Small ideas on legal practice, research and technology

SlawTips Is Moving to

After nearly 11 years, dozens of Tipsters, and more than 1200 tips, we’ve made the decision to transition SlawTips from its own site to being part of our content over at Slaw. Moving forward, you’ll now find new tips occasionally via our “Tips Tuesday” category.

A huge thanks to all the Tipsters who have generously contributed their pearls of wisdom since 2011. Like the main Slaw site, SlawTips would not be possible without the many authors who share their time and writing talent with the legal community here in Canada and abroad.

The SlawTips motto has always …

Posted in: Practice

Use Twitter to Track the Passage of a Bill Through the House of Commons

While LEGISinfo is an excellent tool for tracking federal legislation, it does not get updated the moment that there is a change to a bill. But sometimes you need to have the information on the status of a bill as fast as is humanly possible.

The House of Commons In the Chamber (@HoCChamber) Twitter account provides “regular updates about proceedings of the House of Commons Chamber.” (The French equivalent can be found at The account is updated as events happen which makes it a very useful tool for tracking a bill listed on that day’s agenda.

The Senate …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Confusing Pairs

We haven’t done these for a while, so here goes.


Over time, these have been used interchangeably to some extent, but they are now best kept separate – and more or less as follows.

Classic refers to something of recognised quality and enduring value: Mozart’s four greatest operas are classics of the repertoire.

It can also mean something like ‘typical’ or ‘characteristic’: The politician’s answer was a classic example of evasion and obfuscation.

Classical is generally used in relation to ancient Greece and Rome: Classical mythology is filled with tales of rape, incest and murder.

Or to music …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Law Prof Fail

A law professor and political candidate tweeted this:

Last night we gathered with a group of Liberal supporters who, like I, care about combatting climate change …

And here I was thinking that only Lorelei Lee, the uneducated but aspirational showgirl in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925), referred to a girl like I.

No naming and shaming of the law prof in question (although you can identify her using the quotation from her tweet as a search phrase).

Neil Guthrie (@guthrieneil)…

Posted in: Research & Writing


This is becoming more common in regulatory law in Canada, but it’s unnecessary.

It’s fairly old – OED gives citations going back to the mid nineteenth century. The word is listed there as an Americanism.

The Law Society of Ontario has begun to use it: ‘Licensure is the official recognition by the Law Society that a candidate has met all the qualifications specified by the Law Society and is, therefore, approved to practice as a lawyer in Ontario.’

The more usual licensing (which the LSO also uses) would do perfectly well. (And I’d prefer to see practise for the verb, …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Finding Standards

Standards, which “establish accepted practices, technical requirements, and terminologies”, are often referenced by acts and regulations; in order to be able to properly interpret a piece of legislation you may need to see the standard it is referring to.

Frequently the fastest and most efficient solution (if not the cheapest) is to buy the standard, either in print or electronic format. However, if you’re buying a digital version it is important to be aware of how the standard is licenced, e.g. in some cases the person who bought the standard is the only person who can use it. …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Confusing Pairs, Two With a French Twist

We have borrowed a lot from French and also given a lot to it. Sometimes, however, we each get things a bit wrong (see Guthrie’s Guide for more on this).

By way of further example: moral/morale and rational/rationale.


Morale entered the English language at the time of the First World War, when it was first used to describe the collective state of mind of the troops.

It seemed like a borrowing from French, and the final –e signalled a Gallic pronunciation with the emphasis on the second syllable.

This posed a problem …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Just Supposing …

In a recent e-mail, someone wrote What am I suppose to do?

That should be supposed, obviously – but was it a typo or a more serious error?

It could just be a typo, or else one of those spellings based on oral information only.

In colloquial speech, the final –d can sometimes drop off. (Dad said you’re not s’pose to do that!)

It clearly needs the past-tense ending, though. One is assumed, presumed, supposed or thought to do or have done something.

Similar is used, as in We used to rent videos

Posted in: Research & Writing

Miscellaneous Misuses, Part 2

An assortment of things to avoid.

At its most basic

Something can’t be more or less basic; once you’re at the base, that’s far as you can go.

Chomping at the bit

Purists often say that really should be champing (and they’re not wrong). But champ and chomp mean the same thing: to chew vigorously, to munch, to bite at something hard like a horse’s bit.

Chomp is the US variant, champ the English (in the UK chomp is regarded as ‘dialectical’, which is code for non-standard or déclassé) – so take your pick.

Avoid the phrase …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Software Tools for Editing

Blacklining (or sometimes redlining)

In the olden days, a pair of articled clerks would sit together with two versions of a document. One would read aloud the new version and the other would mark the changes on the old, striking through deletions and writing in additions then underlining them. A red pen was typically used, hence redlining. With the advent of the monochrome photocopier, this became blacklining.

How quaint! But not so far into the mists of antiquity. We now have software that does all this with a few keystrokes, and very effective it is too. It also …

Posted in: Research & Writing