I’m sending my daughter off to kindergarten this fall. And though I don’t get to go with her, fall always feels like a time for learning, for expanding horizons. Even for grown-ups.
Although you won’t be buying new shoes and a pencil case, this issue of Precedent is meant to get you thinking big about the state of law, and how we can make it better. So, we rounded up some top legal leaders to contemplate what lies ahead. I had the privilege of sitting in on the roundtable moderated by our news editor, Daniel Fish. We wanted to bring together a diverse group of leaders from local, national and international firms. Two in-house counsel lawyers also joined to really get a lively discussion started.
I learned a lot during that discussion: successful lawyers get up very early, no one actually eats breakfast at “breakfast meetings,” Twitter bewilders top lawyers, nobody likes OCIs and I want to be best friends with BMO’s deputy general counsel.
But what really stood out for me is the difficult position in which firms find themselves today. On one hand, law — especially at big firms — is conservative by its very nature. As lawyers, it’s usually our job to advise clients to proceed with caution, to protect themselves from liability and to initial every page. That extra care can win clients. On the other hand, firms are being pushed to innovate at every turn.
For starters, clients are asking firms to rethink the billable hour. With that comes a need to adopt new technology and to take a good, hard look at the current partnership structure. Meanwhile, firms are also being asked to track diversity numbers and report them to the client (BMO was the first financial institution in Canada to ask firms for diversity statistics). While everyone wants to see a more diverse face of law, the actual act of counting employees by skin colour or sexual orientation — which by its very nature can feel discriminatory — can also create tension and discomfort at a traditional law firm. There’s tension, now, at every turn.
So here’s what I think: law is all about tension. Indeed, the tension in law drives much of the content in Precedent. In this issue you’ll read about Jessyca Greenwood who balances the time-consuming demands of her clients with the need to make a living, and Greg Harris who finds a way to juggle work and the extraordinary goal of scaling the highest mountain on every continent. No matter what kind of law you do or where you work, it’s the tension that keeps things interesting. So make yourself a great cup of coffee and settle into our fall issue.
Publisher & Editor
Post Script: Look up!
As part of our roundtable discussion, Les Viner, managing partner at Torys LLP, shared one of the key strategies of his firm. At Torys, lawyers are encouraged to identify trends in the world and connect them to their own practice areas. Here’s what’s on his radar:
- The commercialization of the far north
- Canada’s aging population
- The impact of technology on financial transactions
- The growing importance of power, water and food as the global population swells
So, even when you’ve got your head down on one particular file, don’t forget how law must respond to the world around us. Take the time to see the big picture, and you’ll also see the future.