Small ideas on legal practice, research and technology

Phone a Friend

In the age of email, tweets, texting, IM and messages through facebook, the telephone has new power.  If you need to gather a specific item to help with a research problem, try picking up a telephone and making a call.

The phone a friend lifeline works really well getting early versions of cases (call the lawyers on the winning side), getting information from a government source (most governments have online telephone directories that list people with their  titles and direct phone lines), or answering tricky procedural questions (parliamentary counsel offices, court clerks, university professors).

This weeks tip – try for …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Get Instant and Fairly Accurate Translations With Google Translate

Google Translate is a free translation service that provides instant translations between 57 different languages. It can translate words, sentences, web pages and even whole documents (in a PDF, TXT, DOC, PPT, XLS or RTF format) between any combination of the 57 supported languages (See a list here).

Like most Google tools, it is extremely easy to use. Google Translate generates the translation by looking at the patterns in hundreds of millions of previously translated documents. Do you get perfect and sworn to be accurate translations you that you can take to court? No – but they are …

Posted in: Technology

Monitoring a Case Law Subject With CanLII

Sometimes it is important to know about every single new Canadian case on a particular topic.  Often it is best if you know about these cases as soon as possible.  This research tip offers an “as soon as possible” option with some creative use of CanLII.

  1. determine your search strategy (narrow it as musch as possible)
  2. run your search using CanLII’s – limiting to caselaw from the court levels and jurisdictions you need to watch
  3. sort your results by decision date
  4. copy and paste the resulting URL into your electronic calendar, and set a schedule to re-run your search
  5. keep
Posted in: Research & Writing

Find the Best Free Online Clipart on the Microsoft Office Images Page

Adding some clipart, animations or photos is one of the best ways to make a presentation, newsletter or website look more professional. There are thousands of sites on the Internet that offer free and pay clip art.  While there is good content on some of these sites, many force you to deal with large amounts of advertising and many pop-ups.  Don’t bother with them.

The best source of free online clip art photos, animations and sounds, bar none, is the .  It has thousands of free images and media files, which you can very easily search by keywords and categories. …

Posted in: Technology

Guard Your Stars – There Be Pirates About!

People don't leave a job - they leave a bad captain, partner, supervisor, an unhappy work situation or a bad co-worker. They also may not feel valued by the firm and accordingly, they start looking for another ship on which to sail. The cost of a turnover alone is estimated at about 1.5 times annual salary for non-lawyers and 2 times annual salary, or more, for attorneys. Factor in the additional lost revenue from a star leaving your firm and you can see that time invested in promoting or rewarding a positive, satisfied and productive crew is time well spent!
Posted in: Practice

Read That URL

Things move about on the web.  Sometimes when you search you will get the dreaded message

ERROR: The requested URL could not be retrieved

Today’s research tip – read that URL!  Google, Bing, and other search engines provide the URL  for the search result that is coming up.  If a domain has changed or a site has been revamped, often you can find “missing” information by reading and translating the URL.  For instance, an error message when you click on this link

can be found at

In this case, the path to finding out …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Banish You Biggest Daily Interruption: The New Email Pop-Up

Most people get a beep and a new message pop-up box every single time a new e-mail message arrives in their inbox.

Stop the insanity!

You know its true: This is the biggest source of interruptions in your day. That beep goes off, the pop-up appears on your screen, your train of thought gets derailed and, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, you stop whatever you are doing to bounce into your inbox and read the newly arrived message.

With all due respect, the vast majority (if not all) of the messages that most of us receive are rarely so important …

Posted in: Technology