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All Our Practice Tips

Administrator’s note: thanks to Toronto legal communication expert and litigation consultant Caroline Mandell for this guest tip!

Here are five tips for virtual oral argument, now that I’ve watched some Zoom appeals:

  1. Stand, don’t sit. The neuroscience shows we literally think better on our feet, and it’s the way you’re accustomed to arguing. Invest in a desktop lectern to make it feel more authentic.
  2. File an oral argument compendium to direct the court to key documents rather than sharing your screen. It’s easier for judges to follow along and mark up their own copies. (Bonus: the compendium forces you to prep well in advance of the hearing.)
  3. Enlist someone whose only job is to watch the judges’ faces and signal you when it looks like someone wants to ask a question. No legal training required—put a family member to work.
  4. If you need a break, ask for it. If the court offers to take a break, agree to it. Even a 5-minute pause between your argument and your co-counsel or opposing counsel’s argument will be cognitively refreshing for everyone.
  5. SLOW DOWN. Zoom deprives you of many of the non-verbal cues that normally tell you to put the brakes on. Pause when you’re directing the court to a document or moving onto a new point. Ask if they’re ready to proceed.

Now as always, the secret to good advocacy is empathy. Put yourself in the court’s position and ask yourself what you’d find most helpful. Then do that. Good luck!


Hat tip to the Law Society of Saskatchewan/Legal Sourcery – these tips were mentioned in a recent COVID-19 Legal News Roundup.


Assuming we want to look as confident and professional on someone else’s computer screen as we do in person, here are a few tips for hosting or attending online meetings.

1) Ensure confidentiality and security

Not all video conferencing software provides the same security, so consider whether your meetings will require true end-to-end encryption. To avoid uninvited guests logging into your meeting and listening-in or causing disruption, require a password for entry. It’s also a good idea to use a virtual waiting room where attendees will log in and wait until they are specifically granted access by the host.

2) Check your tech

Place your camera at approximately eye-level. When speaking, look at the camera, not the screen. Use headphones to avoid audible echoes. And be sure to test any new software or equipment before logging into any meetings with others.

3) Don’t assume others know how to use the software

 If you expect to be arranging online meetings with new contacts, it’s a good idea to prepare (or download, if one already exists) a brief step-by-step walkthrough for accessing the meeting, and provide those instructions to every attendee in advance. Ensure others have backup contact info for the host, should they be unable to access the meeting.

4) Dress (and set-dress) to impress

Maintain a look consistent with how you would appear in-person. Don’t forget proper leg-ware! Use a wall or tidy shelf as a backdrop—avoid windows as they can be distracting and can blow out your lighting, making you difficult to see.

5) Prepare to share

If you will be referring to documents during the meeting, prepare in advance what you will and will not be screen-sharing. Remember to close any non-relevant windows or programs you may have running in the background, as you probably don’t want others to see the online shopping or cat videos you were looking at earlier.

6) Mute, mute, and mute

For meetings with a large number of attendees, remind everyone at the start that they should mute their microphones if they’re not speaking (and unmute when they are).

7) Summarize and memorialize, and/or record with written consent

If meeting with a client, remember to memorialize the meeting immediately after it ends, and put any instructions received or advice given into writing. In some cases, it may be helpful to record the meeting. If you intend to do so, obtain the written consent of those attending, and confirm their consent at the start of recording.

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


It’s hard to believe that the COVID-19 lockdown began only three months ago. It feels like forever! And yet, many are predicting that we are just getting started. 

My tip?

Use this time for business planning. Don’t just dust off any old run-of-the-mill template, mind you. Take an honest and deeply introspective look at your future.

Whether your market has been irrevocably changed or you’re expecting things to pick up and return to normal (the new normal…), most lawyers have experienced some form of a shake up. As difficult as it may be to put a positive spin on a pandemic, this break could be treated as an opportunity to reimagine specific aspects of your practice.

Why go back to something that never really worked for you in the first place?

Instead, return to your original intentions. Why did you become a lawyer? Why did you choose this area of law? If you’re a business owner, why did you start your own firm? Which clients give you the most professional satisfaction? The best work / life balance? The highest profit margin?

Use this time to recommit to your objectives (or set new ones) and adjust your plans to support them. After all, when are you going to have a better chance to go for your goals?

Now is the time.

For related reading, see these past articles on Slaw:

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

Sandra Bekhor, Toronto


CanLII wants to know:

Have you ever imagined seeing a publication with *YOUR NAME* on *YOUR AREA OF EXPERTISE* on the cover?

If so, they’d like to know all about it – and could help make that dream a reality.

CanLII recently launched a house publishing program that “aims to create content that strategically meets the needs of the researchers who use CanLII.”

Specifically, CanLII seeks (1) legal texts on core areas of law, (2) shorter pieces that answer particular questions, and (3) practice manuals for particular areas of law.

If your idea falls outside those three types, the CanLII Authors program is another great way to publish your work.

Head to the CanLII blog for all the details, then start brainstorming that book proposal!


Erin Cowling’s wonderful interview series, Women Leading in Law, is back up and running after a bit of a break.

In response to the difficult times we’re in, Cowling notes, “I don’t know about you but I need some good news right about now. And I believe there’s nothing better than reading positive stories about women kicking butt in law“.

In her series (at 45 interviews and counting!), Cowling asks women lawyers working in a wide variety of roles and practice areas a standard set of six questions:

  • Tell me a little about your practice or business.
  • Why did you go to law school?
  • How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
  • What is your most significant achievement?  What are you proud of?
  • What are some key challenges, and more importantly, opportunities for women in law?
  • What advice would you give a woman starting her legal career?

The responses are fascinating and unexpected and contain excellent advice. Spending some time reading them is almost guaranteed to inspire you!


Our personal and professional lives have been dramatically impacted by COVID-19. We’re all trying our best to stay informed, remain physically and mentally healthy, and to live and work in this brave new world. I am not alone in suggesting that staying informed about this pandemic and experiencing this constant barrage of information about COVID-19 through the media, social media, and web has become mentally and physically exhausting. How do you stay informed, prevent information overload, and remain mentally well all at the same time? 

As a law librarian, one of my skill sets is navigating, curating, aggregating, and communicating sources of information and content. In my workplace, the Law Society of Saskatchewan, we are doing our best to guide you towards reliable sources of information about COVID-19 and its impact on your physical and mental health, the practice of law, and the judicial system. 

In this vein, we offer some suggestions that may help you to stay informed: 

1. Fight Fake News:

Misinformation and unsubstantiated stories about COVID-19 are rife. Don’t forget to critically evaluate and assess the content you view. In this infographic, the International Federation of Library Associations suggests you evaluate the source, check the author, consider the supporting sources, and more.

2. Follow These Information Sources to Learn More:

We encourage you to follow these excellent resources for frequent posts and accurate information regarding COVID-19 and the practice of law: 

This document provides practical guidance regarding the virus’s impact on Canadian employment law, commercial law, corporate law, and litigation practices.  This material is only available to those with access to LexisNexis Quicklaw.      

Canadian Lawyer provides a daily post aggregating updates from Canadian courts and law firms.   

Lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault are monitoring and reporting on all emergency measures being taken by Canada’s Federal and Provincial governments during the pandemic. 

WestlawNext is collecting and curating all case law, decisions, and legislation related to COVID-19.  Scroll to the bottom of the Westlaw Next homepage and select the “COVID-19 Legal Materials” link. 

The CBA resource hub provides legal and justice system updates, a great collection of mental health resources, and a variety of professional development resources you may want to take advantage of during the pandemic.   

One of the leading news sources for news about the legal and justice systems during COVID-19, follow The Lawyer’s Daily for multiple posts per day about the coronavirus.  

How is the pandemic driving innovation in the legal sector and the justice system?  Follow Jordan Furlong’s Law21 blog to learn more!

3. Take a Break!

Finally, don’t be afraid to take an “information break” from the news media, social media, or any other sources of information about coronavirus.  This is an overwhelming situation and we are experiencing a global pandemic, after all.   

A version of this tip by Alan Kilpatrick first appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog.


Three standout posts on surviving and thriving during this abrupt change to working life:

Staying sane while shifting to remote work

Halifax lawyer Jennifer Taylor shares crowdsourced gems of wisdom on “how to be a lawyer, and a feminist, working from home in the age of COVID-19” (CBA National)

What Lessons Lawyers Can Learn From Week One of Working From Home

US lawyer coach Lauren Krasnow outlines 13 best practices for “how to remain effective, realistic, responsive and human.” (

New work from home reality an opportunity for law firms

Toronto PR & communications pro Andrea Lekushoff posits that the coronavirus pandemic could be an “opportunity to begin moving away from the always-on, always-here law-firm culture, to step boldly into a new, flexible way of working.” (The Lawyer’s Daily)


Clio has just announced a $1 million COVID-19 legal relief initiative in order “to help create business continuity and peace of mind for you, your law firm or your legal organization. Open to the entire legal industry, funding can be used towards financial assistance for legal technology, getting educational support from industry leaders, and onboarding support as you move to the cloud.”

Learn more and apply for help at


A very quick tip today: Bob Ambrogi has assembled a webpage that lists “products and services offered by companies for free to support the work of legal professionals during the coronavirus crisis.”

LawSites: Coronavirus Resources

If you have something to add to the list, email Bob ( or tweet him (@bobambrogi).

Hat tip to Jordan Furlong for the heads-up.


Like fashion, communication methods evolve, change, and sometimes come back again. During the twentieth century, telephones became ubiquitous, largely replacing the need for written telegrams and letters. Today, that trend has reversed, with text messages and e-mail the dominant and preferred method of communication in many contexts, especially with younger generations.

But effective telephone communication is a skill that can atrophy as we use it less in our daily lives. As such, here are six things to consider before picking up that antiquated telephone contraption.

1. Prepare
Preparing for a call ensures that key points and issues will be discussed and will keep the conversation on track. Preparing might mean thinking about the call for a couple minutes, jotting down an outline, or thinking of specific language for sensitive topics.

2. Protect
Before taking a confidential call on your cell phone, find a private place to have the conversation or, if possible, wait until returning to the office.

3. Listen
Active listening cues, such as vocal acknowledgements or positive affirmations of understanding, can help keep conversations positive and effective.

4. Control
Excessive volume (see: yelling) is always a potential problem when contentious matters are at issue. If the other side lets their passions inform their volume, it’s okay to calmly inform them that they are yelling and ask them to stop (especially if it’s not a client).

5. Articulate
If your call is sent to voicemail, it’s a good idea to hang-up, compose the message you want to leave, and then call back. Clearly state the reason for the call, whether you will call back, give and spell your name, and provide a number at which you can be reached (and then repeat it for good measure).

6. Memorialize
Always make a written record of a phone conversation with clients or opposing counsel, either in a personal memo or follow-up email. Habitually doing so can prevent serious headaches and malpractice claims down the road.

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