Still young inside


Think back to your first gig starting out in whatever you were doing.

Circa 1982. First moot court. Complete with long hair and mustache. The cheek protector glasses that darkened automatically when you went outside. Blue pin stripe with vest. Classic.

We all still have that youngster inside of us.

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Better training provides better lawyers

Ah, changes are taking the pace I’m going through
Turn and face the strange …

—David Bowie


Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education plans to roll out new Practice Readiness Education Program.


When does a venerable tradition simply become anachronistic? Possibly, when the tradition no longer fulfills its intended purpose and relies upon inertia. Perhaps.

Why tamper with a venerable tradition? Perhaps somewhere a parent used the venerable tradition of throwing their child off the dock to encourage them to swim, but this has not been documented. In any event, this approach does not always provide the required outcome.

Change is on the horizon. The Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education (CPLED) provides the training needed for new graduates to become ready for the practice of law, and it intends to roll out a new bar admission program: the Practice Readiness Education Program, or PREP.

The basis for any policy change should be a problem that needs resolving. The 2019 Articling Survey Results Report conducted for the Law Society of Alberta found a number of disconcerting issues. These included an inconsistency in competencies and level of preparedness for entry-level practices. Over half of the new lawyers surveyed lacked confidence and felt not very prepared or only somewhat prepared. Only one third said a learning plan was used.

An even more troubling figure showed that 32 per cent of articling students experienced discrimination or harassment during recruitment or articling, most of that based on sex, race or ethnicity. This suggests that practised lawyers could benefit from some sensitivity training.

Quality of mentorship and feedback is a challenge for principals/mentors and students alike. Principals and mentors suggest a lack of time, resources and training as key challenges in mentoring articling students; it seems that someone is tossing the student and the mentor off the dock simultaneously and hoping for the best.

One factor that may be missing from the Law Society of Alberta’s assessment is the overall output. The lawyer may appear satisfied that the student has the necessary competencies, but does the client receive the necessary outcome? An additional survey should be conducted to determine if the client is receiving the full value proposition (benefits relative to the costs) being promised by the newly fledged lawyer.

Getting back to the dock analogy, instead of simply hoping for the best, CPLED developed the PREP. The intent is to deliver practical skills and competencies using an integrated approach. This approach combines interactive, transactional learning within four phases, allowing students the opportunity to interact with lawyers, instructors and simulated clients to improve competencies.

The competencies of a well-rounded lawyer fall into three broad groups. The first group is lawyer skills; this involves communication skills, taking legal concepts and ideas and clearly explaining them while taking into account the audience. If you are not changing your writing style based on who is doing the reading, then you are doing a disservice to the reader. The second aspect of this involves legal matter management: taking a case from interview to resolution by researching, gathering facts, planning a strategy and advising your client. Researching, for example, does not provide the broad spectrum of experience necessary.

The second broad component includes how a lawyer practises and self-manages. This involves sections on risk management, trust accounting, technology skills, and management for conflicts, relationships, and self — all good things that can have much broader application. My rotation in project management taught me the importance of listening. In my personal life, this improved my spousal relations and reduced conflicts. Although this coursework will likely deal with legal conflicts, everything can have a broader application.

The third section deals with professional ethics and character by examining who a lawyer is and how he or she behaves. This includes, of course, the code of conduct, ethical decision-making, and understanding fiduciary duties. The other competencies include the need to be honest, trustworthy, honourable and courteous. (These last ones may be a bit tough to achieve unless it’s your mother who’s grading you.)

Although behavioural modification can be difficult, the process that CPLED laid out makes these modifications seem easy. Twelve online modules combine self-directed study and interactive assessments. The multimedia approach, in the comfort of sitting in front of your own computer screen, lays the foundation for the various competencies.

Of course, workshops then provide a bit more real-world experience. Think Disneyland with the various safety protocols in place. The workshops allow students to interact with one another. This includes role-playing, simulations and practice management. (OK, maybe not quite like Disneyland.)

This begins to congeal in PREP’s virtual law firm. Here, the student gets to manage the full lifecycle of cases in various areas. I am not sure if bonus points will be awarded for the most innovative law firm name, but let us hope some points are set aside for this category. This can be a popular approach for MBA students who gather in a virtual company to implement a business plan. The chat functions can be of enormous help in discussing this plan. Just keep in mind that what you think might be a humorous comment in an email or chat can come across as flat and critical. Ensure you attach the appropriate uplifting emoji.

PREP’s capstone is the final assessment, in which the student is provided the opportunity to demonstrate his or her skills and competencies in a simulated transaction through the full life cycle of a case. I am not sure if the simulated transaction includes immediate payment after presentation of the account. But I digress.

The bar admissions PREP program appears to be in good company. Some university faculties of medicine have been using competency-based learning for years now, and the results have been very positive. We can anticipate that lawyers coming on stream with this new approach will be more prepared for the practice of law.

stopSOG: Stop stickers on gas

Image result for ontario gas stickersOntarians need a stop-stickers-on-gasoline campaign. Let’s call it StopSOG.

I had also considered stop stickers on pumps – but that acronym appears heavily used in Ontario at the moment.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government saw the potential political wisdom of mandating that gasoline station owners adorn their pumps with stickers blasting warnings about the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. That Act stipulates that provinces without similar legislation must then use the federal act and regulations as a backstop. This backstop ensures a price for carbon. This translates to over four-cents-per-litre on gasoline, in 2019.


Ford and the Progressive Conservatives railed against any carbon-reduction plan and did away with the previous government’s climate change initiatives that complied with the federal legislation requirements. Ontario’s provincial government essentially invited the application of the federal government’s legislation across the province.

The Ford government wanted to ensure that Ontarians became aware of this carbon pricing. The government cheekily entitled their legislation the Federal Carbon Tax Transparency Act, or the Sticker Act. Licensed operators of retail gas must affix the prescribed notice to gasoline pumps. Of course, the legislation mandates that the sticker must face the vehicle. The regulations go further in that the sticker must be within the top two-thirds of the pump. The sticker contains an ominous, aggressive arrow pointing upwards and suggest projected increases in levies past 2022. However, the legislation does allow the Minister to estimate certain numbers.

Using a combination of a bar chart and an arrow on the sticker, the potential for future exponential tax increases appears frightening. Since the carbon price only increases arithmetically by $10 a ton per year, the tax should instead take a more boring flat arrow approach. The provincial government can only make it look exponential by hollowing out the tops of the individual bars on the chart. This gives the arrow a deceiving, sharp, upward curve, when the arrow should be straight and flattened out. Any mutual fund company attempting the same ‘estimating’ trick would be hauled in front of the appropriate regulatory authority.

The stickers themselves seem quite large and far out of proportion to the message. Some of the stickers do not adhere properly and appear to be peeling. I define a peeled sticker as litter.

This does not bother Ford, who at last report is the sole owner of a label-and-tags company. We could almost expect a Trump-like statement by Ford in the nature of “no one knows more about sticky labels than I do.”

Non-adherence (just a few more play on words here) in applying the stickers results in substantial penalties. The fines seem onerous for a non-safety violation of $5,000 for a first offence and $10,000 for a second offence

Energy Minister Greg Rickford made the reasons for such a Kafkaesque requirement transparent by saying, “We’re going to stick it to the Liberals and remind the people of Ontario how much this job-killing, regressive carbon tax costs.”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce labeled the stickers as “unnecessary red tape” and said their gas-station members decried the “punitive and outsized fines for non-compliance” and “the political nature of the stickers… a violation of their rights and freedoms.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association filed a lawsuit, which states: ”The Sticker Act requirements do not relate to any technical standards or any concerns about safety,” and further that “Comments Ontario has made about the Sticker Act in the Ontario Legislature and to the public demonstrate that the contents of the stickers are political in nature.”

The suit claims that the Sticker Act violates s. 2(b) of the Charter, which ensures freedom of conscience and religion and freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication.

Here, a government body appears to compelling political speech, since the threat of substantial fines compels station owners to express the provincial government’s position on the carbon tax.

This situation appears evermore egregious since you can agree with the carbon price or not, but the provincial government uses taxpayer dollars to make their political argument. The retail owners have no say in the matter.

Well, they do have a say in that they must say how the tax increases over the next few years.

The stickers do not even represent the realty of the situation. The Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that the charges under the Greenhouse Gas Act do not constitute taxes. The court deemed them levies.

The sticker does not include any of the rebates payable to the public to offset the levies. Average rebates exceed the average cost of the gasoline levy.

Certain other entities supply complimentary additional stickers discussing the carbon levy rebate. These stickers use a similar aggressive arrow but this time the bar graphs refer to the amount of rebates.

We can foresee a real sticker war occurring sometime in the near future. This may not have the gravitas of other divisive political discussions. In the U.S., certain factions are committing acts of violence.

Here in Canada, we apply stickers.


#ontario #gas #climate #law #carbontax

Artifically Intelligent Persons (continued final)

artificial-intelligence-electronics-future-2599244 (1)The European Legal Affairs Committee suggests the need to include a kill switch (opt-out mechanisms) for AIPs. I will shorten this to ‘OOM’. The OOM euphemism provides a guilt release. Humanity can delude itself in the belief it has control over any situation as Kurt Vonnegut wrote “The only controls available to those on board were two push-buttons on the center post of the cabin — one labeled on and one labeled off. The on button simply started a flight from Mars. The off button connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of the Martian mental-health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off.” If you have difficulty in OOMing your faithful Roomba, think how hard it might be if it asked you to reconsider. Consider if instead of immortality, AIPs live a limited number of years. Science fiction covers both ends of the spectrum of planned obsolescence of the most brutal kind to the inability to self-terminate. If we incorporated a pre-determined life span, would we tell our AIPs the exact date? We could leave the date determination to a random number generator entitled Final Actual Time Expiry, or FATE.

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Artifically Intelligent Persons (continued 6)

artificial-intelligence-electronics-future-2599244 (1)The European Committee on Legal Affairs suggests an ethical framework of beneficence, non-maleficence and autonomy, and Fundamental Rights, such as human dignity and human rights, equality, justice and equity, non-discrimination and non-stigmatisation, autonomy and individual responsibility, informed consent, privacy and social responsibility. Whether these ethics and fundamental rights will be offered to AIPs remains unclear, but sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.


Natural people tend to anthropomorphize animals and objects, and this tendency may provide greater rights to AIPs. Do you feel bad if your kitchen table ensnares your Roomba? Would you feel even worse if it was trapped and you had earlier placed googley eyes on the Roomba? If so, then you would likely agree that AIPs are entitled to receive ethical and compassionate treatment. But would they need it, or are we simply making ourselves feel better? hashtag

#artificialintelligence business communication digitaltransformation transformation leadership changemanagement machine machinelearning motivation legal

Artifically Intelligent Persons (continued 5)

artificial-intelligence-electronics-future-2599244 (1)If an AIP can decide its own actions and causes harm, then legal liability can shift from the builder over to the teacher providing the environment. If an AIP can operate independently with its environment and held accountable for its own actions, then it could be held strictly liable. Strict liability requires that a plaintiff show that the damage occurred and a causal link. This differs from negligence in that there is no need to establish the same duty of care, standard of care and breach of that duty of care. Strict liability would be allocated between builder and eventual teacher. The teacher and the surrounding environment impacts the liability shift between builder and teacher. This shift would be extremely difficult to establish in that it may take a village to raise a child, but a vast social media network environment raises an AIP.

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Artifically Intelligent Persons (continued 4)

artificial-intelligence-electronics-future-2599244 (1)

In describing artificial intelligence, the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs outlines how the present legislation does not encompass machines that become autonomous and self-aware. A machine can be built, loaded with software, and then go on to learn from its environment. This new environmental learning suggests that the AIP can determine its own actions and learn from its experience and failures. AIPs have an advantage here since the majority of natural persons still struggle with learning from failure.

#artificialintelligence #business #communication #digitaltransformation #transformation

#leadership #changemanagement #machine #machinelearning #motivation #legal