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All Our Practice Tips

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.

 

Research shows that lawyers are at a higher risk of depression, anxiety and substance abuse than average. And according to Ontario lawyer-turned-social worker Doron Gold, “If there’s stigma in society generally, the stigma is tenfold in the legal profession.”

Today’s practice tip is a reminder that every province and territory has a lawyer assistance program that exists to help members of the legal profession and those that care about them. Services and programs vary, but most have confidential helplines, counselling, peer support programs, and many more offerings to benefit lawyers, judges, law students, their immediate families and colleagues.

The Judges Counselling Program is another Canadian organization that provides support to judges, justices of the peace, masters, prothonotaries, and their spouses and eligible children.

 

Technology has made life better in oh so many ways. Today, we can even make new connections with colleagues and clients, without leaving the comfort of our home or office.

But there’s been a price to pay.

We’ve become less inclined to get out there, in person. The truth is, it’s just so much easier not to. No traffic. No subway closures or delays. For lawyers, that translates into joining webinars instead of attending live conferences and other educational programs.

That’s a shame because there are so many good reasons to make the effort to show up in person. Here are just three!

  1. Your phone can’t replace the energy of a room. While, you may hear the same content, somehow you won’t have the same experience. Live is better. Every time. A live program will make a bigger impact and stay with you longer.   
  2. You never know who you will meet. Sometimes the most ordinary event can result in the most important of connections. You won’t know, if you don’t put yourself out there.
  3. Solutions to the issues you’re struggling with don’t happen in isolation. When you meet up with a group of peers, discussions about shared challenges and opportunities tend to happen organically.

So, the next time you receive an invitation or a newsletter or someone asks if you’d like to join them at a professional event, make the effort!  Better yet, be the someone asking others to join you.

For more reading related to networking for lawyers, see these past articles on SlawTips and Slaw:

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

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

As an enlightened country with an enlightened legal system practised by (hopefully) enlightened legal professionals, we are accustomed to certain neutralities that make no preference for religious beliefs. One such neutrality is the legal equivalence between swearing and affirming an affidavit. Accordingly, the form affidavits provided by courts in every Canadian common law jurisdiction contain a jurat with the words “Sworn (or Affirmed) before me at . . .”, with the options of “swearing” or “affirming” both accounted for in the template language.

However, while an affiant may be free to choose between swearing and affirming, it may be good practice to ensure the jurat specifies which option was used. Leaving the form language unchanged (that is, containing both “sworn” and “affirmed”) may be frowned upon (or worse… technically improper).

This issue arose in British Columbia v. Adamson, where Chief Justice Hinkson of the BCSC suggested that affidavits containing the language “sworn (or affirmed)” within the jurat (that is, without specifying which was used) were “improper” and would have been rejected were they not being adduced in the context of an interim application (see para. 19). The Chief Justice may have been disappointed that counsel had apparently neglected to review the “Guide to Preparing Your Affidavit,” provided by the BCSC on its website, which stresses that a jurat should make clear whether it was sworn or affirmed: “You do one or the other, not both. Cross out or delete the one that does not apply to you.”

Some (though not all) Canadian jurisdictions and institutions provide express guidance that a jurat should specify whether the affidavit had been either sworn or affirmed. Saskatchewan’s Guidelines for the Use of Commissioners for Oaths, for example, states that a proper jurat should identify whether the affidavit was sworn or affirmed, and only contain one or the other (at p. 7). The Northwest Territories’ Information and Instructions for Commissioners for Oaths and New Brunswick’s Commissioner of Oaths Handbook give similar instructions.

While it is perhaps a questionable invasion of privacy to force affiants to specify whether their evidence was sworn or affirmed, consider removing any form language in an affidavit that refers to both “sworn/affirmed” options before it is signed. If it is known in advance whether the affiant will swear or affirm, consider whether the corresponding language should be used in the jurat. If the affiant’s preferences are unknown at the time the affidavit is drafted, consider crossing out the inapplicable language once the affiant makes their election and then initial the alteration.

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