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

technology  research  practice

All Our Practice Tips

The holidays are just around the corner. Everyone looks forward to the cards, lunches, gifts, parties and general good cheer this time of the year. Maybe in some small way, it makes up for the cold!

So, here’s a thought to take all that goodwill up a notch. Why not use your holiday events as a platform to celebrate success? Whether it’s with your partners, your staff or your clients.

Here are some ideas to get you thinking about this:

  • Have you made new connections this year? Can you get specific about that eg how many connections, how were the connections made or how did these connections add value to your practice…
  • Have any of your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) improved this year? Profit, revenue or volume?  
  • Have you changed something about your services? Do you have any feedback or data about how well this change was received by your clients or staff?
  • Have you adopted a new process or technology that resulted in greater efficiency?
  • Have you made any new hires recently? Did they benefit from your onboarding process? Or did you not even need to hire because your retention is so solid? Celebrate that.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating how motivating discussions about a job well done can be. They can create opportunity to acknowledge others for their work and dedication.

And if having a positive experience using concrete data about your firm’s performance leads to an appetite for greater insight about how well the practice is running… even better!

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

Smartphones provide lawyers with constant availability and the convenience of responding to queries and communications from any location at any time. But our devices can also be a source of distraction and addiction that discourage productivity and negatively impact our mental health.

A recent survey by Deloitte found that the average person checks their smartphone 52 times a day, while another study found the average person spends more than 3 hours on their phone daily. My own phone tells me that I receive an average of 78 notifications each day, causing a daily average of 73 “pickups”—each one interrupting workflow and concentration.

Making an active effort to reinforce self-control and limit our smartphone use can go a long way to ensuring we control our devices and our devices don’t control us. Dr. Gabrielle Golding, a lecturer with the University of Adelaide Law School, recommends lawyers pursue “digital detox” by scheduling predictable time away from smartphones and computers each week, slowly acclimatizing oneself to feeling “disconnected”, refraining from using any digital devices in bed, and taking up a non-technological hobby.

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with applications such as iPhone’s Screen Time and Android’s Digital Wellbeing functions, which allow users to set limits on when and how they use their smartphone. Blocks of phone-free time can be set in advance, or limits can be placed on certain applications. These applications also provide daily summaries of just how much time a user spends on individual applications—the results of which may surprise you.

Shawn Erker (@ShawnErker) is Legal Writer & Content Manager at LAWPRO.

 

Making it happen is not always easy.

Chris Riley of Lexology has some helpful suggestions for increasing lawyer engagement in what he calls ‘content marketing’:

  • write about topics your clients tell you they’ve been worrying about
    • describe the issue and propose a solution
  • don’t simply parrot news items
    • add your own perspective to the story or legal issue
  • keep it short!
    • Lexology’s readers overwhelmingly prefer to read something between 600 and 1,000 words in length
  • use analytical data available through Lexology (and your own firm’s marketing department)
    • identify articles and topics that have worked in the past
  • consult Lexology’s ‘popular articles’ list to see what readers are interested in
    •  write something on these topics (or avoid them if you want to be original)
  • ask a more senior lawyer for an idea or outline and flesh it out
  • get your library or knowledge management peeps (if you are fortunate enough to have them) to look out for novel topics and breaking developments
  • read the Lexology daily newsfeed to see what’s current
    • this may inspire you (or make you realise you could do a better job than your competitors)

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)

 

Administrator’s note: thanks to Erin Cowling for this week’s tip.

We all know that taking a real vacation makes us less stressed, more focused, and in return, better lawyers, better employees, and better bosses. Even though I love my job, I still need a break from it. I need to unplug and unwind. I need to think about something other than the law. When I do, I return to my practice with more energy and commitment.

When I worked for someone else, I always took all my allotted vacation. I felt I was working hard and I rightly deserved the time off. Now that I have my own practice and business and can, in theory, take as much vacation time that I want, I take even less. I need to change that.

So, here is what I have learned, and what may help to ensure that you and I take our important vacations:

  1. Book the vacation time into your calendar in advance. Block off your 2020 vacation days now. Not nailing down the time off makes it easier to push back that much needed break.
  2. Take at least two weeks off. For me, one week is not enough to get the “law” out of my system and to unwind.
  3. Plan financially, especially for those of us who are sole practitioners or have our own businesses. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. Factor your vacation time into your financial plan for the year. (In other words, don’t let money be an excuse to not take time off).
  4. Have someone cover your practice so you aren’t working on your vacation.
  5. Fiercely protect your time. Practice saying “No”. Say “No” to that meeting they want to schedule on your day off. Say “No” to that “quick” conference call while you are on vacation. And then provide an alternative date for when you are back in the office, relaxed and ready to work!

The bottom line: We need to give ourselves permission to take a break and forget about law for a while. We will be better lawyers if we do. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

[This tip was adapted with permission from Erin Cowling’s post, “My Biggest Mistake this Year…“]

 

Today’s practice tip is to get more mileage from your writing with CanLII Connects.

If you write commentary on caselaw for a personal or firm blog, client publications, or any other publication, you can upload it to CanLII Connects, where it can be discovered by anyone who searches for that particular case, both on CanLII Connects AND on CanLII.org.

CanLII cases that have corresponding CanLII Connects commentary will display this info just under the case name:

Not only is CanLII Connects commentary discoverable via individual cases, the full-text is integrated in search results within CanLII, too. Per the recent announcement on the CanLII Blog:

“When you conduct a search on CanLII, you are now able to get results of content from CanLII Connects. For example, doing a document search for “promise doctrine” will provide results that link to CanLII Connects entries. Clicking on the title of the entry will direct you to the full document on CanLII Connects.”

Setting up a profile and adding your legal commentary to CanLII Connects is a simple way to increase your online footprint and the reach of your work.

 

September always seems to be a time when Canadians get more serious about work. Well, we have a short summer and we need to make the most of it, right?

One simple tip that can take some of sting out of leaving vacations behind and getting back to the daily grind is to get into the habit of setting small practice development goals. Large or small, every goal adds value. Starting small allows you the opportunity to see results quickly, sparking the motivation to continue. Starting small also helps to manage procrastination, by reducing larger projects into bite size chunks.

Give some thought to some of the bigger practice development challenges you’ve been facing over recent years. Make a list of some possible actions you can take to establish progress and pick something from the list. 

To get your imagination going, here is a running list of examples:

  • Attend a live event with a professional association.
  • Change your headshot.
  • Add a section to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Reach out to your network with some news.
  • Update your biography.
  • Make contact with colleagues you haven’t heard from in a while.
  • Speak with a consultant to learn more about getting started with a special project.
  • Test a new marketing idea.  
  • Plan an event…

So, what’s your first small goal going to be?

For more reading related to practice development, see these past articles on SlawTips and Slaw:

Also, see the following related articles by Sandra Bekhor, Practice Development Consultant:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

What does it mean when a statute or regulation says that there must be “x days between” two actions? What about “at least x days between” two actions? In keeping with the relative, wibbly-wobbly nature of time itself, the answer sometimes depends on where you are.

Federally, ss. 26-30 of the Interpretation Act set out rules for computing time in Federal legislation, such as how a time limit that expires on a holiday is automatically extended to the following day (s. 26); or how one month after March 30th is April 30th, while one month after March 31st is… also April 30th (s. 28).

When timelines are described in Provincial statutes or regulations, it is the equivalent Provincial interpretation legislation that governs. In Ontario, for example, these rules are set out in the Legislation Act, while British Columbia and Alberta include these provisions in their respective Interpretation Acts.

Confusingly, these rules are not always equivalent across jurisdictions. For example, the meaning of “at least x days” between two events is not the same in every province. Generally, when a legislative instrument refers to “x days” between two events, it is calculated by excluding the first day and including the last day. So, counting from a Monday, “four days between” means the period ends on the Friday (excluding the Monday but including the Friday). But in many jurisdictions, a reference that specifies “at least x days”, or “x clear days” between two events means that both the first and last days are excluded. So, counting from the same Monday, “at least four days between” means the period ends on the Saturday, not the Friday. This is the case Federally, as well as in British Columbia and Alberta, as examples (see ss. 27, 25.2, and 22(3) of their respective Interpretation Acts).

Ontario, however, doesn’t follow this distinction. Section 89(3) of the Ontario Legislation Act explicitly states that a reference to a period of time between two events includes the last day, “even if the reference is to ‘at least’ or ‘not less than’ a number of days”. So, counting from the Monday, “at least four days between” means the period ends on the Saturday for Federal legislation, but on the Friday for Ontario provincial legislation.

When computing a timeline prescribed by statute or regulation, and diarizing your own corresponding deadlines, it’s a good idea to make reference to the applicable interpretation legislation, and keep in mind that time, when it comes to legislative provisions, is very much relative.

Shawn Erker (@ShawnErker) is Legal Writer & Content Manager at LAWPRO.

 

It’s been a few years since AccessCLE was cited here on SlawTips, and a recent mention of it on the CALL-L listserv made me think it would be worth pointing to again, especially since there’s been a recent development that makes it even more accessible.

So what is the AccessCLE database? It’s a repository of LSO continuing professional development papers from 2004 onwards. While there was originally an embargo on papers newer than 18 months, the LSO recently lifted that restriction and now all papers are free.

The Great Library’s Know How blog reminds us that:

“Continuing professional development (CPD) program materials are an invaluable source of current legal information. Papers typically cover the practical implications of recent case law and legislative developments, and often include useful precedents, procedure and checklists. “

The papers can be searched full-text or browsed by topic, then downloaded as PDF.

 

CanLII recently announced that 22 reports from the National Self- Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) are now available on CanLII. The NSRLP builds on the National Self-Represented Litigants Research study conducted by Dr. Julie Macfarlane from 2011-2013 and is committed to advancing understanding of the challenges and hard choices facing the very large number of Canadians who now come to court without counsel. The NSRLP regularly publishes resources designed specifically for SRLs, as well as research reports that examine the implications for the justice system. The reports include: 

To access the complete collection of reports, please visit the CanLII commentary site.

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

 

As mentioned recently on Slaw, at this year’s annual conference in Edmonton, CALL/ACDB partnered with vLex for an exclusive podcast series, hosted by Colin Lachance, interim General Manager of North America for vLex.

The series features 11 episodes, which are “brief interviews with CALL/ACBD 2019 conference speakers, exhibitors, sponsors and organizers, about their experience at the May 2019 conference, what’s hot in their world, and their thoughts on the future.”

Some topics include: KM & innovation, career opportunities, conference organizers’ perspectives, AI, law as code, human-centered design, courthouse library renovations, legal publishing, the importance of CALL, and more.

Visit lawlibrariespodcast.com to listen to the podcasts.