Never let a good crisis go to waste

pexels-photo-4031818 woman on computer

Never let a good crisis go to waste.
—Winston Churchill

Churchill recognized the basis of good change management. If you needed to get something done but couldn’t under normal circumstances, then a good old-fashioned crisis usually allows you to get the changes you want.

Another aspect of change management includes looking at changes on an enterprise, organizational, and finally an individual level. For the future of law, we are looking at how the education, the delivery, the institutions and the law itself will likely change after COVID-19 has rampaged across the globe. No one really knows for how long COVID-19 intends to affect the overall global socio-economic environment, but March 15, 2021 looks like a good bet. (A bit of a stretch, perhaps, but Johnson & Johnson have a promising vaccine lead with human trials starting in September and likely emergency distribution in early 2021.)

Change management includes a number of best practices you can follow, namely starting at the top, getting engagement from stakeholders, finding champions, scoring some initial wins, and issuing communications. But a sometimes forgotten component is developing a sense of urgency. And COVID-19 supplies this.

Law schools, for example, were already at the forefront of change; they have been slowly incorporating online classes for years. The American Bar Association guidelines released in February indicate that over 150 law schools have moved to an online course format. This should have the added benefit of reducing costs and overall debt load of students.

Whether the online format is as good or better than the traditional classroom format that most lawyers are familiar with remains to be seen; but most learning may have taken place when you were reading on your own in any event. To confirm which format is better, a multifactor comparison in a peer-reviewed journal with replicated examples would be required to show the difference between online and traditional schools. Which is a long, polite way of saying it will probably never be confirmed.

The online learning model fits in well with the Canadian Centre for Professional Legal Education’s Practice Readiness Education Program (CPLED PREP). PREP, which will launch this June, is a nine-month program with four phases involving interactions, transactions and simulations. This is a new way of promoting other forms of competencies, such as professional ethics and practice management, which would nicely compliment an online law school. The old-fashioned articles may be the next thing to go. Up online, I mean.

We have all likely been experiencing this more cloud-based style of law firm. Most of us have had experience working remotely. I volunteered to give up my office almost a year and half ago. There may have been a day and a half of regret right at the beginning, but it has been smooth sailing since then.

This time in their remote offices has given lawyers ample experience in using the full capability of the digital platforms that their IT departments have (ideally) been working on for the past few years. These capabilities would have included video conferencing not only with staff but with clients as well. Lawyers have also had the opportunity to learn all about the security protocols that IT has been talking about in order to access secure documents from any location.

Necessity being the gender-neutral parent of invention, our organization has seen how Microsoft Teams teleconferencing has been a tremendous way to view and speak with members of one’s team. Documents for a team meeting are easily loaded and located. Chats can be posted and followed as comments are collected.

After a couple of weeks of working in this manner you can see how a law firm might transition to become virtual. Meeting with clients could be conducted over video conferencing right from the start as clients accessed the law firm’s web site.

It is even easier to see how numerous new firms could come into existence as virtual right from the start. Once again, CPLED PREP uses the format of a virtual law firm for students, where they meet clients online and all the firm lawyers and staff operate remotely.

This training allows new lawyers to see how a law firm would operate as it works on various files. Newly licensed lawyers would see the immediate benefit in this and may no longer be driven to join a traditional law firm. Some traditional leverage may soon be lost.

The virtual firm becomes even more enabled by the Federation of Ontario Law Associations guidance of March 20 on how to close real estate transactions remotely. Video confirmation of document signing can be acceptable. At least on a temporary basis.

The U.S. Supreme Court, for the first time since the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, has suspended oral hearings. Courts in Canada have begun moving various functions online. No doubt the need to observe witnesses’ demeanors in person will continue for some time, though.

Probably the greatest change to the legal profession will be the clients. These past few weeks have enabled clients, and people in general, to try new things. All of the professions have reached out and demonstrated that they are prepared to meet with clients in a virtual manner. Using Zoom to set up a meeting with one’s lawyer or accountant no longer seems awkward, and the savings in time and cost has greatly increased the value proposition of many professionals. Client expectations will evolve over a very short time.

We should note that clients do not necessarily request professional advice to be delivered in a new fashion. But if they see it happening elsewhere, they are likely to drift to where they can take similar quality advice better and faster.

The type of legal advice provided has changed greatly over this present and urgent timeframe. A good portion of lawyers appear to be operating on a just-in-time provision of legal services. COVID-19 has become so topical so quickly, and the demand for answers so immediate, that there has been an incredible amount of free legal advice provided on blogs and other sites. This no longer seems like the standard identification of legal risks and the follow-up of ‘please come see our firm,’ but rather, ‘you can see some very concrete advice on how to deal with various COVID-19 related legal issues.’

All of this has also raised clients’ expectations, and in the future they will want to see practical and immediate legal solutions to their problems.

But as Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”



#legal #covid #motivation #changemanagement #law

Liquor Advertising

ryan-reynolds-peloton-wife-aviation-gin-commercial-videoHaving way too much fun for an ad.

For the purposes of pure research I looked over other liquor ads on Instagram. I didn’t come across any free coupon advertising, but otherwise it was very instructive. The Jack Daniel’s ad likely has the highest visibility, with the most “influencers.” I had to look this up since I didn’t know that was a thing.

“Influencers” are evidently users that employ your brand hashtag and who have very high numbers of followers. In the Jack Daniel’s ads there are no real dramatic moments, and in only one instance does somebody have a glass travelling toward their mouth. We would assume that it would bounce harmlessly off of their closed lips, since everyone else is evidently completing abstaining and holding glasses of ice to heal their hand after turning the fire log.

Even more instructive is that other liquor manufacturers all use the “Please drink responsibly” admonition at the ends of their ads. The Aviation American Gin ad does not see the need to include that. And you can’t blame them, since a disclaimer like that would be in harsh juxtaposition to what the ad is portraying.


A Glass of Christmas Cheer with that ad?

ryan-reynolds-peloton-wife-aviation-gin-commercial-videoBy now a lot of you will have seen the new ad for Aviation American Gin, which actor Ryan Reynolds owns a stake in and promotes. This ad was in apparent response to the Peloton Bike ad. If you have not seen either ad, check them out first, then come right back. Start with the stationary bicycle, end with the gin ad.


There is so much going on here. Giving your spouse an exercise bike for Christmas ranks up there with giving a vacuum cleaner. One time I did give my wife a gas-powered chipper/shredder for her birthday. But she is an avid gardener, and she specifically requested it. And she specifically requested that I operate it. It’s not Fargo-sized, so I wasn’t concerned there.


Full disclosure: I am a big Ryan Reynolds fan. I am sure I have seen Green Lantern more times than Ryan has. Deadpool would be my favorite Christmas movie if it had anything to do with Christmas.


Anyway, getting back to the gin ad, we see the same woman from the Peloton bike ad sitting at a bar with two married girlfriends. She appears to be in some sort of a daze as she stares into the camera. This must, in theory, be a year later, since it is Christmas once again. Fuzzy tree in the background is accompanied by tinny Christmas sounds.


She manages to down a gin martini in one long continuous draw as she toasts to new beginnings. Her friends seen somewhat concerned, but they still slide over another martini. This is somewhat humorous, but this could be seen as enabling. (When we speak of enabling, this always has a negative connotation.)


Of course being lawyers, we like to take the fun out of everything. Some people suggest the term ‘eviscerate’ as being more appropriate, but they are being overly dramatic.


I could not remember the last time I actually saw someone drink alcohol in an ad. True, the Aviation American Gin ad was on Instagram, but still, there are undoubtedly some guidelines here. So, speaking of fun evisceration, I came across the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Code for broadcast advertising of alcoholic beverages. After a glass of wine.


Social morals seems to swirl around a bit, but the code dates back to Aug. 1, 1996 and may be in need of a refresh. (At least the World Wide Web had been around for five years when the Code being established.)


The Code starts off well enough by declaring that commercial messages for alcoholic beverages shall not “attempt to establish the product as a status symbol, a necessity for the enjoyment of life or an escape from life’s problems.” Near the end of the gin commercial we see that Peloton Wife does not appear to be wearing a wedding ring, suggesting that her marriage to her husband is over. She seems to be turning to alcohol to dull that experience and to escape the reality of her situation. This scene appears to contravene the Code.


The Code then states that messages shall not “portray any such product, or its consumption, in an immoderate way,” nor “urgency of need or urgency of use.” Downing a martini in one go most likely qualifies as such, along with the woman’s friend passing over another martini. Even as Peloton Wife relates that “this gin is really smooth.”


Perhaps the section of the Code that is breached most convincingly here is the one that stipulates messages should not “contain scenes in which any such product is consumed, or that give the impression, visually or in sound, that it is being or has been consumed.” In this ad we have two actresses pictured sipping gin martinis while the third downs hers in one go.


For the purposes of pure research I looked over other liquor ads on Instagram. I didn’t come across any free coupon advertising, but otherwise it was very instructive. The Jack Daniel’s ad likely has the highest visibility, with the most “influencers.” I had to look this up since I didn’t know that was a thing. “Influencers” are evidently users that employ your brand hashtag and who have very high numbers of followers.


In the Jack Daniel’s ads there are no real dramatic moments, and in only one instance does somebody have a glass travelling toward their mouth. We would assume that it would bounce harmlessly off of their closed lips, since everyone else is evidently completing abstaining and holding glasses of ice to heal their hand after turning the fire log.


Even more instructive is that other liquor manufacturers all use the ‘Please drink responsibly’ words at the ends of their ads. The Aviation American Gin ad does not see the need to include that. And you can’t blame them, since a disclaimer like that would be in harsh juxtaposition to what the ad is portraying.


I would suggest watching the two ads in quick sequence before they are removed. After all, a naughty/nice list of code violations may be being compiled soon.


#ryanreynolds #peloton #law

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.

#law #legal #motivation #legalprofessionals #business

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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