On the Record: Why @BadLegalLLP is the one firm you should be following on Twitter

It turns out, being a lawyer is hilarious. At least that’s the only conclusion one can make after scrolling through the Twitter feed of Bad Legal LLP, a bogus law firm whose tweets lampoon the absurdities of lawyer life. The comedy ranges from the light-hearted (lawyers suck at technology) to the pitch-black (most legal careers are soul-sucking). And the anonymous talent behind the tweets is clearly Toronto-based: it pokes fun at Bay Street firms and lawyers that have appeared in this very magazine (see Rob “Centaur,” below). If only all lawfirm Twitter accounts were this interesting.

How Bad Legal’s followers stack up to “real” law firms

WeirFoulds LLP
695 followers

Aird & Berlis LLP   1,622 followers

Aird & Berlis LLP
1,622 followers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bereskin & Parr LLP
1,992 followers

Bad Legal LLP
3,276 followers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Torys LLP
4,014 followers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Pick of the Twitter

Seven of the best tweets from @BadLegalLLP:

On recruitment

Time to walk around the office and give false hope to articling students I have no intention of hiring back. #motivation

On diversity

Deeply disappointed that only 12/20 Toronto benchers are old white men #LSBencher

On education

Good luck to those writing the Ont. bar tomorrow. It’s a long, pointless test that prepares you well for your long, pointless careers

On work-life balance

Working at our office is exactly like #Suits except we spend 16 hours a day at our computer and nobody works out regularly

On articling students

I am renting out my articling students for use in HOV lanes during the Pan Am Games

On self-esteem

Dear law students, how you fare in the hiring process for summer associate positions is a direct indicator of your worth as a human being

On innovation

So sick of this myth that lawyers don’t understand tech. I can hyperlink with the best of them

Bonus tweet: Other times, the satire on @BadLegalLLP gives way to bad Photoshop, typified in this playful jab at Rob Centa, the managing partner of Paliare Roland LLP.

Rob Centaur
 

 

 

 

 


Winter-2015-cover-smallThis story is from our Winter 2015 issue.

Good News From Bay Street: The end of up-or-out?

In 2008, after working at Torys LLP for seven years, Tom Yeo made partner. At first, nothing changed. “It’s funny, I walked in the next day and got to work on the same files with the same people,” he recalls. “Nothing magical had happened overnight.”

But, over time, things did change — and not for the better. At large Bay Street firms, partners and associates are different in one way: partners must bring in new business. And this slowly became Yeo’s least favourite part of the job.

The pressure to land clients, and the spectre of failing to do so, became constant preoccupations. Sometimes, when at home hanging out with his wife and two young sons, he’d feel guilty that he wasn’t out scrounging up business. “I’d be thinking, Should I be out at a dinner or something?” he recalls. By 2012, Yeo had reached his limit. “I just wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be.”

He asked to meet with Les Viner, the long-time managing partner at Torys, and told him just that. Viner proposed a solution: Yeo could step down as a partner — thus freeing him from his business-development responsibilities — but stay on as a counsel in the corporate group he loved. He quickly accepted. “I’m much happier,” says Yeo, now 43. “I’m delighted with how things worked out.”

Tom Yeo

“I just wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be.”
Tom Yeo
Counsel at Torys LLP

Had that meeting occurred a few years earlier, the firm might have encouraged Yeo to look for another job. Such a request would have been in line with the so-called “up-or-out” model, an unwritten code that has governed Big Law for much of the past century. It basically consists of one rule: if a senior lawyer (someone with about eight years of experience) is unable to meet the demands of partnership, he or she must leave the firm. But around the time of Yeo’s meeting, Torys had started to break from that tradition.

And Torys is not alone. It’s not yet widespread, but in recent years some of the largest firms on Bay Street are ditching the “up-or-out” model. Another high-profile example is McCarthy Tétrault LLP. Rather than forcing out every lawyer not cut out for partnership, these firms now allow certain top-calibre lawyers, whose work remains profitable for the firm, to stay at the firm in associate or counsel roles.

But why make this change now? With the post-recession legal market still tight, firms are extra picky about who they promote to partner. In the past, all partners brought in some business, but some brought in far more. Today, only top client-getters can make partner, says Jonathan Veale, managing director at the legal-recruitment firm Vision Legal Recruitment. “It’s all about your ability to generate new revenue.”

“The partnership window is narrowing as it gets more competitive,” confirms Robin MacAulay, a director of professional resources at McCarthys. And her counterpart at Torys, Deborah Dalfen, says the number of opportunities is shrinking at her firm, too. “In just the last five years, the world order has changed.”

Neither firm, however, wants to lose lawyers whose work they value. “Offering alternative career paths is about retaining excellent lawyers who may not want to deliver at the same intensity as partners,” says Dalfen. “We want them to know they can stay here and have a long-term career.”

One clear beneficiary of the new paradigm is Kara Smith at McCarthys. Earlier this year, she went from being a fifth-year associate to counsel, explicitly taking her off the partnership track. “In my heart, I knew I didn’t want to be a partner,” says the 32-year-old, unapologetically. “That level of commitment never interested me.”

Had McCarthys remained faithful to the “up-or-out” model, Smith says she likely would have moved in-house, a long-standing haven for private practice lawyers looking for more work-life balance. These days, Smith splits her off-hours between charity work, and leisure with friends and family. And she doesn’t want to give those up. “I want to make sure I can keep doing all the things I love doing outside of law.”

At the same time, the dwindling number of partnership opportunities in Big Law is heartbreaking for one group of lawyers: those who want to make partner, and might have in previous years, but are forced to accept a future as a counsel or long-term associate. “We are not blind to this,” says Dalfen. “In the current senior-associate ranks, this is a real difficulty.”

Still, as both Dalfen and MacAulay see it, the advantages of moving past the “up-or-out” model far outnumber the downsides. (In the United States, by the way, the tradition began to crumble back in the 1980s.) “It’s going very well,” says MacAulay. “We want to have lots of long-term, experienced lawyers working with us, even if they don’t become partners.”


Cover of the Fall 2015 Issue of PrecedentThis story is part our series on how Bay Street firms are getting better, from our Fall 2015 issue.

 

 

 


Concept photography by Chris Thomaidis.

Opinion: How to stop workplace misogyny

You’re sitting in a morning strategy meeting on a big file, and the partner asks your colleague whether she’s getting enough sleep. She replies that she just isn’t wearing mascara that day. An awkward silence follows.

You and your mentee are admiring a senior partner who excels at work, raised a family and participates in the community. Your mentee asks how she could possibly do it all. You talk about long days and superhuman energy. Neither of you ask the same question about male senior partners with children.

You’re speculating with your group about who will make partner next. There’s a wealth of talented young women in the pool, but nobody is sure which of them will choose to start a family, or when. This is an accepted factor in the guessing game.

Sound familiar? I have participated in all of these discussions; I’ve even instigated some of the comments. I meant well. I hadn’t set out to contradict my feminist values. And yet I contributed to the harmful stereotypes that women still face in this profession. And even when I didn’t instigate the conversation, I let it happen without interjecting. I was a bystander.

On the national stage, there are success stories, like the lauding of Lerners LLP as one of the first Canadian firms to achieve gender parity. Yet numerous trending hashtags — #VAW, #BeenRapedNeverReported, #ICanNeverBeAJudge, #EverydaySexism, #SuitablyDressed, to name a few — remind us that women are still silenced, discounted and marginalized because their sex and sexuality can be used against them. They remind us of the discrimination women face regardless of their intelligence, education, economic status or work ethic.

But how do these stories, and the problems they expose, affect our everyday practice? Women continue to excel as lawyers and judges. Law societies have been working for years on retaining women in private practice. Law firms, private companies and governments have discrimination and harassment policies. What more can we possibly do?

Our profession needs to revisit its moral imperative to address “small” injustices: everyday sexism, offhand misogyny, casual hints of violence against women.

Lawyers don’t need convincing of this moral imperative. But we’re Type As — we need a plan of action. A closing agenda. A precedent. And lucky for us, there are many precedents. Here is just one.

Toronto’s most prominent LGBTQ organizations have adopted the international Hear It! Stop It! #NoBystanders campaign. It is not a campaign about large-scale law reform, about revolution, about punishing all perpetrators. Rather, it is a campaign that asks us to practice the following credo in the fight for human rights and equality: “I will never be a bystander to homophobic or transphobic language. If I hear it, I will stop it.”

Lawyers can borrow this simple strategy in the effort to treat all our colleagues equally and respectfully. It starts in your office and it starts today. It starts like this:

  • If you hear comments about a colleague’s appearance, challenge the acceptability of those remarks.
  • If you hear concerns about a woman’s ability to manage her files, get back up to speed or make partner after she’s had a child, ask questions about the basis for those views.
  • If you hear rumours about a lawyer’s sexual activity, do what you do best: object on the basis of relevance.

It is not about speaking for women, or being “strong” when the immediate victims choose not to speak out. It’s about speaking up for yourself, and your values of equality. And it’s about listening, educating yourself, engaging others and promoting accountability. It is not about single-handedly ending all violence and discrimination against all women; there is no one prescription for such complex issues. It’s about changing the conversation. No bystanders.


Bystanding Still


This story is from our Summer 2015 issue.

 

 

 


Molly ReynoldsMolly Reynolds is a litigation associate at Torys LLP in Toronto. She’s also the editor of the Ontario Bar Association’s civil litigation newsletter.

 

 


Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

Making It Work: How Cornell Wright does it

Cornell Wright

Partner, Torys LLP
Year of Call: 2002


“My general principle is that I never want to be better at my job than at being a dad,” says Cornell Wright. In addition to being — by any reasonable accounting — a totally badass Bay Street mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer, he is father to three youngsters ages seven, five and three. At the modern, beautifully appointed Torys offices, Wright in person is dapper, attentive and exudes both integrity and intensity.

In addition to meeting client demands, he sits on the board of directors of the National Ballet of Canada and the Loran Scholars Foundation.

Oh yes, and he’s a soccer coach for his kids’ teams.

Wright manages life during epic deals (like Loblaws’ $12.4-billion acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart) by looking at the big picture. “You can’t assess balance as day-to-day, or even week-to-week,” he says. “It’s about juggling, planning and being flexible.” Wright doesn’t just accept help, but solicits it. A personal trainer shapes his Friday morning workouts at 6:45. A well-read colleague — “My tutor,” he says — suggests books to fuel his reading habit. And Wright deputized his father-in-law to help with Thursday’s 6 p.m. soccer coaching.

On the home front, he and his wife — a vice-president at a PR firm — make parenthood and careers flourish concurrently with help from their nanny. “She’s a problem solver, and she is as committed to her role as we are to ours,” he says of the family’s much-loved live-out caregiver.

These days he puts more emphasis on fitness. “I didn’t think about it until two years ago,” when he turned 40, he says. “I decided I should be more deliberate about it.”

At first, he joined the theoretically handy gym in his office building, but quit it for one near his house at Yonge and Eglinton. “I’ve had to experiment,” Wright says, but he’s settled on three workouts each week: an evening swim, the Friday training session and a weekend run.

But it’s not the proverbial all work and no play. He celebrated a recent birthday, his own in fact, by surprising the kids with a trip to Disney World.


Cornell Wright, Torys LLP The lowdown

Start time: 7:30 or 8 a.m.
End time: 7 or 7:30 p.m.
Weekly hours: 60 to 80
Sneaky snack: “I keep candy at my desk”
Sanity-saving domestic weapon: The caregiver who has been with the family for six years, and parents on both sides of the family who help with after-hours childcare
Lunch: Out with clients, and he orders something healthy, like salad and fish
Prioritizes: “Putting my kids to bed. I get itchy to go home at 7:25 p.m.”
Clark Kent-Superman moment: Changing from suit into soccer coach uniform in underground parking lot

 

 

 

 


This story is part of The Precedent guide to getting it all done, from our Spring 2015 issue.

 

 


Photography Daniel Ehrenworth

Precedent re-launches its exclusive legal networking website

From the day it launched five years ago, the Precedent A-List has been a go-to source for partner announcements, associate hires and job listings in the legal world.

And it still is. But it also just got way better.

“Following a six-month re-design process, our legal networking website has a fresh look, making it easier to read and navigate,” says Melissa Kluger, the publisher and editor of Precedent magazine. “And, with a new emphasis on eye-catching photography, the A-List is now more fun to browse.”

Also, given that more lawyers are reading on tablets and phones, Kluger says “the new site is designed to look great no matter what device you use.”

The made-over A-List will, of course, continue to serve up news candy for Canadian lawyers. Readers can, for example, peruse the hottest job openings at firms and in-house departments. (More than ever, in fact: since re-launching, the number of job postings on the A-List has soared by 30 percent.) And lawyers can turn to the website to find out when a firm announces a slate of new partners — or lures one from a competitor.

Norbert Knutel“But it’s important to remember that reading up on your colleagues is more than just fun,” Kluger is quick to point out. “Keeping up with the latest industry news should also be part of every lawyer’s networking and business development strategy.”

In fact, she says, reading the A-List can help lawyers find new business.

“If you see that an old law-school friend just made partner, drop them a note to congratulate them,” says Kluger. “Then, you can set up a coffee or lunch to re-connect — and that could lead to referrals down the line.”

Those sorts of well-informed gestures, she notes, can make a big difference over the course of long career.

Since the re-vamp of the A-List, several prominent firms have already posted news. Blakes announced 15 new partners and Torys has announced four new partners and four counsel. In the same period, Torkin Manes, Lerners and Howie, Sacks & Henry have used the site to trumpet new lateral hires.

And in the jobs section, the A-List has featured opportunities in business law at Miller Thomson and in litigation at WeirFoulds — plus a posting for the next general counsel at General Motors.

Every new item published on the A-List is also announced on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and in an eNewsletter sent out twice a month.


Visit the Precedent A-List at www.a-list.lawandstyle.ca

We ask six big industry players — How do we make law a well-oiled machine?

The players

Les Viner, Anne Sonnen, Peter Lukasiewicz, Kevin Coon, Lisa Borsook, Brian Hilbers

 

Daniel Fish of Precedent Magazine

Meet your moderator
Our panellists had the answers, but one man had all the questions: Daniel Fish, Precedent’s discerning news editor, led the roundtable discussion. Read his editor’s notes below as he guides us through an idea-rich dialogue about how to make law’s future a bright one.

 

The future of national firms

Daniel: Do you think a young lawyer starting out now could build a national firm in his or her lifetime?

Peter: In the sense of a full-service model, I think that’s unlikely. One of the issues facing our profession is that there are too many lawyers chasing too little work — particularly in the large firms.

Anne: I think it would have to be a law firm based on a different business model. It might have a relationship with an offshore company — who’s going to do due diligence and e-discovery — and a bunch of contract or salaried lawyers. [Ed. note: A few innovative start-ups have already given these strategies a try, with some success. But will they replace big firms altogether?]

Daniel: Since the 2008 recession, firms have had to survive a tight economy with fewer deals. How will that continue to affect the legal industry?

Les Viner of Torys

Les Viner, managing partner, Torys LLP

Les: In the law profession, the definition of quality has changed to include cost. If quality means outstanding work and service, it has to be at the right price as well.

Anne: At BMO, we tell our firms all the time: ‘We have a productivity initiative to reduce legal spend and we will meet it.’ And we already are.

Kevin: We, on the firm side, need to drive down costs because clients want to increase efficiency and drive down costs as well. Take document review: should that be done by a third-year lawyer sitting in Toronto at $250 an hour when it could be done by an outsourcing service out of India, Manila or Ireland at $50 an hour? [Ed. note: While Baker & McKenzie sends legal work overseas, Torys will soon insource work to an office in Halifax. Find out the pros and cons of each approach.]

Peter: Since 2008, the large law firms have all gotten smaller as we’ve embraced the need to get leaner and be more efficient. For the first time, we are seriously embracing technology that can improve how we deliver services. And one of the outcomes of that is we don’t need as many people as we thought we needed. [Ed note: In fact, Gowlings uses a software program called GhostDraft that helps lawyers write legal agreements faster.]

Diversity in the profession

Daniel: Lisa, as an executive partner — and one of the first female managing partners at a mid-size Toronto law firm — what were things like for women when you started to practice law?

Lisa: I worked in a hospitable environment. But on the client side, perhaps, they were less open to the idea of being counselled by a woman than by the men I worked with.

I remember a closing I did in 1986. I had prepared all the documents and we met over the course of five days to hammer out the details. I played an integral role on the legal team. But at the same time, I was still expected to make photocopies and get everybody coffee.

Daniel: And now?

Lisa Borsook of WeirFoulds

Lisa Borsook, executive partner, WeirFoulds LLP

Lisa: Things have changed dramatically, but we have so far to go. I mean, the statistics on the number of women who leave private practice is a little daunting. [Ed. note: In Ontario, women make up only 35 percent of lawyers in private practice and 20 percent of partners.]

Daniel: Are you optimistic that the percentage of female partners will rise in the future?

Lisa: I am optimistic. I will say, though: the demands on partners, both women and men, are extraordinary. I’m concerned about how the profession will tackle those challenges. People don’t want to work 24/7 for 30 years. I can see why, if I was a young person, the prospect of spending 10 years working a lot of hours to make partner might not be as desirable as other professions.

Daniel: So what can firms do to make a career in law more attractive?

Lisa: At WeirFoulds, we have substantive conversations about these issues. I have open conversations with my female associates about how to juggle the demands they’ll have in their career and in their home life.

Daniel: And what will encourage firms to increase the number of women in leading roles at law firms?

Anne: In Canada, we are the first financial institution to ask our firms to release diversity statistics to us — and many of them have agreed to, so kudos to our firms. It’s better for our shareholders — we make more money and better decisions when we have diverse teams. So we expect diversity from our firms. [Ed. note: BMO demands five key statistics from firms. Find out what they are.]

Kevin: What Anne’s indicated is what we’re all seeing: companies around the globe — the United States in particular — want to work with firms that reflect the way they look in terms of diversity. This is taking off.

Brian Hilbers of Bruce Power

Brian Hilbers, chief legal officer, Bruce Power

Brian: Diversity is very important at Bruce Power. We have diversity targets, which we’ve actually exceeded. And we’ve gone to our major law firms and explained where we are on our diversity targets and what we’re looking for.

Anne: Here’s another thing we’ve done: we select our relationship managers for a lot of our firms. This is our go-to person if there’s an issue. Firms used to say, ‘I’m giving you X.’ Now, we say, ‘No thanks. We want to interview two or three people and here’s what we want them to look like.’ [Ed. note: Bank of Montreal asks a lot of its firms. But the bank gives a lot, too — it published its own diversity numbers (and targets) to the public. For instance, we know that 30 percent of the bank’s executives are women and BMO wants to increase that to 40 percent by 2016.]

Daniel: In that case, firms need female associates to advance at the pace of their male counterparts. Otherwise clients won’t have any women to choose from. How can firms accomplish that?

Lisa: Well, we no longer judge lawyers against colleagues in their same year of call. We now have a totally different system. We create benchmarks of accomplishment in each practice area. As long as they are continuing to move forward, length doesn’t matter. As long as they are progressing, we consider them to be a capable colleague.

Daniel: So even if associates fall behind the rest of their year of call — say, to have a child, or to take care of a sick parent — they’re still advancing, rather than being forced out of the firm.

Lisa: Absolutely.

Les: You’re able to match people’s aspirations at different phases of their life to suitable roles in the firm. And, hopefully, you end up with less attrition. Which is good for clients: they like seeing people they like for long periods of time. They don’t like turnover.

Heenan Blaikie and the future of partnerships

Daniel: Let’s talk about Heenan Blaikie. When that firm collapsed earlier this year, did that make you think more critically about your own businesses?

Peter Lukasiewicz of Gowlings

Peter Lukasiewicz, managing partner, external, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP

Peter: Candidly, I think succession was an issue at Heenan. We’ve all learned lessons from Heenan, and the lesson for me is the importance of leadership and building a culture within the firm that defines the direction of the business. It’s part of the larger change in law firms: we’re running businesses that are as large as companies on the TSX. And we are learning how to run those large businesses. [Ed. note: Two years before the meltdown, founding partner Roy Heenan stepped down as chairman and didn’t appoint a replacement, leaving the managing partners in Toronto and Montreal to jockey for authority.]

Anne: I don’t know any of the details about Heenan, but we continue to hear more rumbling of this sort of thing at other firms and that, if Canadian firms do not continue to innovate, there won’t be many left: they’ll be gobbled up by the larger international firms. [Ed. note: And innovation can come in many forms — even just learning how to use existing technology better.]

Daniel: So, what will partnerships look like in the future?

Les: Many lawyers live in a very binary world: are you an associate or are you a partner? That’s very unsophisticated. We’ve abandoned the so-called up-or-out model, where after so many years you’re a partner, or not a partner and you leave. Now, we want to create customized roles.

Peter: As much as it pains me to say, the accounting firms figured this out a long time ago. If you go into most accounting firms, they’ve got half a dozen levels of employees with a number of different forks in the road. We’ve got to be just as creative when managing employees. 

Kevin Coon of Baker & McKenzie

Kevin Coon, managing partner, Canada, Baker & McKenzie LLP

Kevin: Since the dissolution of Heenan Blaikie, many lawyers seem nervous about becoming equity partners. Some job applicants — not from Heenan, but other firms — have said, ‘I don’t have any problem not being a partner, because I don’t want to put any equity at risk.’ Before Heenan fell, I’d never heard that issue expressed.

Daniel: As law firms try to be more creative, does that change the kind of students and young lawyers you want to hire?

Kevin: I’m really conflicted. The Law Society tells us we have an obligation to participate in the on-campus interview process — a significant commitment for firms. But if we pulled out of that process, we wouldn’t have a problem finding top legal talent. We get applicants from around the world. And, quite frankly, many of those students are the ones that we’re attracted to. They have a global outlook. Maybe they’ve spent a summer at a bank in Zurich. Soon, I think some of the historical big firms are going to pull out of the system.

Les: We need a much more sophisticated talent- management paradigm. And the starting point is: you can’t have 17-minute interviews to hire your talent. That’s a total crapshoot.

The death of the billable hour

Daniel: As clients continue to demand lower costs, will firms start to move away from the billable hour?

Anne: Yes! Our goal is to move all of our external spend off the billable hour rate. We have whole teams that will not open a file with a firm if it’s on the billable hour.

Les: We are prepared to embrace fixed-fee pricing, but it’s a lot of work. The firm and the client have to invest a lot of time together to get it right. So, to me, the barrier is accepting that there will be mistakes made along the way.

Anne Sonnen of BMO Financial Group

Anne Sonnen, deputy general counsel,
BMO Financial Group

Anne: It is a long and hard journey. We spend hours with folks at the table figuring out how to do it.

Peter: You’re not going to always get it right. But if you have a sufficient number of fixedfee arrangements, there will be some winners and some losers. Overall, it will balance out. And that’s what you’re trying to do: manage the legal spend and deliver predictability. I expect in less than 10 years, it will be the norm. Look, [Peter points out the window at a nearby skyscraper] if you can build that building on a fixed price, why can’t you deliver legal services on a fixed-price basis?

Lisa: I think the genie is out of the bottle here. There’s not much point in debating whether or not the change that’s occurred in the legal industry in the past 15 years is something we can reverse. [Ed. note: On the other hand, perhaps the debate still has some life: at least one lawyer was willing to admit the billable hour will keep breathing in the coming years.]

Daniel: Is there resistance, though?

Kevin: Daniel, there is resistance. But the reaction from Anne is indicative of what all law firms must react to. We’re cognizant of what our clients want: predictability, quality and lower costs. Those of us who don’t respond will be left as dinosaurs.

Brian: What we’ve looked at in certain circumstances is value-based billing, where, if we’re successful, then I’m willing to pay for that success.

Daniel: If you’re charging based on value, you’re almost shifting unpredictability onto the firm.

Brian: Yes, you’re right. But from my perspective we should both sink or we should both swim together.


Illustration by Raymond Biesinger; Photography by Margaret Mulligan

Editor’s Note: The tension in law that keeps things interesting

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.

Sincerely,

Signature

 

 

Melissa Kluger
Publisher & Editor


Post Script: Look up!Les Viner of Torys

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.


More from the fall issue:

How to make law a well-oiled machine Six ways to heighten your morning buzz Greg Harris is taking on Everest Criminal defence lawyer Jessyca GreenwoodLaura Baron of Yoga Be

The ins and outs of insourcing legal work

This fall, Torys is launching a “legal services centre” in Halifax, where a team of six lawyers will support files — by performing document review and writing contracts — from Toronto at reduced rates on fixed fees, says Chris Fowles, a Torys partner who’s moving to Halifax to oversee the new location. Lawyers in Halifax will charge clients less money than their Toronto counterparts, he says, because of the cheaper overhead in Atlantic Canada, plus they’ll be using technology to be more efficient. And, by keeping the office in the country, rather than moving abroad, Fowles says the firm can keep a close watch on the quality of the work.

Meanwhile, global behemoth Baker & McKenzie has built an insourcing empire — with a flagship office in Manila that employs more than 500 secretaries, translators, marketing and financial analysts, staff lawyers and support staff. Kevin Coon, managing partner of Baker & McKenzie in Canada, admits that a Halifax office would have its benefits — it’s a short flight from Toronto and the lawyers would likely be from known Canadian law schools.Canadian and Filipino flags

But, in his experience, sending work — which could be almost anything, including document review of entire files — to a staff lawyer in the Philippines or to an associate down the hall presents the same problem: “I still have to check the quality of that work before I send it to a client.” When it comes to quality control, he argues, the location of the lawyer is irrelevant.


For more on how to make your firm more efficient, read our roundtable, where six big-name lawyers gave us their take on how to make law better.


Icon by Isabel Foo

Torys to open a Halifax office, where lawyers will be off the partnership track

Historically, when lawyers joined a top-tier firm, they knew the deal: work hard, find clients and you’ll make partner — but if you don’t get there after a certain number of years, you have to leave.

These days, however, some firms are creating alternatives to the so-called up-or-out model.

Consider the approach of Torys LLP. In the fall, the Bay Street firm will open a small office in Halifax, and from day one every lawyer — Torys expects to start with a staff of around six — will know that partnership is not in their future. But, unlike their big-city counterparts, those lawyers won’t be responsible for bringing in new business.

“It won’t appeal to someone who wants to move up the ranks in the traditional law firm way,” says Chris Fowles, a partner at Torys who is moving to Halifax to head up the office. But he hopes it will attract talented lawyers who would rather focus on the practice of law, rather than building a client base.

And, in Halifiax, they can do just that.

At the new location, which is part of Torys’ broader strategy to cut costs, lawyers will provide legal services — such as contract writing and due diligence — to clients across the country at reduced rates, taking advantage of the low overhead in Atlantic Canada. “Most of the work will come from Toronto,” says Fowles. In other words, Torys isn’t moving to Halifax to find clients — they’re going there to get work done.

As a result, there could be an opportunity for more work-life balance. “They’re still going to be working regular business hours,” says Fowles. “But they won’t have the same cocktail party duties they might otherwise feel they’d have to do if they were on the partnership track.”

Fowles says plenty of firms are making an effort to accommodate lawyers with less traditional career goals. “Generally speaking,” he explains, “law firms — even in Toronto — are starting to move away from the up-or-out model.”


Read more: After the collapse of Heenan Blaikie LLP, founding partner Peter Blaikie told Precedent that, in fact, there are many partners who would prefer to be senior associates.


Photo by Chaf Haddad