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

technology  research  practice

All Our Practice Tips

When drafting documents, the voluminous typeface options at our disposal may sometimes leave us overwhelmed and relying on the safety of default options, such as Calibri in the case of Microsoft’s Office Suite, or Arial for Google’s suite of cloud-based applications. But venturing beyond the confines of the defaults can not only help your documents appear less rote, but can also increase the effectiveness of the underlying text.

A 2013 experiment conducted by the New York Times found that the choice of typeface has a measurable impact on the persuasiveness of the underlying text. The experimented tested six fonts—including Helvetica, Georgia, Baskerville, and Comic Sans—and asked readers to rate the believability of a series of statements, each written in a different typeface. Unsurprisingly, the much-maligned Comic Sans was found to be the least persuasive. But it was the text written in Baskerville that was most persuasive to readers. A similar experiment conducted in 2016 also found Baskerville to be the most “trustworthy” typeface.

Of course, when drafting documents for a particular institution, your choice of typeface may be restricted. The Ontario Court of Appeal, for example, “encourages” the use of Arial or Times New Roman for all text in factums. The British Columbia Court of Appeal is even more stringent in its requirements, mandating the use of 12-point Arial for all submissions—a constraint sure to disappoint Matthew Butterick, author of Typography for Lawyers, who once declared “you cannot create good typography with Arial”.

For its part, the Supreme Court of Canada requires the use of Times New Roman or a “comparable font”. Judicial interpretation may be required to clarify whether the sans-serif Arial is “comparable” to the seriffed Times New Roman.

And if you’re still not convinced, try converting this Tip into Baskerville and reading it again.

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

 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone – a spouse, a colleague, an advisor – that shifted things for you? You somehow felt just a little less burdened or constrained after the fact? More hopeful even?

They asked the right questions.

They listened, actively, as you tried to sort something out, aloud.

They shared from their own experience.

They gave you something profound to mull over.

Well, folks, that’s essentially the value of business coaching.

Whether your struggles are focused on practice development, accountability from your team, leadership in your community, communication with clients or learning to delegate more, coaching conversations with a skilled consultant can help you to overcome your biggest obstacles to growth.

Those obstacles were there a month ago. Six months ago. Even a year ago. You can safely predict that they will continue to fester. But you don’t have to just sit back and wait. Begin the process of effecting change with a meaningful conversation today.


For more reading related to business coaching for lawyers, see these past articles on SlawTips:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

 

If you were paying attention to the last installment of the Canadian Law Blog Awards (aka Clawbies) this past December, you  probably noticed that podcasts are more popular than ever. The top prize even went to a podcast this year!

Today’s tip is to expand your professional development horizons past print and in-person, and check out a podcast.

A good place to start is with the outstanding productions that were mentioned in the 2018 Clawbies:

Other great podcasts (including more Clawbies winners) can be found in the lawblogs.ca Podcasts & Vlogs section.

For more recommendations, including a bunch from beyond Canada, check out Connie Crosby’s recent post: Legal Knowledge Professionals’ Podcast Roundup – Jan 18 2019

 

With travellers at Canadian airports and border crossings subject to increasing scrutiny,[1] it is important for lawyers and Quebec notaries to have an understanding of how the privacy interests of their clients may be impacted by legislation and policies developed to address public safety issues.  Legal counsel should also understand that their profession does not make them immune to policies and processes that could impact information otherwise subject to solicitor-client privilege.

Canadian lawyers and Quebec notaries travelling internationally with electronic devices face increasing uncertainty about how those electronic devices will be treated by border agents on apprehension by Canadian Border Security Agency (“CBSA”) officers on return to Canada, by border agents in the U.S., or by border agents in other international destinations.  Searching the electronic device (including smart phones, laptops, and USB sticks) of a legal professional may infringe solicitor-client privilege when that legal professional crosses borders.

A new advisory, Crossing the Border with Electronic Devices: What Canadian Legal Professionals Should Know, developed by the Policy Counterpart Group of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (the “Federation”) with the assistance of law society practice advice counsel, describes the risks of travelling with an electronic device when returning to Canada, going through pre-clearance with U.S. border officials on Canadian soil, and when travelling to the U.S. and beyond.  This advisory also identifies relevant professional responsibilities, and concludes with suggestions and advice for Canadian lawyers and Quebec notaries on minimizing those risks.

[1] Office of the Privacy Commissioner, “Your privacy at airports and borders,” (October  2018), online: https://www.priv.gc.ca/en/privacy-topics/public-safety-and-law-enforcement/your-privacy-at-airports-and-borders/

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

 

Thanks to technology, we have habits no previous generation has ever had. You probably wake up in the morning and pick up your cell phone first thing. You check your emails before you brush your teeth. You sit down at your desk in the office and check your emails before you check your to-do list. You hear a chime and look at your phone and check your emails in the middle of a contract you’ve been drafting for the last hour. You think there’s got to be a better way. And there is. Now, I don’t yearn for the way things once were – paper letters are, increasingly, welcome curiosities in this modern age. Work-by-email is a miserable form of existence. Emails create the impression of urgency but, often, without the importance. And there is a difference between what is urgent and important. Your to-do list can be decided intentionally, not dictated by companies whose well-being depends on your addicted habits to their devices. So give yourself licence to break free from the chains.

Wake up and refuse to check your emails. Calmly enter your day with your own thoughts. Come into work, sit down, and think about what you want to do first. And when the time comes – based on your choice, not as a response to a beeping stimuli, check your email. Consider scheduling a time to check emails – 10am? 2pm? 5pm? And then be done with it. The always-on technology does not mean you must always be on, a recipe for disaster. Take a break from the tech and take hold of the reins. For we are inspired from the great Jean-Jacques Rousseau: we confess our addiction to email, and we throw away the chains.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)

 

2019 is here and rather than lament about funds you already spent in 2018, now is the time to get back on track and set savings goals.  Statistics say the average millionaire saves at least 20 percent of what they earn.  Are you on track to create real wealth for yourself in 2019? If you are an incorporated professional pay close attention to this tip:  There are still ways to save for retirement using your corporation even with the recent tax changes.  Consider the benefits of creating your very own personal pension plan.

 WHAT IS AN INDIVIDUAL PENSION PLAN ?

An Individual Pension Plan (IPP) is a defined benefit pension plan. If you are a legal professional who owns a professional corporation, an IPP offers maximum tax relief and a maximum retirement pension.  The result is an owner of a legal corporation no longer has to rely on Registered Retirement Savings Plan’s (RRSPs) performance to provide for a long and happy retirement. That’s because IPPs also offer guaranteed lifetime income and any surplus in the plan belongs to you.

 WHY ARE IPPs SO POPULAR?

Incorporated legal professionals like the fact that the pension they will receive is known well in advance of their retirement date.  They also like that at age 50 the maximum contribution to an IPP is $7106 dollars higher than a traditional RRSP and is also creditor protected. They can also include past service to an IPP for years they did not contribute all the way back to 1991.  This can significantly increase what can be contributed to the plan along with increasing their tax deduction. IPPs can also be set up for the legal professionals spouse if the spouse is an income –earning employee of the corporation. Set up Fees are also tax deductible to the corporation.

WHAT IS THE TAX SAVING OPPORTUNITY?

 High Income Earners

Legal professional corporations who have income over $130000 will pay taxes over the 46 percent rate for each dollar they earn over that amount. If your income is over$220,000 you are now in the highest tax bracket of 52 percent. If you plan to maximize your RRSP contributions anyway this is an excellent vehicle to provide additional tax deductions and save for retirement while making the most of your tax bracket.

 Sale of a Business

Most law firms are sold to family members or partners. The proceeds from these types of asset sales are treated as taxable income. By setting up an IPP now using terminal funding, a deduction can be created against this income.

Early Retirement

Legislation requires funding projections to be based on a retirement at the age of 65.

However, anytime after attaining age 60, a member of an IPP can retire and supplement the benefits provided in the plan by adding unreduced early retirement benefits, cost of living increases and bridging benefits. These early retirement benefits can provide a significant additional tax deduction for the company.

Ideal Candidates

  • Legal professionals who own a professional corporation
  • Individuals age 40 or older
  • People who earn employment income reported on a T4 of at least $132,300 from the company sponsoring the Individual Pension Plan

Jackie Porter (@askjackieporter)

 

The last thing any busy lawyer wants to add to their already overflowing plate is business development.

Scratch that.

The last thing any busy lawyer wants is the pressure to come up with a ‘winning’ new idea for business development and then to work on implementing that idea on an urgent basis.

Here’s the problem. While you may be too busy to think about marketing today, you may not be headed for quite the same level of activity in the foreseeable future.

So, avoid setting yourself up to have to figure it all out while you’ve got your hands full with billable work. Build a system. A turnkey business development system that moves along at a steady pace, busy or not. That way, you’re always doing something to feed the pipeline.

Never too much. Never too little.

If you take the time to consider your business development system and build it strategically, you won’t need to come up with fresh, strategic ideas when your attention is, rightfully, placed elsewhere. You will already know what you (and others at your firm) are supposed to do, when and why.

And even better, when you finally do get some downtime, you won’t have to throw yourself into marketing just to get caught up. You will actually be able to enjoy your well-deserved break… guilt free!

For more reading on business development, see these past articles on Slaw:

Also, see the following related articles by Sandra Bekhor at Toronto Marketing Blog:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

In case you missed the big news, there’s a new addition to the Slaw family!

Slaw Jobs, a new Canadian legal job listings service, launched earlier this month with listings for positions across the country.  From lawyers to marketers to professors to content managers, there’s already a good variety of positions and employers on the site.

By using Slaw Jobs, you’ll be getting your listing in front of a large and targeted audience and at the same time, supporting the high quality, original legal commentary at Slaw.ca.

Learn a bit about the genesis of Slaw Jobs here, and the benefits of using our job portal here.

 

These days, a lot of lawyers are wondering how to make the most of LinkedIn. Some are wondering if they even can. So, for this week’s tip, we’re sharing news about a new group which may prove to be an easy entry point to greater participation on the site.

‘Keeping it Social: Practice Development for Lawyers TORONTO’, a collaboration between Bekhor Management and Toronto Lawyers Association is the antithesis to all social media groups! Of the various LinkedIn groups targeting Canadian lawyers, it is the only one that’s actually social.

The group will meet in-person to learn practice development tips and to network once every quarter. Each event will be focused on a different topic. The first 15 minutes will be dedicated to a formal presentation. The next 15 minutes will allow for participants to ask their questions or to practice the tips through exercises, templates or role-play. The second half hour will be dedicated to networking.

Given that this is a practice development group that offers live events, it is restricted to practising lawyers and articling students in the Toronto area. Lawyers in other cities can use this group as a model to set up similar groups in their area.

To learn more about Keeping it Social: Practice Development for Lawyers TORONTO:

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto

 

 

I would hazard a guess that one of the very first things you do when you sit down at the office is check emails. Of the 5, 10, 50, or 100 emails you are reviewing, are any of them urgent? I suspect you already know what absolutely must be done on any given day. And if something is absolutely urgent, there’s a good chance your client has called you about it already. My tip here is to set aside a time (or times) to check your emails – and that time doesn’t have to be first thing in the morning. I’ve written about decision fatigue before, the cognitive bias that you have a limited tank of decisions per day. You may want to make sure your most important decisions are made at the beginning of the day while your tank is full. A better strategy is to get to work on the most important task of the day, or, as they say, “eat the frog”.

Suppose in the middle of the day you are working on a big memo, deep in thought. You notice a slight change in the background – you have a new email! You click over and start reading it. You have to make several decisions: is the email urgent, it is important, where to file it, what to do with it, when to do it. That’s a lot of decisions for each and every email. Studies have found that after an interruption it takes about 20 minutes to return to the same state of concentration and focus you had before.

With emails constantly coming in and interrupting your work day (let alone when you are not working!), turn off your notifications and stop the interruptions. Then take control of your emails by only looking at them at set times.

Ian Hu (@IanHuLawpro)