dealer used the form collectibles in its business name, it turned out.

This is the (mostly) US spelling of the preferable (but disappearing) collectable, which means ‘that may be collected’ (Violators are subject to a fine collectable on summary conviction) or ‘(thing) worth collecting, sought after by collectors’ (Silver snuffboxes are highly collectable – really!).

Is there a general rule for determining which ending to use? Most of the time it’s –able, and usually if the stem is a complete word in itself (bill/billable, as opposed to feasible or tangible, which aren’t formed from feas and tang).

The more detailed rules are a bit arcane.

The default position is –able, unless the word is derived from a Latin verb ending in –ere or –ire, or where there is a well-established ­ible form (like collectible?) in English already.

If your Latin is a bit rusty, you’ll just have to remember a list of words like this:

  • demonstrable (–able replaces the final –ate in demonstrate, as with abominate, alienate, appreciate, calculate etc.)
  • enforceable (the final –e of enforce stays so the following consonant stays soft; same thing for manageable, pronounceable etc.)
  • forgivable (the final –e in forgive drops out because it isn’t necessary for pronunciation; same thing for movable, usable and the like)
  • justifiable (the final –y gets converted to an i)
  • predictable


  • convertible
  • incorrigible (compare uncorrectable)
  • incredible (compare unbelievable)
  • irresistible
  • perceptible (perceivable)
  • responsible
  • reversible
  • soluble and insoluble (a soluble substance, an insoluble problem – although unsolvable is also possible for the latter)

Where the stem ends in a hard C or G, or a consonant that gets doubled in the adjectival form, go with –able (amicable, navigable, forgettable).

New words have tended not to go with the –ible ending.

Sometimes there are two forms, not always with the same meaning: extendable and extendible are interchangeable; but contractable (‘able to be caught’, like a disease) isn’t the same as contractible (‘capable of being made smaller’).

Totally confused now?

Next: your queries answered, part 3

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)



  • Technology

Are you familiar with Irwin Law’s Canadian Online Legal Dictionary (COLD)?  COLD is a free online legal dictionary and is composed of all the terms featured in the legal textbooks published by Irwin Law.  COLD is described in more detail on Irwin Law’s website:

We are a collaborative dictionary comprised, initially, of terms defined in the glossaries of Canadian law books published by Irwin Law. The dictionary will be maintained by an Irwin Law editor. Members of the public are invited to submit new defined terms, edit existing terms and supply citations, sources and related terms — simply request to become a COLD contributor when you create your Irwin Law account. We look forward to receiving your submissions!

COLD can be searched by keyword or browsed by topic area.  Searching COLD for a definition may lead to multiple definitions of the same term as COLD will highlight all of Irwin Law’s textbooks that have defined the term.  For example searching for the term arrest will lead to two definitions as two separate Irwin Law texts, Criminal Procedure and Mental Health Courts, have defined the term:

I encourage you to check out this free resource.  You can access COLD online at  Let us know what you think about it.


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


  • Practice

You’ve probably done it before. And maybe there were no surprises. Nothing to worry about. That’s great. But how long has it been? This internet that we love so much? It’s not really known for ‘staying put’. Blink once and something will happen.

And while you’re developing new habits, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to also search your firm name and the names of your associates and staff, particularly if they’re meeting with clients.

You may be pleasantly surprised. Some new, complementary reviews that you didn’t know about? Great. Post them on your website. Thank the generous clients and referrers that wrote them. Ask if they wouldn’t mind cross posting the same comments elsewhere. LawyerRatingz. Google Plus. LinkedIn…

Or, you may find less than pleasing results. It happens. Bad reviews. Strange or inappropriate information about your team.

Either way, it’s helpful to know what’s out there before your clients do. That way, whether it’s good news or bad, you can position yourself to make the most of the situation.

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto


  • Research & Writing

Are you looking to develop more effective legal research skills?  Consider checking out Legal Research Essentials: Finding Cases on Point from Courthouse Libraries BC.  This is a hands-on legal research course consisting of several video modules.  The video modules visually demonstrate how to search free legal resources like CanLII.  You can find the course online at

The course is hosted by Alex McNeur, a reference librarian with Courthouses Libraries BC.  Alex explains in the introductory video that the course is designed to help practising lawyers learn how to locate case law based on a particular fact pattern.  The course has four teaching objectives:

  • How to identify strong keywords for efficient research
  • How to use the keywords to find relevant cases
  • How to find related cases by noting up your case
  • How to check if the cases found are still good law

Each video of the course works towards resolving a particular legal scenario:   Does the engagement ring need to be returned if the wedding is called off?  Some of the course content has been specifically created for British Columbia lawyers.  However, members of the Saskatchewan Legal community should still find Legal Research Essentials: Finding Cases on Point extremely useful.

Did you know that the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library  has also created a series of video tutorials that demonstrate how to search CanLII and the Saskatchewan Cases Database?  Please comment below if you are familiar with any other helpful legal research video tutorials.

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


  • Research & Writing

English is a very difficult language to learn – and not just for those whose mother tongue is something else.

Native speakers may, in fact, have a harder time, because they may have picked up the rules (more or less accurately) by osmosis, rather than having them clearly articulated.

This is complicated by English spelling, which is fluid. Before the early 1700s, you could spell things more or less how you felt – which largely meant phonetically. There were, for example, 20-odd variants of Shakespeare in use during the playwright’s lifetime (and his own spelling of the name was inconsistent).

Even modern writers are faced with choices, and there isn’t always a clearly preferred spelling – as the following examples will attest.

Dreamed or dreamt?

Many verbs used to have past-tense forms ending in both –ed and-t. In modern English, one form or the other may survive, or sometimes both. It isn’t always clear which one is better: go by instinct.

No one still writes stopt or curst, but on the other hand you would always use crept, dealt, felt, kept, meant, slept and swept.

Verbs that could go either way: bereave, burn, dream, kneel, lean, leap, learn, smell, spell, spill, spoil.

Amongst and whilst are still with us, although the latter is not often seen in North America. Someone plumped for betwixt in response to the tip on between versus among, but don’t go there.

Preventive or preventative?

Both OK, shorter form better?

 Roofs or rooves?

Both are correct. My instinct would have been to go for rooves, but the Oxford English Dictionary Online and Fowler’s Modern English Usage prefer roofs. Not sure I agree…

Similar words that could go either way (and Fowler prefers –fs except as noted): hoof, oaf, scarf (-ves better), staff (staffs when it’s about personnel, staves when musical), wharf.

And then, of course, there are the Toronto Maple Leafs, for whom there is no linguistic (or perhaps other) explanation. (The rapper Snoop Dogg likes Leafs for a different reason.)

Next time: should that be –able or –ible?

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  • Technology

The most popular blog post on Legal Sourcery since our launch in 2014 is Cross-referencing footnotes in Word by Reché McKeague. This post has been read 11,012 times since posted on April 29, 2014. That’s an average of almost 400 times each month. Here are a few more interesting posts on Word tips and tricks from other law blogs:

5 Microsoft Word Tips to Make Lawyers’ Lives Easier (FindLaw)

Get the Most Out of Microsoft Word (American Bar Association, Law Practice Magazine)

Master Class: Microsoft Word Shortcuts for Lawyers (LexisNexis Business of Law Blog, video)

If you have already upgraded to, or considering upgrading to Office 365, here’s  an article with useful tips:

15 Amazing Features in Office 365 That You Probably Don’t Know About (Business Insider)

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


  • Practice

Start right now.

Place your hand on your heart. Notice your heart beat beneath the palm.

Think of someone or something that brings you happiness. You can’t help but gently smile.

Take a slow, deep breath. Feel your chest rise as you inhale. Feel your heart beat against the palm of your hand.

Hold for one or two counts.

Exhale slowly.

Repeat three to five times.

Remember, this practice is for you. Find your own pace, one that feels good to you.  Time your inhale and exhale to the count of five or more if you prefer.

Close your eyes, or leave them open.  Which is more natural to you?

If you are in a public place and don’t want to put your hand on your heart, that’s ok, leave that out.

Join me in practicing this simple pause to breathe three times a day. How hard can that be?

Really hard sometimes, until it becomes habit.

As a shallow breather by default, I now practice deep breathing three or more times a day to help counteract this natural propensity.

When I become immersed in my work, I stop breathing from my diaphragm. This increases both physical and mental tension.

Taking mini breaks during the day to consciously breathe helps me clear my head and body, and regain my focus.

Deep breathing also sends a signal to the brain I am relaxing and flips my mental switch from stressed to relaxed.

In a relaxed state we all have enhanced cognitive capacity and enhanced decision-making skills. We can better handle all the environmental distractions and triggers around us.

Join me in adding this simple deep breathing practice to your day.

Notice and enjoy the benefits.

Send me an email to let me know what you discover!


  • Research & Writing

Regulations generally come into force on either a date specified in the regulation itself or, if no date is specified, on the date that regulation was filed. (Note that this is not the case for Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, or Québec.)

The coming into force provisions for a regulation are usually found in the Regulations Act (or equivalent) of a jurisdiction:

  • Federal: “Every enactment that is not expressed to come into force on a particular day shall be construed as coming into force … (b) in the case of a regulation, on the expiration of the day immediately before the day the regulation was registered pursuant to section 6 of the Statutory Instruments Act or, if the regulation is of a class that is exempted from the application of subsection 5(1) of that Act, on the expiration of the day immediately before the day the regulation was made.” (Interpretation Act, RSC 1985, c I-21, s 6(2))
  • Alberta: “Unless a later day is provided, a regulation comes into force on the day it is filed with the registrar and in no case does a regulation come into force before the day of filing.” (Regulations Act, RSA 2000, c R-14, s 2(2)).
  • British Columbia: “A regulation or portion of a regulation comes into force on the date of its deposit unless (a) a later date is specified in the regulation, or (b) an earlier date is specified in the regulation and the Act under which the regulation is made authorizes the regulation to come into force on an earlier date.” (Regulations Act, RSBC 1996, c 402, s 4(1))
  • Manitoba: The Statutes and Regulations Act, CCSM c S207, s 20
  • New Brunswick: “A regulation or any provision of a regulation comes into force on the day that it is filed with the Registrar unless (a) a later day is specified in the regulation, or (b) an earlier day is specified in the regulation and the Act under which the regulation is made authorizes the regulation to come into force on an earlier day.” (Regulations Act, RSNB 2011, c 218, s 3)
  • Newfoundland: “Unless another day is provided, subordinate legislation comes into force on the day it is published under section 11 but in no case does subordinate legislation come into force before the day of filing unless it is provided in the Act under the authority of which the subordinate legislation has been made or approved.” (Statutes and Subordinate Legislation Act, RSNL 1990, c S-27, s 10(2))
  • Northwest Territories: “A regulation or part of a regulation comes into force on the day on which it is registered unless (a) a later day is specified in the regulation, or (b) an earlier day is specified in the regulation and the Act under which the regulation is made authorizes the regulation to come into force on an earlier day, in which case the regulation comes into force on the later or earlier day, as the case may be.” (Statutory Instruments Act, RSNWT 1988, c S-13, s 8)
  • Nova Scotia: Regulations Act, RSNS 1989, c 393, s 3(6)
  • Nunavut: Statutory Instruments Act, RSNWT (Nu) 1988, c S-13, s 8
  • Ontario: “Unless otherwise provided in a regulation or in the Act under which the regulation is made, a regulation comes into force on the day on which it is filed.” (Legislation Act, 2006, SO 2006, c 21, Sch F, s. 22(2))
  • Prince Edward island: ”Every regulation which is not expressed to come into force on a particular day comes into force on the day the regulation is published in the Gazette.” (Interpretation Act, RSPEI 1988, c I-8, s 3(4))
  • Québec: “A regulation comes into force 15 days after the date of its publication in the Gazette officielle du Québec or on any later date indicated in the regulation or in the Act under which it is made or approved.” (Regulations Act, CQLR c R-18.1, s 17)
  • Saskatchewan: “A regulation or part of a regulation comes into force on the date of its filing unless: (a) a later date is specified in the regulation; or (b) an earlier date is specified in the regulation and the Act pursuant to which the regulation is made authorizes the regulation to come into force on the earlier date.” (Regulations Act, SS 1995, c R-16.2, s 5)
  • Yukon: “Unless a later day is provided, a regulation shall come into force on the day it is filed with the registrar.” (Regulations Act, SY 2002, c195, s 2(2))

There are, of course, exceptions; for example in Alberta, section 1(2) of the Regulations Act lists legislation which is not considered to be a regulation for the purposes on the Act.

Susannah Tredwell