Small ideas on legal practice, research and technology

A Possessive Puzzle

Is it Amber and Veronica’s children or Amber’s and Veronica’s children?

It could be either, depending on what is meant.

The first refers to the children Amber and Veronica parent together; the second to two sets of children, separately parented.

So, you would say Amber and Veronica’s children are in regular contact with their biological father but Amber’s and Veronica’s children went on the school outing, travelling in separate cars.

Things are different when you combine a noun and pronoun in the same sentence, however.

This is correct: Angela’s and my view is that …

Thanks to Ross Guberman …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Use Polls During Student Training

It’s May, which means (if you happen to be a law firm librarian) it is summer student training time.

COVID-19 has meant that a significant amount of training is now offered online rather than in person. Online training has its own set of challenges, one of which includes keeping the participants involved.

One way of increasing involvement is by using polls in your training, either to establish what attendees already know or use (e.g. “what’s your favourite online resource?”) or to test them on what they have just been taught. Your options will (obviously) depend on what resource you are …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Re: Re

Someone recently made this comment on LinkedIn: I’m so excited re: the below. (The colon may or may not have been there.)

Why not I’m so excited about this instead of the commenter’s mish-mash of somewhat immature enthusiasm and the lawyer jargon of re and the below?

If you think carefully when you write, something simple like it or this sounds much more natural than the above, the below, the latter, the former – which all sound stiff and pompous.

Dr Johnson counselled against these constructions, saying ‘As long as you have the use of your tongue …

Posted in: Research & Writing


This is now a thing, as they say.

I’m not entirely sure what it all involves, but then I’m not that keen on the non-electronic version of sports.

My interest in esports is orthographical, naturally. Why no hyphen (e-sports)?

The hyphen is routinely dropping out of e-mail (which I can live with), and to some extent e-commerce, but probably not e-filing or e-discovery.

Inconsistency on this point suggests that the decision whether to hyphenate is driven by look and sound: ecommerce may suggest a pronunciation starting in the same way as ecology, with the emphasis on …

Posted in: Research & Writing

‘Why Can’t We Just Use “Sponsee”?’

This question came up in a recent discussion forum for professional development people at law firms.

The subject was terminology to describe law students and recently minted lawyers in need of guidance from more senior members of the profession.

The reason we can’t use sponsee is that it is an ugly neologism (as bad as attendee, evaluatee or secondee).

Other equally icky suggestions that came up:

  • fosterling
  • disciple
  • protégé, protégée
  • ward
  • aspirant

And, of course, the dreaded mentee – which must be rejected because there is no verb ment (a mentor is called that after Mentor, …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Use CanLII’s Subject Classification Terms to Narrow Your Search Results

CanLII recently announced the addition of AI generated subject classification to its Ontario and Saskatchewan case law which makes it much faster to see what area of the law a case falls into.

If you’re searching case law from either of these jurisdictions you can limit your search to specific subjects; for example, if I only wanted to see cases in Ontario dealing with contract law, I would click on the All subjects dropdown menu and then select Contracts.

Note that the All subjects dropdown menu only appears if you are looking at either Ontario or Saskatchewan case law …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Around and Around Again

I’ve commented on this before, but around is rapidly becoming an epidemic. And one that needs to be contained.

Of late, around has been taking the place of better and clearer words like on or about.

These have all been seen or heard in recent weeks:

  • conversations around X
  • discussions around Y
  • research around Z
  • a point around A
  • rules around B
  • allegations around C [of would be better here, rather than on or about]
  • charges around D [ditto]
  • issues around E
  • a piece around F
  • a profile around G
  • questions around H
  • legislation around I

Stop …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Agreeance: Is That a Thing?

I was on a call recently, and someone said ‘OK, now that we’re all in agreeance, …’

That made me wonder about the word, which I’ve seen and heard occasionally. So I checked out the Oxford English Dictionary (natch), and there it is.

It’s a synonym for agreement, in the sense of ‘concord of opinions’ (rather than ‘contract’), and its origin is Scottish, dating back at least to the early fifteenth century. Agreement is older, apparently by about a century, and means both the concord and the contract thing.

OED notes that agreeance may now be regarded as …

Posted in: Research & Writing


No, that isn’t a typo.

The spelling is deliberate, an attempt to decouple woman and women from that male-sounding second syllable. See this article, for example.

And indeed the Anglo-Saxon origins of the traditional spelling of the word are pretty sexist: woman (originally wifmane) is a combination of wife and man, as though heterosexual marriage were defining.

Womxn isn’t the first attempt to neutralise those gendered overtones. In the 1970s, some feminists started to refer to themselves as womyn or wimmin (the latter is also an old, regional English spelling of women).

More recently, we have …

Posted in: Research & Writing

Read the Contract

As law librarians we should all know the value of reading a contract before we sign it. And yet…

For librarians, some specific clauses in contracts to take note of are:

  • Renewal of the contract – does the contract renew automatically? If yes, what will the new terms be and how much notice needs to be given to prevent that from happening?
  • Material change – what happens if the number of lawyers at your firm increases or decreases? The vendor may have the right to increase the amount you are paying if the number of lawyers increases, but the contract
Posted in: Research & Writing