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

technology  research  practice

All Our Practice Tips

I’m going to check email for an hour until, “Oh, I have to take that call from the client. We’ve been playing phone tag. Hello?”, while I’m signing a cheque and your cell phone rings from that other client you said you would call back when you got out of the car. Back to email until I forgot to message that person back on my Facebook account about giving a quote.

Ah, the beauty of multi-tasking, says the first-born Aries!

It’s the thing that makes us all feel busy and useful and then we end our day accomplishing, nothing. Or, nothing we wanted to.

That is when I learned started to switch (no pun intended) my brain from a multi-tasking mindset to a multi-interrupting one. Multi-tasking is a myth. It cannot be done successfully if you want to complete anything.

Interruptions are generally detrimental when you are focused on one project and then you’re interrupted by something completed unrelated. You have to shift your focus, your resources and “warm up” to the new topic. It takes much longer than you think and then you have to “warm up” to the original task.

Studies show that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the original task! Okay, so what if I lose about 23 minutes every time I switch projects?

Unfortunately, the other major draw back is that it causes a significant amount more stress because you tend to work faster to try to compensate for the interruption, which fuels more stress. And then the stress of feeling like you’re not being able to keep up

Sound familiar? All too much for lawyers these days.

Some tips, which I’m trying to incorporate into my day:

1. Set a timer. I set a timer so that it keeps me focused for at least short bursts of time (maybe 20 minutes or one hour, depending on the type of “project”).

2. Do not disturb. Manage your interruptions by setting time aside to let people know that you are not to be interrupted. Stack all you interruptions together so you can deal with them in a block and then focus on some things.

3. Stop self-interruptions. Turn off your internet browser, notifications (audio and pop-ups) so that you can minimize your self-sabotage to productivity.

Did you read this whole post without looking at something else? Good start, if you did.

-Elizabeth Mah


I have operated my practice as a paperless one since I opened shop in November 2011. I was not a techie (nor am I). I did not have a background in science or computers other than what I needed to get through university. I much preferred reading things on paper than a screen (there are a few physiological and psychological reasons why many of us do). I printed out all my reference material when I could do so on someone else’s dime.

Organizing digital documents and prepping them for disclosure is straightforward, with commonly-accepted practices. The ISO-standardized portable document format (aka “PDF”) has become the de-facto standard. It has come to replace many of the analog equivalents of the old three-ring binder, but with more powerful tools for searching, reproduction, and ease of reference. Today, many lawyers are comfortable sharing documents as PDFs in the place of printing, binding, and couriering documents around town or across the province.

Despite its lack of security, many counsel email documents. Indeed, despite the security measures put in place by their law firms, many clients usurp those measures by using unsecure email services. Email has become the standard practice except where large volumes are involved, in which case flash drives and DVDs are sent around. I will save the security of email and couriering storage media, which are cultural ones in many respects, for another day.

What we do not have in BC (and I presume the rest of Canada) is an accepted practice for using digital documents in oral discoveries. Many stakeholders are discussing digital evidence in hearings, but I am unaware of similar discussions taking place for discovery practices. It seems, understandably, that those things are left to informal agreements between counsel.

Discoveries are far more common exercises and often more influential to the ultimate outcome of a case than a trial, but it remains that there is no accepted practice of using digital documents at discovery. I have been inconsistent myself – while I always bring my laptop and iPad, I also have, at times, printed and bound documents, especially when I want to mark exhibits put to the opposing party (of course, there is no current means of marking PDFs as exhibits although the technology exists). Of course, using digital documents in the absence of commonly-accepted practices.

The issue recently came to a head in a discovery in a comparatively document-intense wrongful dismissal matter. My client was being examined. I was taking notes on my laptop and, when opposing counsel would ask that a document be put to the witness, I would pull it up and slide my computer to the witness, much the same as I would do with a binder of documents. In one instance, opposing counsel asked to go off the record and began complaining (almost a diatribe, in fact) about how the use of PDFs was impeding his discovery and taking too much time. It became evident that this was highly frustrating to this lawyer, as the complaints evolved into a rather personal criticism of me in my clients’ presence.

Specifically, the issues raised were:

1. It was a waste of discovery time to pull up the documents – I was “trying to be paperless” with no corresponding benefit.

2. He could not see whether there were any annotations on the documents (I had previously advised him that I would be using PDFs and collapsing my annotations so the witness could not see them)

3. I was possibly feeding the witness evidence by pointing to things on the screen (I have a touch screen laptop and was flipping to the page opposing counsel to which counsel wanted to refer to save us all time).

It went on, but I will digress. It will suffice to say that the tone and nature of the comments were such that I doubt this experienced lawyer would have wanted them on the record. Nonetheless, this caused me to be introspective about an issue that I felt had no good solution at present.
Despite the expanding reliance on digital evidence in legal proceedings generally, reporting agencies are not seeing the same increasing use of digital documents at discovery. This might be for a few reasons. Reporting agencies typically follow the courts, given their role in providing services essential to the effective and just adjudication of cases. There is no accepted means of digitally marking exhibits. There is also no existing practice for displaying documents or allowing witnesses to read documents at discovery through digital media – whatever is there might not be suitable for every witness.

In that particular respect and also generally, we have to tackle cultural barriers to using digital evidence. Some people would say this is generational, but I think that the issue is really about reluctance to learn something new. Certainly, many of the leaders in legal technology were not raised in a digital age, but realized that adoption of new technology and adaptation are vital in a service-oriented industry that must conform to their clients’ practices (the ever-knowledgeable David Bilinsky was called to the bar before the PC came about, but that hasn’t slowed him, nor many others, down). Beyond that, the law is likely the fastest evolving profession in terms of substantive knowledge. Medicine, engineering, accounting, business, etc. do not see the same sea-changes occur overnight or the constant evolution of subject matter that the common law does. If we can continuously take on new substantive knowledge, which is not always easy, then why can’t we take on new technical knowledge?

There are many different solutions to these obstacles. I am sure an affective solution requires greater consultation, dialogue, and experimentation, but here is what I think we need to be able to make better use of digital documents at discovery:

1. User-friendly media to display and read digital documents: an iPad or other tablet is likely the most user-friendly media. Standard tablets are a touch too small for this. The 12.9” iPad Pro is conveniently about a half-inch larger in each dimension than a sheet of familiar A4 paper with the Apple “Pencil” allowing users to markup documents. (being half-Scottish, I think I will wait until my nearly-new iPad clunks out before making the upgrade, but we shall see).

2. A means of marking documents as exhibits by the reporter: the Electronic Transactions Act S.B.C. 2001, c. 10, allows this, but there are no reporters in BC doing so. Adobe Acrobat will create stamps equivalent to the ink-stamps we all know. While I am not sure if building a form into a stamp to make informational input faster currently exists as an option, it is certainly within the bounds of technical feasibility. For convenience, one could also hyperlink the reference to the exhibit in the transcript to the exhibit itself.

I have experimented both with my iPad Air and with my laptop as display media for my client, with one device being used for note-taking while the other is exclusively used by the client. There are pros and cons to both. The iPad has a smaller screen, but opposing counsel can (sort of) see where the client is at in the document and that there are not any annotations by counsel. Of course, the inverse is true when a laptop is used. One pro of a laptop is that I can let the client use the screen to read and I can use a Bluetooth mouse to pull up documents and jump to the right page without being on top of the client or passing the device around. This avoids the need for training or familiarization with the display app (e.g. GoodReader or PDF Expert) or how bookmarks work like tabs in a binder.

Of course, these technical solutions are only responsive to technical problems. The cultural obstacles remain.

I welcome any feedback from readers regarding their experience and ideas with digital evidence at discovery:

  • Michael McCubbin

*I am indebted to Christy Pratt, owner of Reportex Agencies in Vancouver, B.C. for her feedback and insight to supplement my own experience (there is no way that even the most seasoned trial lawyer in BC, which I am not, has as much oral discovery experience as Christy). Reportex is, in my view, one of the most forward thinking agencies (if not, the most) and her willingness to offer her insight is really part and parcel of the progressive culture her firm maintains.


These days there’s no excuse for a bad social networking photo. A bad photo looks unprofessional and can diminish your chances with prospective clients. A good one can accentuate your personality. Your website bio, LinkedIn bio, and Facebook photo all communicate something about you to the public. Like it or not, we are judged partly by how we look. With a free app, a cell phone with a built-in camera, and some good technique, you can take a great bio photo. Here’s how.

  1. The App:

Upload your photo to Photofeeler and other users will give feedback about whether your photo makes you look competent, likeable, and influential. The rating in each category tells you what percentile your photo ranks in, so anything over 50% means you’re better than average. Photofeeler is free to use if you’re willing to rate others – you get credit for each review, and when you have enough credits, you can have your photo rated by 20 to 80 users. If you’d rather just get your ratings in a hurry, then you can pay about $10 (CDN) and buy a block of credits for 40 users to rate your photo.

Experiment with several different photos and use the one with the best rating.

Ian Hu

  1. The Camera

Most cell phones take perfectly acceptable bio photos. You don’t need a high resolution camera because bio photos tend to be very small, often thumbnail-sized. What you do need is good lighting, good posture, and good technique.

Research shows that the background doesn’t affect how you are perceived. So this gives you freedom to get creative with a background. If you’re taking the photo outdoors, do so when the sun is near the horizon, typically in the first hour after sunrise and in the hour before sunset. If indoors, choose a spot opposite a window with a white wall behind you. You want to use natural diffused light, so avoid having the sun shining directly into the room.

Set your cell phone up at the level of your head, put it on a timer, and strike a pose. You’ll want to capture your head and shoulders, and perhaps down to your waist. Capturing your head alone is too intimate, and capturing below the waist is too casual.

  1. Strike a pose

Squinch. What’s that, you say? Squinching is a technique coined by professional photographer Peter Hurley (click the link to see how it’s done). Photofeeler’s research shows squinching can greatly improve a bio photo. It’s a subtle squint that makes everyone look better. Figure out how to do it in the mirror and suddenly you project more confidence.

Another tried and true technique is to stick out your forehead and angle it downward. This will make your face and jawline look better defined and slimmer.

If your body faces the camera this can look intimidating – it’s the same thing when someone stands with their shoulders squared to you. Try turning your body slightly away from the camera, while keeping your face looking directly into the camera.

Play around with different poses and use Photofeeler to figure out what your best photo is. In no time at all you’ll arrive at a great bio photo.

Ian Hu, Toronto


I’ve been working in and through the “cloud” since before it was called the cloud. First and foremost, I learned how to credibly publish to the web. If we haven’t met – google “legaltypist”…

I set up my service based company, LegalTypist, Inc., to be able to securely work with any attorney who could dial a toll-free number; and I amassed others who were like me to do the day to day tasks and typing of the law firms I set up on “the System” <-original I know, but the more technical name makes people’s eyes glaze over!

I picked the tech of LegalTypist for very specific reasons – including the criteria I have for any cloud based service entrusted with my client’s data/information/files.

Here are the 7 Questions I ask, and you should too:
1. Where are your servers and my data located?
If the answer is not 100% in the US (or the country in which your practice is located), move along.
2. What kind of security measures are in place for my data?
From the physical servers to the connections to your accounts, all access points to your data should be secure. Every time you log in, you should see https (not http) at the beginning of the url. The “s” means that the connection between your device and the website is encrypted and secure. Other things to look for are display of certifications from companies like Thwate and Verisign <-which indicate that the site, and depending on the certification, the company, seriously “get” web-based security.
3. Are the servers geo-redundantly backed up to servers also located in the same country?
What is geo-redundancy? That’s when back up servers are outside the same power grid as the main servers in case of a wide-spread power outage. How could that affect you? Here’s how it adversely affected one cloud based player (who’s top brass had said “yes” to this question over pizza at LTNY months earlier, I might add): See How Far We’ve Come–The Importance of Redundancy in the Cloud
4. Who is on staff to fix the servers should they go down?
If the answer does not start with “We have x number of engineers on staff…” or “those servers are hosted in a remote location; where the only people who can physically access them have biometric permissions in place” … move along.
5. How do I retain local copies of my data?
If a cloud provider does not at least have in place a way to download your contact database into .csv format, that’s a huge warning. Keep in mind that all cloud services are programmed differently – and since cloud means the software too – there is generally no way to manipulate your data outside of that particular service provider’s paid monthly account. However, if you can get your data into .csv, you may be able to figure out a way (or pay someone) to populate it into a different program.
6. Can I work off line?
Is there a way to download a full, local copy of your data that you use until you get back on line and update the cloud data? The answer is probably not. Never hurts to find out for sure.
7. How long have you been in existence?
The longer the better. If you can get with sustained growth over time without huge investment in outside VC, that’s the best possible scenario. The last thing you want is to select a service, take the time to load all your data, then train everyone (including your staff and clients) on how to use it, only to have the company go belly up or not secure another round of funding.

Of course, the above list is not the ONLY things you should ask – however, the answers to these 7 questions should give you a good feel for how seriously the company takes your privacy and the duty of confidentiality you have to your clients.

Andrea Cannavina


♫ Love was out to get me
That’s the way it seemed.
Disappointment haunted all my dreams…♫

Music and lyrics by Neil Diamond and recorded by The Monkees.



I have a confession to make. While I love technology, I am not quite sure the feelings are mutual. You see, technology has come to disappoint me so many times that I am questioning its intentions. In fact it causes me concern when thinking of the rise of artificial intelligence. You see, if technology at its current level of development can be so confounding, what lies in store when technology reaches some level of self-awareness?  It could be that we would move from our present epoch of relatively benign technology and cross over to the world of self-aware machines, we move into the state of “Artificial Malevolence”.

Now I am aware that I am not the first to think of these things. In fact, being named Dave, the words of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey haunt me.  Hal was supposed to be ‘foolproof and incapable of error.’ However, when asked to take action that would save Dave’s life, he states, devoid of emotion: “I’m sorry Dave – I can’t do that…

In fact,Wikipedia states that:

“Siri”, Apple’s natural language voice control system for the iPhone 4S, features a reference to the film: it responds “I’m sorry I can’t do that” when asked to “open the pod bay doors”

Well what happens when you ask your favourite technology to open a file and (since it mostly hasn’t – yet – reached the point of communicating by voice), simply displays text stating: “file not found” or words to that effect.  ARGH!!  Renting of garments, gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair!

What is a mere mortal to do?  Well my standard remedy when dealing with malevolent technology is to have a data backup.  In fact, not just one, but rather..three.

If you put all your eggs in one electronic basket there is a consequential rule that you should watch that basket very, very carefully. Accordingly, making copies of your electronic data and ensuring that this data is stored in at least two locations, one on a hardened hard drive (such as the ioSafe line of hard drives that are designed to withstand fire, flood, temperatures, immersion etc. for extended periods of time) and the second being a cloud storage system is not only prudent but well advised.  In fact I am now advising that you have a third backup. The third is a cloud-based backup that is not connected 24/7 to your network.

Many firms that the writer has spoken to have been hit with various variants of ransomware malware. These malevolent applications encrypt everything they can find on your network and demands a ransom to be paid – otherwise they disappear taking the decryption algorithm with it…leaving your data …useless.

In once case, fortunately, the firm’s cloud backup – which only backed up on a schedule and was not continually connected to the network – was left untouched by the malware and they were able restore their data without paying the ransom. This is perhaps one of the best arguments for backing your data up into a secure cloud backup that can remain isolated from a malware attack such as the ransomware nasties.

It is important that you have a multiple layer redundant backup system. Don’t depend on a sole backup system…if that backup fails … you are left totally vulnerable. It is important to test your backup system and ensure that it is operating properly so that you can restore your data as needed. I have seen situations where the sole backup system seemed to be functioning fine until the time came when it was needed – and then the realization hit that the backup was corrupted and useless. In one such case what had been backed up to Dropbox was recovered … all other data was lost.

The benefit of having a local hardened hard drive backup is that you can restore your data quickly in the event of a loss. Cloud backups…while wonderful for preserving your data in a safe location…will take considerable time to restore onto your network since you are limited by your download speeds. However, if your system is hit with a system-wide problem, such as ransomwear malware, a flood, fire or other disaster or a failure of your primary backup, you will be thanking your lucky stars for having a complete cloud backup no matter how long it takes to do the restore.

Believe me, I have had to restore data from the cloud after a system-wide failure (did I mention that technology seems to hate me?). A fast Internet connection can never be fast enough when time is money. But ultimately, having a cloud backup made the difference between sheer inconvenience and absolute disaster.

After all when technology is out to get you, you don’t want disappointment to haunt all your dreams.




It’s information overload out there. And many lawyers are seeing readership of their blogs, articles and newsletters dropping off. So, this week’s tip is to consider changing things up by adding video. How can you make that decision? Give some thought to the following questions:

1. Do you know where the surfers are? Youtube has surpassed Google for searches. That’s right… Google! There is no higher mountain. Enough said.

2. Does your target market watch video? It’s not just celebrity and cat videos that are making the rounds. Business executives are watching video. In fact, research shows 59% of them will choose video over text, when both are available on the same topic.

3. Would your team be amenable to being part of a video series? Don’t know? Find out. Even the most introverted and shy lawyers can do well on screen… if there is a professional plan in place.

4. Is there room in the budget? The truth is that most law firms have some fluff in their marketing plan that can easily be cut out or modified without impact to the return on the program. Why not take a closer look at your plan to see what can be cut?

5. What does your market respond to? How you listen? Bolster their confidence? Answer their questions with ease? This type of human rapport translates well to video, when it’s strategic, client centred and focused on the firm’s central brand messaging.

So, the next time you sit down to a partners’ meeting and the question of ‘how can we get our marketing to perform better’ comes up, don’t let the energy in the room drop. Talk about how you’ve scrutinized the marketing plan (and hopefully received expert advice about that) and have some ideas for discussion.

For more on video marketing, see previous posts on SlawTips:
A Beginner’s Guide to Producing Law Firm Videos – Part 1

A Beginners Guide to Law Firm Video – Pt 2: Choosing Topics for Your Firm’s Videos

Also see Toronto Marketing Blog, for light banter about the value of video, along with some interesting statistics:
One minute of video is worth 1.8 million words – A “Video takes off” series

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto


You know how to plan effectively. Well, at least you have read dozens of articles on it, right? But you are alway too busy to do it. You promise yourself that as soon as things slow down, you will get right on that because its such a great idea. But either you never slow down or you go golfing instead. Either way, you end each working day in a panic, you go home exhausted with little to show for it, and whatever enthusiasm you have the next morning dissipates like political promises on E-day + 1.

The best solution is the office equivalent of radical, emergency surgery: lock the doors, put the answering machine on, turn off Outlook, and stay there until you have a Plan that will allow you to practice efficiently and effectively. Jim Calloway will outline the basics for you, if you forgotten them.

But if you cannot, will not, act so drastically, try a band-aid for today. When you think you have had it for the day, stop. Just stop. Three deep breaths. Rummage through your To Do list, the pile of files on your desk (or the floor), or even your frantically-splnning mental list. As you identify a file that MUST BE DONE, set it aside. When you have 3 files, stop. No second guessing or looking for another file that might be even more MUST BE DONE. Move every other file out of sight – not just on the corner of the desk because you will see them out of the corner of your eye and be distracted; completely out of sight (hopefully in a filing cabinet but that is for another day). Your work area is now clear except for 3 files. In no more than 10 seconds – a gut reaction – pile them with the one you fear the most on top and descending levels of fear from there.

Tomorrow, put on the answering machine and turn off email – no alerts, visual or audible. Close your door. Set an alert for 2 hours later. Work on that top file until it is under control (files are never done until they are billed and reported out – just aim for under control i.e., no more panic). If you get all 3 done before the 2 hours is up, spend the remaining time reading Jim’s article. At the end of the day, rinse and repeat – 3 more ugly files, etc. Within 10 working days, you will have everything under control and a working plan that will keep your practice that way thereafter.

Barney (Bjorn)  Christianson


A potential new client comes into your office and you can already tell you don’t like him. There’s something about the way he stands, the way he talks, his clothes, the scent of cologne wafting through the air. You can’t pin it down. but his very being puts you off. You’re not conceited – you figure he probably thinks exactly the same of you. At the same time, you know he has a big and interesting case, he can pay, and you want to win him over. What can you do?

Your first reaction may well be to differentiate yourself. “I’m not anything like this person”, you say – and you go about making sure you stay true to yourself. You offer something unique, after all, and this potential client will either like you for you, and if not, it was never meant to be.

But put the je ne sais quoi prejudices aside by mirroring the client’s manner of speech and body positioning. Take advantage of similarity bias – people tend to like those who are similar to them. As you sit down with the client you realize he speaks much louder and faster than you. You slightly quicken your pace of speech and raise your voice just enough – your energy level ramps up accordingly. He sits with his hands in front of him to make a church steeple, each fingertip on the one hand touching the other. You realize your hands are hidden under the table and bring them up on the table. Before you know it, the minutes have flown by and you’ve built rapport. You’re not best buddies but you are both comfortable and respect each other.

Mirroring what your client says is helpful too. If your client doesn’t agree with you, start by outlining the client’s position. This gives comfort to the client and reassures the client that you are listening. It also helps builds a shared foundation from which you can make your recommendations.

Mirroring does not require you to change your personality and become someone you are not. You do not need to act and speak exactly like your client – a little effort can go a long way. And refrain from mirroring an angry and yelling client – that will only escalate the matter. If you have a truly difficult client, one that bullies you or that causes you to consider going against your principles, think hard about whether the client is worth keeping.

Mirroring acknowledges that one person’s way of talking and acting in the world is just one way among many. It would be an unhappy circumstance if valuable relationships are never built because of something as shallow as the way one speaks or sits, but it can happen. Eliminate these barriers and use mirroring to help you build a bond with your client.

A client who likes you is more likely to retain you, accept your recommendations, and not sue you. So handle personality differences by mirroring to help eliminate whatever biases stand between you and your client.

– Ian Hu





When people ask “How are you doing?” I think most people answer on behalf of their inboxes. “Full”, some might say, or “Crazy” say most as they glance at the notice saying that there are 99,999 email messages in their inbox and then glance at the clock indicating the time remaining in their day. We’re in an age where time-saving technology is woven into our everyday communications and instantaneous email messages are replacing phone or face-to-face conversations. And it’s not going anywhere, whether you like it or not.

Before I become a mom 2 years ago, I worked lawyer hours (over 60 hours a week) answering my inbox from clients, other lawyers, suppliers, business development contacts and employees. Now, that I’m at the office for focused kid-less work time for 2 days per week, basically condensing my 60-hour week to about 18 hours, I needed to find ways to get back to people quickly and efficiently.

Here are my top 10 tips to tackle your inbox to make email work for you, instead of the other way around. It’s my Power Hour method:

  1. Turn off all notifications – yes, that “ding” or that little envelope that pops up. No notifications.
  2. Preview Pane. Set up a preview pane either on the bottom or sides of your screen so that you can see the message without needing to double click into it. It saves time in glancing through the context of an email or an attachment without having to fully open them.
  3. Unsubscribe to every newsletter, update, message notification, from non-humans. Get the robots out of there, and yes, that includes LinkedIn, Twitter, and newsletters. I politely tell people that I’m unsubscribing because my inbox is too full and that it’s not personal, I unsubscribe to everyone! Even if you’re just deleting it everytime, it wastes time just clicking delete and it’s important to stay focused on the emails from humans (only).
  4. Power Hour. Get our your phone and set a timer for 1 hour and attack that inbox. No disruptions or interruptions, it’s do not disturb email time. Take the full hour to go through your inbox. I follow the following 3 tips during this hour.
  5. 2 Minutes. Now that your inbox is cleared of all the automated messages, first go through your inbox in chronological order and if you can do, dump or delegate in 2 minutes, then do, dump and delegate them. Do (reply) to the ones that you can quickly respond to. Dump (delete) the ones that have been dealt with by other people or you’re just copied on for your information. Delegate (forward) the ones that other people should be dealing with on your behalf.
  6. Say No. Out of the ones that remain, there are probably a few that need some “no” answers and you’re leaving it there for later because you don’t want to say “no”. Maybe it’s that contact that’s following up from a cancelled lunch, a supplier wanting to talk to you about a quote for new services, or candidates asking for a job. If your answer will be the same tomorrow, and deep down you already know what the answer is, just reply now and get it out of your inbox. It saves time staring that message down and clogging up your inbox.
  7. Focus. What’s left of your inbox is your personal to-do list for the day or for the week, depending how much you have delegated and how many emails you get. Focus on only 1 email at a time (usually I start with the ones that require the least amount of time to reply to or the most urgent ones) and do not move onto the next email until you have completely replied to 1 email. Do not peek at new messages coming in and do no do any of the dumping or delegating until you have dealt with that 1 email that you have selected.
  8. Do again. Select the next easiest or more urgent email and focus on that one email only until it is completed.
  9. Power Hour. After completing a few projects, set up another power hour to get through any new messages since the last power hour in the same way.
  10. Out of Office. Use your out-of-office reply to manage expectations to those people who are emailing you. If you’re going to be in appointments for most of the morning or the day, then let people know so they don’t keep sending you reminder messages about the email they sent. I also use it just to say that my inbox is stuffed and that I’ll get back to them probably the next day or 2 and not to forward the message to anyone else if that timeline is okay. You don’t want to duplicate the work around the office and have your paralegal come back to you about whether you’ve already answered.

There are also some new tips and applications in Outlook that help with sorting out email and saving time, like saving templated emails that you use all the time (like with new client inquiries). We’re trying new things all the time to tackle this beast of a box.

-Elizabeth Mah, Vancouver (



What does it mean to be a leader?

And what does true leadership in a law firm context really entail?

Clearly, there is no “one size fits all” answer to these questions. Every leader’s approach and plan will necessarily vary, depending on circumstances, temperament, objectives, opportunities – and practicalities.

But behind any effective plan lies a vision of where you want to get, a framework for getting there, and a well-thought-out gameplan for implementing whatever changes that vision may drive.

I will mark the 30th anniversary of my call to the Ontario Bar in April. I will be 57 years of age in September.

At this juncture in my career, I think about developing my own professional leadership – in a small firm context – quite a bit. And I am starting to think quite differently about what that leadership role means, both to me and to the very good people I am fortunate to work with.

And frankly, one of the most difficult challenges, and perhaps the most rewarding when met with success, is simply getting out of the way, so that those talented people you work with can actually do their own jobs completely and build their own track records of personal growth and professional success.

We have talked about delegation a number of previous times here at SlawTips.

I’d like to add this simple thought to the mix: Effective delegation is one of the highest expressions of true leadership. And the corollary also holds: Any leader who fails to effectively delegate is probably no leader at all.

By delegate, I don’t mean feeding tiny scraps of grunt work down the chain to eager underlings.

I mean incrementally delegating the whole enchilada.

Delegating entire files. Key court attendances and transactions. Entire  projects and departments. And delegating real responsibility for maintaining and building key relationships.

Keeping a finger in, where and when it needs to be, of course, but primarily focusing on the “executive” tasks that maximize what you, personally, can now bring to the table.

The more able you are to do that, the more able you will be to implement the balance of your vision.

And it does start with a vision.

Are you thinking of yours?

(We might as well begin there)


I will continue with these thoughts in my subsequent posts. Given the  addition of so many talented, new contributors to the Practice Tips bench, you will be seeing a little less of me here, moving forward.

I will be staying with SlawTips, of course, with my own turn to post coming every two months or so. And I am apparently now an editor here, with respect to our new contributors’ posts.

The good news is you will be reading some really interesting Tips articles from some exceptional, new voices.

And you may be seeing a bit more of me now at my own flagship, Wise Law Blog. That’s not such a bad trade-off, as it turns out, and I’m quite looking forward to it.

So see you again at SlawTips in May.

And Happy Easter to all who are celebrating.

Garry J. Wise, Toronto