All Our Tips
Financial Headwinds to Avoid in 2018
2017 has already come and gone and while it may have seemed like a volatile year from a political perspective, it was actually a very stable rise in the investment markets. In fact the VIX, a measure of volatility in the markets, was one of the lowest on record we have seen in this decade. Often when we have had such periods of market stability, investors underestimate market risk. Here are some financial headwinds to avoid in 2018:
- Borrowing costs will likely rise in 2018.
The economy’s improving, and chances are interest rates will go up. Are you ready?
- Consider interest rates before taking on more debt.
If you have a variable-rate mortgage or a home-equity line of credit, expect your interest rate to keep pace with these increases. Protect yourself by paying down your debts.
- Dealing with low savings rates.
Rates on savings account will probably remain unchanged. Waiting for your big bank to boost savings rates to meaningful levels – equal to the cost of living, or better – is point- less. Search for an online bank with a competitive return on savings. My favorite online site for great rates is Ratehub.ca
- Following the crowd when it comes to crypto currencies.
There’s a gold-rush aspect to bitcoin and other crypto currencies, but it’s also a technology story, an investing story and a testament to how trust in public institutions is decaying. Remember, bitcoin is a virtual currency that isn’t backed by anything tangible such as a government and its central bank.
- Not having a diversified portfolio.
A common reason why stock markets crash is fear of recession. The economies in the United States, Canada and elsewhere seem to be improving, which should be good news for stocks. But there’s a feeling of complacency about risk these days that has to be acknowledged. DON’T forget bonds or GICs still have a place in your portfolio.
- Not understanding what you are paying for investment management fees.
It’s hard to find an investing expert who doesn’t believe we’re in an era of more modest investment returns than we’ve seen in previous periods. Current returns may be a temporary bubble. Lowering fees is one way to get back. Look at what you pay, and what you get for the money. An advisor who skillfully manages your portfolio, your retirement plan and your tax situation may be worth the money.
CanLII Connects – Start Taking Your Research to the Next Level
Are you using CanLII Connects for your legal research? CanLII Connects is a phenomenal website that features high-quality legal commentary and summaries of Canadian court decisions. It’s a continually growing source of authoritative legal commentary that is free, accessible, and open to anyone. Currently, the site boasts summaries of thousands of Canadian decisions dating back to the 1800s.
CanLII Connects is more than just a website. It’s a community resource. It brings together members of the legal community and provides a space to share their analysis and opinions of court decisions. The commentary found on CanLII Connects is created by members of the legal community. Only qualified members of the legal community and registered users of this site are permitted to post. This maintains quality.
From the homepage, summaries can be quickly sorted by jurisdiction, date, or author. This makes it easy to find summaries from a particular province or contributor. Each summary is linked directly to the full text case on CanLII. Conversely, cases on CanLII are linked to any summaries available on CanLII Connects.
CanLII Connects has made big waves and received some prestigious awards including the Canadian lawyer Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award and the Canadian Law Blog Award.
The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has been a major supporter of CanLII Connects since it was launched in April 2014. To date, the Law Society Library has submitted almost 25,000 summaries of Saskatchewan court decisions to CanLII Connects. This represents our entire collection of case digests. As you may know, the Law Society Library employs a number of contract digesters to summarize and digest Saskatchewan court decisions. These digests appear in Case Mail, our popular semi-monthly newsletter, and in the Saskatchewan Cases database.
We have been proud to support CanLII Connects. It is an impressive endeavour that signifies major changes to the world of legal information and publishing.
[This tip by Alan Kilpatrick originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]
Please Tell Me You Don’t Write Letters Like This
This is an excerpt from an actual letter received from a writer whose identity shall remain shrouded with a justly deserved veil of anonymity:
“We acknowledge your recent correspondence and attachment of the 29th instant with thanks, same being forwarded herewith to our client for reference and review, with the writer confirming our telephone conversation of the 19th, and your undertaking not to take steps to the detriment of our client without ample prior notice to the contrary being first given to the writer, [client] presently being in the process of retaining litigation counsel to deal herewith, with service being endorsed herewith on the true copy as requested.”
Instant? No one has used that for ‘of the current month’ since about 1870. Three instances of herewith in one sentence?? And it’s not entirely clear what the third one is referring to… Same?! Ugh, ugly commercialese – and, logically, it refers here to thanks not correspondence and attachment (which the writer presumably had in mind). And the writer??!! You’re a lawyer, not Queen Victoria – so there’s no need to refer to yourself in the third person.
I fear this lawyer also writes to clients in the same vein …
Here’s a proposed translation, which may not be much shorter – but at least it’s clearer and doesn’t sound like something drafted by some scrivener in a novel by Dickens:
“Thank you for your letter and attachments of [month] 29, which we have forwarded to our client. We remind you of your undertaking, when we spoke on the 19th, to give notice before taking any steps which may adversely affect our client. Our client is now seeking litigation counsel. We have received your client’s statement of claim and return the signed copy you requested.”
Less egregious, but equally Dickensian (in a bad way):
- please find attached/enclosed (even in the days of physical letters the please find business was weird and archaic; you can simply say I have attached the X or refer to the X, which is attached)
- please do not hesitate to … (the reader is a grown-up and can figure whether he or she wants or needs to do that; this is meaningless and faintly patronising)
- this is to acknowledge (just say thank you for whatever it is; by doing that, you’ve acknowledged it)
- govern yourself accordingly (the worst kind of wannabe Perry Masonism; it should be clear from your letter, if you’re writing to a lawyer, that the recipient should be on notice about something – and if you aren’t writing to a lawyer, it sounds even more cheaply menacing)
- we appreciate your consideration herein (another gem from Steven’s correspondent; herein usually means ‘contained in this document’, so the meaning is unclear; but you’re better not even to go there)
Please avoid these (and other) worn-out phrases, which have altogether too much of the inkwell and the quill pen about them.
Next tip: between and among
Canada Post Personal Vault
Do you need safe online storage for confidential information such as passwords, birth certificate, bank accounts, medical records, passports, tax returns, wills, insurance and other legal documents that you might need to access anytime, anywhere, or to share with your family members?
Canada Post has a Personal Vault service that provides bank-grade security and keeps your information on servers physically located in Canada. The Personal Vault is not meant to be cloud storage for your massive photo and movie collection but rather a secure place for your important personal, financial, medical information and your most valuable photos and videos. For this reason, file size is limited to 200KB each file and 3.5MB for photos and 10MB for videos. Picture this as an electronic safety deposit box, the contents of which you can access 24/7 whether you are at work, at home, or travelling.
Setup is straight forward. All you need to do is to create an ePost account (if you don’t already have one), pick a Personal Vault Plan and sign in. You can upload your own files or use the provided forms to quickly enter information such as bank accounts, passwords, prescriptions, etc.
A trial account of 100MB storage is free for 90 days (500 documents, 28 photos, 10 videos). A Bronze account of 1GB storage is $23.95 a year (5,000 documents, 285 photos, 100 videos). Silver and Gold accounts are available if you require more storage space. Give it a try.
[This tip originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]
Silence Quells the Fire
It was an intimidating scenario for a young lawyer. Representing the sole plaintiff in a multi-millionaire dollar lawsuit, I attended my client’s discovery anticipating a bombardment of questions from four defendants’ lawyers, some with more experience lawyering than I had years of life. Deep into a long day, one of the lawyers asked a question I refused. “On what grounds?”, the lawyer asked angrily. “Irrelevant”, I said. Then the other three lawyers chimed in indignantly, “It’s clearly relevant!”, “You’re out of your depth!”, and, to each other, for my benefit, “He’s a young lawyer.”
I was shook, but I had not fallen off my chair. I had gotten what I wanted – the question refused – and everything else was theatre. As my client looked at me, I paused significantly, sitting still, eyes down on my notes, until silence took the room – a trick I learned from a mentor, a senior lawyer whose reputation soared far above my plebeian dreams. And looking up, I said simply, “The question is refused. What is your next question?” The angry lawyer recovered, everyone’s reputation unblemished, and the discovery proceeded routinely, insofar as a discovery with five lawyers can be routine.
Standing strong does not necessarily mean fighting fire with fire, an eye for an eye. When professional conduct begins to deteriorate, remember it takes two to tangle. Refuse to wrestle in the mud – having done what you can with the legal tools available, reacting with grace can be as simple as sitting quietly.
Tracing the History of the Income Tax Act
Tracing the legislative history of an act can be challenging, and even more so if the act you are looking at is the Income Tax Act. Here are some things to keep in mind when tracing the legislative history of the Income Tax Act:
- The Income Tax Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 1 (5th Supp.) maintains the section numbering from the previous version, rather than being renumbered.
- The Income Tax Act, R.S.C. 1970, c. I-5, although published in the revision, never came into force due to the major changes proposed by the bill that later became S.C. 1970-71, c.63.
- Although S.C. 1970-71-72, c. 63 was an amending act, it repealed and replaced almost all of the Income Tax Act, R.S.C. 1952, c.148, so you periodically see references to “the Income Tax Act, S.C. 1970-71-72, c.63”.
Confusing Pairs, Part 4
The fourth in a series.
Next week: please don’t tell me you write letters like this
CanLII’s Boolean Operators
CanLII’s Boolean search commands are displayed in a pop-up box when the cursor is placed over the question mark icon to the right of the search interface:
This is crucial as every online database has its own unique set of Boolean search commands. For example, CanLII’s Boolean search commands differ significantly from those in the Saskatchewan Cases Database. It is always helpful to review a database’s Boolean search commands prior to searching.
Boolean search commands help us search more effectively and efficiently. They can easily broaden or narrow a search by combining different concepts together. Six important Boolean search commands to note prior to searching CanLII are:
[This tip by Alan Kilpatrick originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]
Miscellaneous Little Things That Annoy Me, Part 3
Me and others, in fact: these are largely submissions by loyal readers.
No, you are thinking of almost. It’s all right – two words, always.
A word that used to be used to mean ‘in any way, in any respect, at all’. Witness the Book of Common Prayer (1560): ‘ all those who are anyways afflicted, or distressed, in mind, body, or estate’ (btw, English prose doesn’t get much better than the BCP).
More recently, anyways has come to mean ‘in any case, at all events, anyhow’ – but in usage that is variously described as ‘informal, ‘colloquial’, ‘dialectical’ or (ahem) ‘illiterate’.
The better way, in both speech and writing, is anyway.
Asking questions that aren’t questions
Just because you use a word that can pose a question doesn’t mean you’re necessarily asking one. The question mark in this blog post is wrong: When Three Rights Make a Wrong? – this is a statement, not a question. Reframe it as ‘When do three rights …’ and you can add your question mark.
The problem often arises in student memos: The first issue is whether a motion for summary judgment would succeed? Wrong again; statement, not question.
This should have been included in the tip on weak nouns formed from verbs.
I am so sick of hearing about the disconnect! Please say disconnection, disjuncture, failure (not fail), communication failure, gap – anything but the disconnect.
These have a ring of circa 1875 to them: you’d be better not to use them.
One of the oddities of traditional English style is enumerating as follows: First, Secondly, Thirdly … Last. Firstly appears, in fact, to be a nineteenth-century invention that has always sounded fussy.
In modern writing, you could even go with second and the like over the –ly form, which has the advantage of being consistent with both first and last.
Why do people tack on this prefix where it really isn’t necessary?
Please don’t preheat your oven, just heat it – this requires prior action before you can cook, so pre- is redundant.
Similarly, pre-arrange, pre-book, pre-build, pre-chilled, pre-cooked, pre-existing, pre-owned (just say used or second-hand), pre-plan, pre-prepare (an absurdity of the first order), pre-qualify, pre-select and pre-set can all lose the pesky prefix and suffer no loss in meaning. The concept of priority is built into all of them.
Pre-drinking as a concept has its uses, however – even if, linguistically, it also fails the logic test.
Stating the perfectly obvious
You really, really don’t need to write Gurpreet Singh (‘Singh’) if he’s the only Singh you mention in your client update or blog post. This isn’t contractual drafting.
Similarly, there is no need to say two (2) months (or whatever unit you’re talking about). Everyone knows what two means, and no amount of ‘for greater certainty’ is necessary. Even in contractual drafting.
Next: confusing pairs, part 4
A New Way to Look at Law Firm Marketing Plans
You’ve been hemming and hawing about whether or not it would be worthwhile to develop a marketing plan for your firm. Meanwhile, there’s been no change to the status quo, even though you’re not actually satisfied that you’re meeting your practice goals.
Well, here’s a new way to look at the problem.
Simplistically, there are five key aspects to a legal marketing plan:
- Target market – Who do you want to reach?
- Messaging – What is your unique and valued difference?
- Vehicles – Where will you distribute that message?
- Action plan – Who will do what, by when and for how much?
- KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) – How will you measure the success of your campaign?
If you’re hesitant to embark on a full-fledged marketing plan because you’re unsure that you (or your partners) have the appetite for it, instead try this approach.
Consider if you’re missing just one of the five aspects above (enough so that you feel the pain and you’re all in agreement that it’s an issue). If, yes, then begin with a short and focused planning exercise.
Just start somewhere.
So, for today’s tip. Consider viewing the marketing plan with a fresh perspective. If you can get anything out of it, then go forward, even if it’s just a limited exercise. Success builds on success. Any improvement that your partial plan can deliver for your firm will be sure to build upon itself.
For more reading on marketing plans, see these past articles on SlawTips:
- Lawyers, Don’t Miss This Step in Your Marketing Plan
- Main Street..or Wal*Mart? Is It Time to Rethink Your Marketing Mix?
- 5 Tips on Marketing for Law Firms (Video)
Also, see the following articles by Sandra Bekhor at Toronto Marketing Blog:
- Marketing Strategies for Law Firms: The Ultimate Q&A
- Law firm logo design – An exhaustive illustration (42 leading examples critiqued)