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  • Research & Writing

H.W. Fowler refers in Modern English Usage to the ‘misshapen brood’ of bi– words that are used to describe the frequency of intervals: biannual, bi-monthly, bi-weekly and the like.

The problem with them is that they are ambiguous: bi-weekly, for example, can mean either twice a week or every two weeks. At least a biennial (like the Biennale art exhibition held in Venice) is always held every two years, not twice in one.

Careful drafters of contracts will obviously want to make things perfectly clear, especially when dealing with dates of payment obligations and the like. And even non-contractual writers may wish to avoid uncertainty.

There are some options to avoid the ambiguity of bi–. Semi-monthly is clearer than bi-monthly, if you want to say that something is to occur twice in any given month. But both words are what Fowler calls ‘ugly hybrids’. Fortnightly  is an option, if you’re OK with sounding very British. Or you could just say twice monthly, every two weeks or every other week. Fowler’s proposal to adopt half-monthly doesn’t appear to have gained much traction, but you could try it – and you wouldn’t be misunderstood.

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember Canada’s centennial in 1967 and the bicentennial of US independence in 1976. In the UK, these would have been centenary (pronounced cen-TEEN-er-ee) and bicentenary (bye-cen-TEEN-er-ee).

When Toronto celebrated the 150th anniversary of its incorporation back in 1984, someone dredged up sesquicentennial, a word that doesn’t appear to be used all that much. It did engender a twee squirrel mascot called Seskwee (although it wasn’t black in colour like the characteristic Toronto rodent).

The federal government, wisely, did not try to figure out the Latinate term for the 125th anniversary of Confederation when that occurred in 1992. (The unwieldy quasquicentennial has been suggested.) Instead, the feds opted for Canada 125, universally called Canada one two five (perhaps a deliberate echo of the colloquial term for a case of beer). Canada 125 made up in clarity what it lacked in imagination – and, predictably, we are approaching what is officially being called Canada 150.

But perhaps we still have the dodransbicentennial, dodrabicentennial or possibly dequabicentennial  of Confederation to look forward to in 2042 – with Dodra or Dequa the beaver as mascot?

Once every thousand years. Also, now, used to refer to the much-maligned generation that came of age around the dawn of the new millennium – although millennial  is often used for anyone born somewhere between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

Note: spell millennial and millennium with two Ls and two Ns. Millennia (and centuries) begin in years ending in 1 (2001, not 2000), by the bye; there was no year 0.

Next: keep your cultural references current and universal

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  • Practice

As this fall marks another season of incoming new lawyers and articling students, this tip is for you. When you receive your first assignment from your articling principal or senior lawyer, you may be left wondering where you should start. Sometimes the answer is with the assigning lawyer’s assistant or law clerk. The assistant can provide you with similar precedents the assigning lawyer has already perfected. These precedents can provide you with valuable insights into the legal writing and work product you are expected to achieve.

Yes, you can tackle the work on your own without any guidance – but wouldn’t it be easier to follow the well-worn path? Many assignments do not require you to reinvent the wheel. A statement of claim is likely to set out the theory of liability and damages, which may closely mirror past cases. Pay attention to the wording used in precedents, as the phrases used may be taken directly from cases. The same goes for research memos, letters to clients, factums, etc. While Google and CanLII can be very helpful, don’t neglect the human resource available to you a few steps away.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)


  • Research & Writing

Did you know that the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) website provides a wealth of free practice resources?  We encourage you to check it out!

Here is a break down of the amazing resources provided by the CBA:

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


  • Research & Writing

Feeling respect and regard for your readers is important, but this edition is more specifically about words and phrases derived from respect and regard.

Regard and derivatives
First, regards as opposed to regard.

Regards are what you express, typically at the end of a letter or e-mail, in order to sound friendly; but as your humble scribe has previously said, you could usefully dispense with them altogether – they add nothing (see Beginnings and endings).

In any event, do NOT say with regards to or in regards to. Here, the correct word is regard (singular). Better yet, just say about or on.

Irregardless is not a word (or at least not in the standard English you want to be using): you mean regardless (or perhaps irrespective).

Respect and derivatives
Respect can be used like regards, to express esteem for another person. In professional writing , this may sound a bit too Ali G (‘Massive respect …‘).

When you disagree with someone, you should also avoid that leaden opener With respect …, which usually indicates that the writer has anything but respectful thoughts about the reader.

The adverb respectfully is just as bad, if not worse. Use it in a factum if you must, but don’t lard the thing with it.  As Justice Laskin has said: ‘Avoid using the phrase “it is respectfully submitted” more than twice in your factum. […] Repeated too often, this phrase disrupts the force and flow of your argument’. It also sounds pompous and old-fashioned.

In a legal setting, try to confine respect to these two phrases: with respect to and in respect of. But here again, you’re better off going with a simpler construction entirely, like good old about. And to say respecting in this sense looks like you’re writing with a quill pen.

Respectively is frequently misused. It needs to connect items in one list with their counterparts in a second list in the same sentence.  Fowler’s Modern English Usage entertainingly lists five types of incorrect use, but space doesn’t permit full discussion here.

This is wrong: X, Y and Z respectively guarantee Z’s obligations.

This is correct: X, Y and Z shall not make capital expenditures in any fiscal year in excess of $5 million, $3 million and $1 million, respectively. [Examples adapted from Ross Guberman and Gary Karl’s Deal Struck: The World’s Best Drafting Tips (2014).]

Next time: just how frequently is that?

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  • Technology

Over the summer, we will be highlighting Legal Sourcery’s most popular research tips.  On that note, here are Legal Sourcery’s most popular current awareness tips:

If you have any questions, ask a Law Society Librarian! We are pleased to provide high-quality legal research services to Saskatchewan members in person, on the telephone, or by email.

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


  • Practice

This tip was inspired by a young mother I know, a senior associate at a big firm, who shared with me her recipe for handling the challenging tension between mom-time and lawyer time: the early escape.

Here’s how it works: One night a week she stays late at the office, until between eight and ten at night, depending on the week. Then, two days later, she leaves the office in the early afternoon to pick her kids up early from daycare for some special time with them.

This wonderful “life hack” checks two important boxes for her. She checks her productivity box by getting gets a nice uninterrupted period of time each week to push through a whole lot of work. She also checks what she calls her “mommy box” with this dose of fun unstructured time with her kids.

Once you put in your time and rise in the ranks in a law firm, these opportunities for flex time open up, if you are willing to take advantage of them. The twin bottom lines in private practice – service to clients and the billable hour – can both be well served within a flexible schedule.

It turns out this strategy is also frequently employed by professionals in other sectors. New York Times journalist Neil Irwin reports on this trend in his article: “How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters” citing the research conducted by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. Reid conducted a study of more than 100 professionals at an elite consulting firm.

“Some 31 percent of the men and 11 percent of the women whose records Ms. Reid examined managed to achieve the benefits of a more moderate work schedule without explicitly asking for it.

They made an effort to line up clients who were local, reducing the need for travel. When they skipped work to spend time with their children or spouse, they didn’t call attention to it. One team on which several members had small children agreed among themselves to cover for one another so that everyone could have more flexible hours.”

Our devices allow us to be connected to the office day and night. For many this on-line connectivity functions as a ball and chain that means we are never truly off work. By setting boundaries though, and using these devices to their full advantage, you can get out of the office and onto the soccer field when you need to. There are many ways to be out of the office and in a meeting. It might be a meeting with clients, or at your child’s school. In the case of one very in-demand associate I know it meant he was at the gym.

There are still those old school lawyers – dare I say dinosaurs – who insist that what really counts is time at your desk. They want to see you in at the office in the early morning and still there past the supper hour. I say what really counts is the quality of your work, your relationship with your clients, and how you manage your practice. All three of these get the most optimal results when you are well rested, energized, and in a positive state of mind.

Have a look at your workweek and see where you can introduce some flexibility into the mix. Experiment with mixing up your working hours and see what kind of an impact that has for you overall. I especially urge you to get out of the office early some of these last days of summer. Give it a try – you just might like the results.

[This tip by Allison Wolf originally appeared on the Lawyer with a Life Blog]


  • Research & Writing

A quick checklist for when a user tells you that they cannot access a particular database:

  1. User account hasn’t been set up
  2. Using the wrong username
  3. Using the wrong password
  4. Trying to log into the US version, not the Canadian
  5. Trying to log into the legacy version, not the new one (or vice versa)
  6. Someone else is already logged in using that username and password
  7. Access is through IP authentication and the user is trying to log in from a location that the database doesn’t recognize (like the user’s home)
  8. No longer have a subscription to the database
  9. Still subscribe to the database, but access has been accidentally cut off

Susannah Tredwell


  • Practice

No one likes to talk about digital security. Heck, say “F T P” to some people and watch their eyes immediately glaze over.  I get it. It’s techy and geeky and those who are not, just smile and nod.  However, whether you are geeky or not, digital security is immensely important to the health of your business and even your personal life.

I’ve been trying to get the core concepts of digital security out there for over a decade.  My first presentation for the OIVAC (way back in 2006) only touched upon what one needs to consider when it comes to the security of their privacy, equipment, business/client information, data collection and website.  I got rave reviews, but the comments made me realize just how little attention anyone was paying to the digital security of their business <-and that you couldn’t put that much raw intel about digital security into anyone’s head in one sitting. 😉

I’ve refined that presentation over the years, breaking it up into more digestible parts.  At just about 2 minutes, this short and pithy video captures the basics of digital security in, what I like to think, is a relatable and fun way:

Digital Security Salad

Please comment if you like or not — I’m reworking the parts about data collection and website security next and would LOVE to know if the whole “relate it to food” concept works <g>


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


  • Research & Writing

I keep a running list of these, jotting them down as I see or hear them. (You’re on notice.)

The both of you/us

Adele may sing in ‘Hello’ about ‘thuh B-O-O-O-O-TH of UH-UH-ss’, but don’t you be doing it.

It is both of you and both of us, with no definite article – not even when it’s from the UH-ther SI-YIDE.

British case

There is no such thing in law. You mean an English case (or perhaps a Scottish one).

(Great) Britain, which came into being when James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603, consists of England (and Wales) plus Scotland. England and Scotland have separate legal systems and courts, so there can never be a  British case: it’s either English or Scottish, but not both; British is not synonymous with English. (And it’s Great Britain to distinguish it from that lesser Britain, Brittany in France.)

I suppose there could be a UK case, since the United Kingdom Supreme Court hears appeals from all the constituent parts of the UK (Great Britain plus Northern Ireland), and the law lords make it clear when a judgment is applicable to all of the parts (as in Donoghue v Stevenson, a Scottish case the House of Lords did not confine to Scots law). But it’s purer to describe cases by their jurisdiction of origin.

All of this may unravel in the wake of Brexit, however…

This always suggests coleslaw to me.*

It isn’t statutelaw, commonlaw or customarylaw, so why would it be caselaw?

As The Solicitor General’s Style Guide, 2d ed (Washington, DC, 2015) uncompromisingly puts it, caselaw is a ‘barbarism’ requiring ‘total extirpation’.

It’s case law (add a hyphen to make that an adjective: case-law research).

This doesn’t always have to have a hyphen after it.

It’s mid-year review, because you’re making a compound adjective out of mid and year; but it’s I’ll see you in mid March (no hyphen). You don’t write I’ll see you in early-March or I’ll see you in late-March. Ergo…

Seven days notice
That’s an Apostrophe Catastrophe™ if ever there was one! It needs to be seven days’ notice, obvi.

Please, no.

There are two English words that mean the same thing: until and till. ‘Til, an unnecessary modern variant of the latter, must (like caselaw) be exterminated.

Next tip: respect and regard

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)


  • Research & Writing
  • Technology

Over the summer, the Legal Sourcery blog is publishing its most popular research tips.  On that note, here are Legal Sourcery’s most popular CanLII tips:

If you have any questions, ask a Law Society Librarian! We are pleased to provide high-quality legal research services to Saskatchewan members in person, on the telephone, or by email.

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