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All Our Tips

  • Research & Writing

As mentioned earlier this year, CanLII has been adding secondary materials to its database. If you’re looking for recent articles from Canadian law journals, CanLII now offers access to sixteen journals:

  • Alberta Law Review
  • Appeal: Review of Current Law and Law Reform
  • Canadian Bar Review
  • Canadian Journal of Comparative and Contemporary Law
  • Canadian Journal of Human Rights
  • Canadian Law Library Review
  • Canadian Parliamentary Review
  • Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies
  • LawNow Magazine
  • Manitoba Law Journal
  • McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution
  • McGill Journal of Law and Health
  • McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law
  • Ottawa Law Review
  • University of New Brunswick Law Journal
  • Windsor Yearbook on Access to Justice

In addition to these journals and the CanLII Connects commentary, CanLII has added books, newsletters, and reports and research papers.

Susannah Tredwell


  • Practice

So I belong to this listserv of mostly attorneys and everyone is talking about how they use Google for this and Google for that and all I can think is … is it just me?!  Why would anyone wish Google to be scanning and indexing their business records and documents – let alone a bunch of attorneys?

*start of rant*

Of course, you KNOW – any time your data touches a Google server it is being scanned and indexed. Right?

Seriously – you are giving every keystroke/word <-as best as speech recognition can figure out the words I imagine – to Google just by using it.  Oh and Google = not just search but, of course, gmail, chrome, anything done on a chromebook.  All are collection points.  Google was built to scan/index and it’s doing that to your and your clients’ info.

As for those using Google Voice – are you sure you’re getting all your calls?  Who are you going to call if you realize, 3 days later, that your phone has stopped ringing??  See – it’s not when tech works that you have to worry – it’s when it doesn’t.  Pay the $20 per month to have a business VoIP line or use unified messaging to work your cell as a business AND personal mobile device and stop using a free service, especially Google, for everything!

*Jumps off soapbox*

Note: the above is much more amusing when you read it like Edna Mode , dahling! #justsayin

Andrea Cannavina (@AndreaCan) helps law firms organize, automate and implement business process improvements to create efficient workflows and happier staff. 


  • Research & Writing

There is a distinct love-hate relationship between the English and French languages. We’ve borrowed a lot from the French over the years, with mixed results.

All of this goes back a long way (1066, and all that), but shows no sign of abating.

French words we’ve more or less naturalised

There are some borrowings from French that we don’t even think about, because they’ve become fully anglicised, sometimes with changes in spelling: apartment, baton, hotel, parliament.

Sometimes we try to make anglicised French words more French again, for example when we pronounce niche like NEESH, instead of the acclimatised (and perfectly correct) pronunciation NITCH.

Other French words are still in transition, although it appears to be a losing battle to keep the final French –me in program(me). There may be hope yet for manoeuvre against the tide of maneuver.

Accents disappear readily, but not always. A good example is the French-derived word for CV: is it résumé (which would be the correct spelling in French) or resumé (which is common in English)? The pedant in me prefers the former, even though that runs the risk of looking … well … pedantic. So I avoid the issue and just say CV.

Debris is also neither fully English nor French: the E has generally lost its accent, but (as in French) we don’t pronounce the final S.

French expressions which don’t really have an exact English equivalent

Can you come up with pithy English equivalents for je ne sais quoi, joie de vivre, sang-froid, savoir-faire and après-ski?

Keeping one’s cool, perhaps; but know-how isn’t quite the same as savoir-faire – it lacks that certain something?

French expressions which will make you sound pretentious

Basically anything that already has a serviceable and well-established English equivalent.

French expressions which the French don’t really use

And then there is that category of words and phrases used in English and derived from French, but which the French don’t really, actually use. At all. Ever. Some examples follow.

Au jus: Your humble scribe has yet to see this on a menu in France. (And please, don’t say with au jus; au means ‘with’.)

Au naturel: This just means ‘plain, unadorned’ to the French. They say nu (‘naked’) when they mean ‘naked’.

 Brunette: A woman with brown hair is brune or une brune.

Décolletage: One would talk about a woman’s décolleté in French (if one mentioned it at all).

Double entendre: A French person would say double entente or sous-entendu.

Duvet: To a French speaker, this is just the down that fills the quilt, not the quilt itself – which is a couette.

Encore: The French don’t shout this after particularly good performances: they call out bis! (‘repeat’).

Ensuite: This doesn’t mean an adjoining bathroom to a French person; it just mean ‘then’. For the room, say something like salle de bain attenante.

Rapport: In French, ‘a connection’ with someone, whether good or bad; to convey the positive sense this word has in English it would be necessary to say un bon rapport.

Résumé: The French use this, but only to mean ‘summary’; the biographical document is a curriculum vitae.

Risqué: Merely ‘risky’ to the French. For ‘slightly daring or scandalous’, you’d want to say osé.

Not suggesting you use the genuinely French versions of these now-English expressions, however, because the versions we use are so entrenched in English that you’d attract funny looks for trying to be more authentically Gallic.

If it’s any consolation, the French use ‘English’ words that look nothing short of outlandish to us, like le people (celebrities, the beau monde) or even un people (a celebrity); un brushing (blow-dry); un pressing (dry-cleaning); un relooking (make-over) and se faire relooker (to get a make-over); un basket (sports shoe); talkie-walkie (walkie-talkie) – amongst many others. For further reference, see C. Furiassi & H. Gottlieb, Pseudo-English: Studies in False Anglicisms in Europe (2015).

Next time: CAPS

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  • Practice

You’ve had an up and down year, and suddenly when it rains, it pours. Clients are coming in by the bucket, tasks are piling up, and you have got to delegate your work. Your articling student ambles up to your office with a gentle knock, asking, “Hi – just wondering if you have any tasks I can help out with?” You make a mental note that this is a keen student, maybe a keeper. You hand her over a file, spend a few seconds explaining the task, and off she goes. That should do it, right?

But the articling student comes back a few days later with a barrage of questions, at just the wrong time. In the middle of drafting a big document you’ve been interrupted. You sigh and turn around, your body and your mind, to answer the questions. Before you know it you’ve spent another “0.5” explaining a task. Could you have done it sooner if you had done it yourself? Will the job turn out the way you want?

The delegation dilemma is this – you want to delegate your work but you also have to teach, give feedback, and occasionally handhold. Will the task be done better? Have you actually saved any time? Perhaps not this task. But the good news is, the better you delegate, and the better you train, the better your student/law clerk/assistant will be. And, with good work put in, you eventually will have that well-trained helper. Here’s some delegation tips.

Explain the whole file, every time. It may not be enough to say, “go look at my interview notes” and write that statement of claim. A good explanation means you can highlight what’s important and what the priorities are. You can point out the pitfalls before they’ve been fallen into, and you can hammer home the points that need support. It will take more time initially, but presumably the pay-off is a better work product. Similarly, explain in detail the task at hand. It may be necessary to provide precedents, to explain the formatting you desire, to paint a picture of the end product. If you want a well-written memo in full sentences, then say so. And if you want a short one-page note-form memo, say so. Give a sensible deadline to avoid last-minute calamities. Give enough time for your helper to complete the work, and give yourself leeway to review the work. And finally, determine the level of client contact you want to delegate. Is this a task that won’t require any client contact? Is the client too important and sensitive to delegate? Answer these questions before you hand off the work.

Good delegation can greatly improve your ability to take on more files and do good work. Make sure you review work that goes out in your name – you are still responsible for clerical mistakes, which account for some 6% of malpractice claims. Dedicate time up front to train well, and thereby resolve the delegation dilemma.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)


  • Research & Writing

In honour of the Charter’s 35th anniversary, the Department of Justice released the online Charterpedia. As noted on the site:

This Charterpedia provides legal information about the Charter and contains information about the purpose of each section of the Charter, the analysis or test developed through case law in respect of the section, and any particular considerations related to it. Each Charterpedia entry cites relevant case law, and citations to Supreme Court of Canada decisions are hyperlinked whenever possible.

It contains a wealth of information about the Charter by section, including info on similar provisions, purpose, and detailed analysis. Check it out!

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


  • 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)