resources for lawyers: remote working

CLIO - LEGAL PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

CLIO - LEGAL PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

CLIO - LEGAL PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

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As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, some things haven’t changed: Clients need their lawyers, some now more than ever.  


Founded in 2008, Clio empowers law firms to be client-centered and firm-focused. Offering legal practice management software, client intake and legal CRM software, and the largest app ecosystem on the market, Clio's product suite is trusted by 150,000 legal professionals and approved by over 65 bar associations and law societies, globally. 


And, Clio has committed $1 million to help law firms navigate the difficulties that lie ahead!


Follow them on Twitter at @goclio

CPDOnline - 24/7 REMOTE ACCESS CPD!

CLIO - LEGAL PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

CLIO - LEGAL PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

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Need help getting fulfilling you Professional Credits during the COVID-19 epidemic?  


FOLA has partnered with CPDonline.ca to provide Ontario's law association members access to their extensive cpd library for just $399.00 per year.  All their videos are fully accredited and their vast array of content is available 24/7.


Is your law association looking for new/additional sources of revenue?


As a bonus, CPDOnline will pay Law Associations $100 per association subscriber - RENEWALS INCLUDED!  

MOVECACHE - ONLINE BILLING TOOL

CLIO - LEGAL PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE

MOVECACHE - ONLINE BILLING TOOL

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FOLA has partnered with MoveCache - a fully secure online billing tool to help you process payments faster!


Features include:

• Payment Processing & virtual terminals

• Currency options 

• User (your client) support 

• A dedicated representative  (for you)


AND - just for Law Association Members, FOLA is pleased to offer  a minimum of 20% off YOUR monthly fees!  Ask you local law librarian for you code!


Once you have the code, simply enter it into the Promo Code field and you're good to go!


CHECK OUT THEIR VIDEOS

LDD - REMOTE SIGNING

ZOOM - FOR MEETINGS, CONFERENCES, & PHONE

MOVECACHE - ONLINE BILLING TOOL

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Have face to face meetings without impacting your safety!


With the release of an easy to follow Remote Signing Protocol and guidance from law societies across the country, we’re proud to launch the LDD Remote Signing Portal. 


Available for free to all lawyers, you can now post documents to clients, host virtual closing meetings and view client signing activity. All while meeting your social distancing and legal obligations. 


Work from your computer, laptop, phone or tablet - if it has a camera, chances are you can use it to host a virtual closing meeting.

ZOOM - FOR MEETINGS, CONFERENCES, & PHONE

ZOOM - FOR MEETINGS, CONFERENCES, & PHONE

ZOOM - FOR MEETINGS, CONFERENCES, & PHONE

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Zoom offers a suite of online tools for meetings (including training & tech support), video webinar and virtual town hall meetings, online conference rooms, enterprise phone systems, and business messaging platforms (including file sharing).



It's super easy to use - watch this video!



Already have Zoom?  Here's a handy "cheat sheet".

VAULTIE - VERIFY DOCUMENTS ONLINE

ZOOM - FOR MEETINGS, CONFERENCES, & PHONE

ZOOM - FOR MEETINGS, CONFERENCES, & PHONE

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 Vaultie lets you and your clients digitally sign documents using verified ID’s tied to compliance grade facial recognition. Clients can verify their ID’s from anywhere and sign digital documents that are verifiable by any third party with access to a smartphone. 


Vaultie has announced they will be offering their Standard plan for FREE during the COVID outbreak. 

KORBITEC INC - E-DOCUMENT EXCHANGE

KORBITEC INC - E-DOCUMENT EXCHANGE

KORBITEC INC - E-DOCUMENT EXCHANGE

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Korbitec Inc offers an electronic document exchange (xchangedocs)  that ensures documents are securely shared only among parties associated with a matter.


xchangedocs overview

Sample Record of Service


xchangedocs is offered free of charge while we are still operating under a full lockdown, or until July 1st, 2020; whichever is later 

ACTIONSTEP

KORBITEC INC - E-DOCUMENT EXCHANGE

KORBITEC INC - E-DOCUMENT EXCHANGE

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, Actionstep is offering any law firm, currently not using Actionstep and struggling to work remotely, free access to its secure cloud-based Express software for legal practice management. Express is a pre-packaged version of Actionstep that can be deployed instantly without any setup.  

Express includes guided tours for instant training. Express immediately enables firms to work remotely on matters without going through a major IT infrastructure change. 

LEGAL INNOVATION ZONE (LIZ)

KORBITEC INC - E-DOCUMENT EXCHANGE

LEGAL INNOVATION ZONE (LIZ)

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While governments and international health organizations encourage people to work from home, law firms and legal professionals can take advantage of technology to support their clients and staff.  


Who better to turn to than a LIZ startup?


CHECK OUT THESE COMPANIES HERE


MORE RESOURCES FOR LAWYERS

FROM CFIB - KEEPING YOU & YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE

LEGAL INNOVATION ZONE (LIZ)

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MaRS, North America’s largest urban innovation hub (located in Toronto) has a handy section for business working remotely.

You can access that here.


TechSoup - an online resource for non-profits - has some COVID-19 resources for your Law Association and/or library:


COVID-19: How Nonprofits Can Establish Effective Telecommuting Practices


Special video from CPDOnline Founder:

IMPROVE YOUR VIRTUAL MEETING SKILLS IN 4 EASY STEPS!

FROM CFIB - KEEPING YOU & YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE

FROM CFIB - KEEPING YOU & YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE

FROM CFIB - KEEPING YOU & YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE

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The emergence of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is understandably a big concern with impacts on all areas of life. It is important for small business owners to be prepared for a potential crisis.  


The Canadian Federation of Independant Business answers the questions they are hearing most frequently from their members about how to handle this situation.   

SPECIAL WORK-FROM-HOME RESOURCES/TIPS

HOW TO WORK FROM HOME AS A LAWYER

CLIO's COMPLETE GUIDE FOR LAWYERS TO WORKING FROM HOME REMOTELY

CLIO's COMPLETE GUIDE FOR LAWYERS TO WORKING FROM HOME REMOTELY

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In light of COVID-19, lawyers and legal professionals may be looking to work from home or implement a remote work policy at their firm for the first time as a measure to protect their families, their clients, and their businesses.


Here are a few key resources to help make working from home as a lawyer easier for you and your law firm.

CLIO's COMPLETE GUIDE FOR LAWYERS TO WORKING FROM HOME REMOTELY

CLIO's COMPLETE GUIDE FOR LAWYERS TO WORKING FROM HOME REMOTELY

CLIO's COMPLETE GUIDE FOR LAWYERS TO WORKING FROM HOME REMOTELY

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Can lawyers and legal professionals work remotely? In most cases, the answer is “yes.” As the situation surrounding COVID-19 evolves, it’s more important than ever that lawyers are able to make this choice to keep their clients, communities, and families safe. 

DAILY MATTERS - PODCAST FOR LAWYERS

CLIO's COMPLETE GUIDE FOR LAWYERS TO WORKING FROM HOME REMOTELY

AMA PANEL: WORKING FROM HOME WITH REMOTE LAW FIRM TECHNOLOGY

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With the emergence of COVID 19, the legal industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation. 


In Daily Matters, Clio CEO and Co-founder Jack Newton will explore the new normal for law firms, how legal professionals can find success in a remote-first world, and how lawyers can best serve clients through this unprecedented situation. 

AMA PANEL: WORKING FROM HOME WITH REMOTE LAW FIRM TECHNOLOGY

AMA PANEL: WORKING FROM HOME WITH REMOTE LAW FIRM TECHNOLOGY

AMA PANEL: WORKING FROM HOME WITH REMOTE LAW FIRM TECHNOLOGY

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On demand webinar -  Hear how internet-based technologies can keep you connected to your team and your clients. 


 In the face of widespread COVID-19 concern, lawyers shouldn’t have to disconnect entirely from their firm and clients. Instead your firm should be a bedrock for consistent and reliable legal service—at a time when your staff, coworkers, and business partners need you most.

COVID-19 LEGAL RELIEF INITIATIVE

AMA PANEL: WORKING FROM HOME WITH REMOTE LAW FIRM TECHNOLOGY

COVID-19 LEGAL RELIEF INITIATIVE

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As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, some things haven’t changed: Clients need their lawyers, some now more than ever. 


As part of Clio's disaster relief program, they've committed $1 million to help law firms navigate the difficulties that lie ahead. While much of what lies ahead is uncharted territory, this remains clear: we need to undertake a swift and massive transformation of the legal industry, and compress change that would have transpired over the course of years into change that needs to happen over a course of weeks. 

zoom tutorial

Just starting out with Zoom?  Here's a handy 7 minute tutorial for you!

Improve Your Virtual Meeting Skills in 4 Easy Steps!

Bring your best self to your online meetings!


In this video, CPDOnline Founder, Paul Byrne, shares the 4 critical steps to optimizing the quality of your virtual meetings! 

MOVECACHE VIDEOS

MOVECACHE - A FULLY SECURE ONLINE BILLING TOOL


We are all adjusting to conducting business using a Work From Home format. This includes ways to get paid. Lawyers, who might usually receive payment in person using a POS machine need ways to receive payment while keeping social distancing.   MoveCache is your solution a fully secure online billing tool to help you process payments faster! 


LEARN MORE

BONUS - 2 minute video with a little more detail about MoveCache and their special COVID-19 deal - EXCLUSIVE to FOLA members!


LEARN MORE

PRACTICE RESOURCES

OPENING A PRACTICE

OPERATING A PRACTICE

OPERATING A PRACTICE

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Owning a law practice means both practising law and operating a business. It is exciting and challenging. But it's not short on its fair share of challenges.     


To help, the LSO created the "Guide to Opening Your Practice" to inform lawyers of the steps involved in opening a law practice and to assist them to prepare a business plan. 


Intended for lawyers interested in operating as either sole practitioners or in a small firm, the Guide will be helpful if you are considering or have decided to open your own practice. 

 

Membership Status and Fee Paying Category

Don't forget that you'll still be responsible for paying all fees.  Plus - you'll want to have the right insurance. 

 

 “Copyright in certain content on this webpage is held by the Law Society of Ontario and is reproduced with permission.” 

OPERATING A PRACTICE

OPERATING A PRACTICE

OPERATING A PRACTICE

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The LSO has resources that can help you with determining which Business Structure might work best for you and what practice arrangements will best serve your needs.


VISIT THE LSO's "YOUR SOURCE"


VISIT LawPRO FOR EVEN MORE RESOURCES! 


Contingency Planning for Lawyers

Lawyers face the possibility of numerous unexpected interruptions in their law practices. Contingency planning in the event of disability, death or other unexpected periods of absence from practice should be considered as a means of providing peace of mind for loved ones, clients and employees.  The Contingency Planning Guide is a great resource!


Thinking about Hiring an Articling Student?  These resources from the National Association for Law Placement can help!


Want to provide legal services to the public as an employee of a charity or non-profit?  LEARN HOW.


Is billing a nightmare?  FOLA has help!

CLOSING A PRACTICE

OPERATING A PRACTICE

PREPARING FOR A PRACTICE REVIEW

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There are many circumstances in which you or those acting on your behalf may have to deal with the transfer or closing of your practice: the sale of a practice, a change in career, joining a firm, judicial or other appointment, formal retirement, or sudden illness or death. 


Where the practice involved is a sole proprietorship or a small firm the impact is greater than it would be on a larger firm, as there may be no one available to immediately continue, transfer, or close the practice in an orderly manner.


The Law Society of Ontario and LawPRO® have created a Guide to help you plan for and fulfill your professional conduct responsibilities when transferring or closing your law practice.


PREPARING FOR A PRACTICE REVIEW

IN THEIR OWN WORDS - BY LAWYERS, FOR LAWYERS

PREPARING FOR A PRACTICE REVIEW

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Each year, about 450 lawyers in Ontario who are in private practice are included in the pool of potential candidates that the Law Society of Ontario will undergo a Practice Management Review.

IF YOU ARE SUBJECT OF A COMPLAINT

IN THEIR OWN WORDS - BY LAWYERS, FOR LAWYERS

IN THEIR OWN WORDS - BY LAWYERS, FOR LAWYERS

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Even the best lawyers make honest mistakes or can face a baseless allegation from a client that is suddenly unhappy due to unexpected events or changed circumstances and most of these are resolved at an early stage. 

YOUR SOURCE - THE LSO's MEMBER RESOURCE SECTION

YOUR SOURCE - THE LSO's MEMBER RESOURCE SECTION

YOUR SOURCE - THE LSO's MEMBER RESOURCE SECTION

lawyers, member resources, help line, practice management, law society of ontario


As part of their Member-directed campaign, the Law Society wants to remind you about their Practice Management Helpline

 

LSO resources that you may find helpful include:

Practice Supports and Resources

Coach and Advisor Network

Member Assistance Program

Bookkeeping Guide for Lawyers


& the podcast:

Technology Practice Tips


RESOURCES, PRECEDENTS & CHECKLISTS

YOUR SOURCE - THE LSO's MEMBER RESOURCE SECTION

YOUR SOURCE - THE LSO's MEMBER RESOURCE SECTION

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LAWPRO’s practicePRO initiative provides risk management, claims prevention and law practice management information to Ontario lawyers. These resources, precedents and checklists will help you take proactive steps to avoid a legal malpractice claim. Below are some quick links.


Resources
practicePRO offers a range of practice resources for lawyers. Its limited scope documents include sample retainers, checklists, & client info brochures.

Precedents
practicePRO offers sample retainer agreements & other precedent materials.

See practicepro.ca/precedents/

Checklists
Visit practicepro.ca/checklists/ to see a range of checklists, including checklists to assist in providing Independent legal advice and an Annual Client Legal Health Check-Up.

Fraud Prevention
Frauds of various types continue to target lawyers in many areas of practice and fraudsters occasionally successfully dupe lawyers and law office staff. Don't be complacent! See practicepro.ca/fraud to learn more about how to prevent fraud, and about current fraud warnings.

MANAGE YOUR BILLING

OVERDUE ACCOUNTS & COLLECTIONS

OVERDUE ACCOUNTS & COLLECTIONS

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FOLA has partnered with MoveCache - a fully secure online billing tool to help you process payments faster!

   

MoveCache acts as a broker for merchant services and negotiates discount options for processing credit card payments online with all the big, trusted companies.  Features include:

• Payment Processing & virtual terminals

• Currency options 

• User (your client) support 

• A dedicated representative  (for you)


AND - just for Law Association Members, FOLA is pleased to offer special pricing - 20% off your monthly fees!  Ask your local law librarian for you code!


 Once you have the code, simply enter it into the Promo Code field and you're good to go! 

OVERDUE ACCOUNTS & COLLECTIONS

OVERDUE ACCOUNTS & COLLECTIONS

OVERDUE ACCOUNTS & COLLECTIONS

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Despite confirming information about fees, disbursements and interest in writing, like many business people, lawyers often have difficulties securing prompt payment of their accounts by their clients.


This section covers things like how and when to begin the reminder process, when you can charge interest, and when to outsource collection to a third party. 

Tips for interviewing and hiring an articling student.

IT'S TIME TO HIRE AN ARTICLING STUDENT. WHAT'S NEXT?

WANT TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES AS AN EMPLOYEE OF A CHARITY OR NON-PROFIT?

WANT TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES AS AN EMPLOYEE OF A CHARITY OR NON-PROFIT?

For any-sized law firm or office, hiring an articling student can be a significant investment. However, this is even more so when the employer is small and with limited resources. It takes time and money to identify, train, and onboard an articling student - let alone, train the student on the law and practice! Fortunately, the benefits of hiring an articling student are plentiful.


The  National Association for Law Placement (NALP) is another great resource!  You can access their resource guide for hiring articling students below and, if you're ready to advertise to student applicants,  visit the NALP Canadian Directory of Legal Employers (CDLE) and register.

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WANT TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES AS AN EMPLOYEE OF A CHARITY OR NON-PROFIT?

WANT TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES AS AN EMPLOYEE OF A CHARITY OR NON-PROFIT?

WANT TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES AS AN EMPLOYEE OF A CHARITY OR NON-PROFIT?

To make legal services more accessible, the LSO has approved a registration system that enables lawyers to provide their professional services to the public as employees of charities and not-for-profit corporations. 


Under this initiative, registered charities and not-for-profit corporations can register with the LSO to employ lawyers to deliver legal services through their organizations directly to their clients. 


Lawyers employed by charities and not-for-profit corporations may provide free lawyer services to clients of the organization. 

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CROSSING THE BORDER WITH ELECTRONIC DEVICES: WHAT LAWYERS NEED TO KNOW

WANT TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES AS AN EMPLOYEE OF A CHARITY OR NON-PROFIT?

CROSSING THE BORDER WITH ELECTRONIC DEVICES: WHAT LAWYERS NEED TO KNOW

With travellers at Canadian airports and border crossings subject to increasing scrutiny, it's important for lawyers to have an understanding of how the privacy interests of their clients may be impacted by legislation and policies developed to address public safety issues. 


Legal counsel should also understand that their profession does not make them immune to policies and processes that could impact information otherwise subject to solicitor-client privilege. 

PRACTICE REVIEWS

BACKGROUND ON PRACTICE REVIEWS

Each year, about 450 lawyers in Ontario who are in private practice are included in the pool of potential candidates that the Law Society of Ontario will undergo a Practice Management Review.


The LSO’s Practice Management Review is designed to identify any practice management issues, which, if neglected, could have an adverse effect on the quality of legal services offered to the public. While the Program may benefit lawyers in private practice by reducing client complaints and negligence claims, it could result the following: The closing of the file; Mandatory follow-up activities to remedy deficiencies; A follow-up review; Proposal Order; Referral to Spot Audit; or Referral to Professional Regulation.


If you have been contacted by the Reviewer, you are able to select a fill day (usually within six weeks) that accommodates both parties where you will be visited by the Reviewer. You will be given information about what to prepare at that time but will likely be asked, at the least, to have your most recent trust reconciliation (trust bank statement(s), detailed trust reconciliation(s), and client trust listing) ready. There is also a lot of information on the LSO site and you can always call them at 416-947-3315 or 1-800-668-7380 ext. 3315.


In short, the Reviewer will be assessing basic practice management systems in your office, focusing on such areas as: Client Service & Communication; File & Financial Management, Technology; and Professional, Personal, & Time Management.

LSO INFORMATION

If You Are the Subject of a Complaint

The LSO has a comprehensive section on what to do if you are the subject of a complaint which you can link to here. However, the most important thing to remember is: Don’t freak out! 


Even the best lawyers make honest mistakes or can face a baseless allegation from a client that is suddenly unhappy due to unexpected events or changed circumstances and most of these are resolved at an early stage.  In fact, according to the LSO, only about 5% of complaints are ever even referred to the Proceedings Authorization Committee (which then may result in a disciplinary proceeding and hearing).


Regardless of the situation, you will be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint and you will be provided with the substance of the complaint before you are asked to respond.  Also remember that most complaints and investigations are confidential – with the exception being if the LSO is required to issue a regulatory notice, in which case, you will be notified in advance your case will require a regulatory proceeding.


You may want to consider retaining a lawyer.  But even if you do, it is critical that you do respond to LSO communications as failure to do so may subject you to discipline proceedings under the Law Society’s Summary Hearing Process, in addition to any proceedings relating to the original complaint.  You will want to know that discipline proceedings are of public record. 


A few suggestions that may make this process easier on you:


1. Consider discussing the complaint (and your response to the complaint) with a partner, colleague or other trusted advisor;

2. Consider seeking the advice of a lawyer (remember, this is the same advice you would likely offer a friend).   If you use LawPro, contact them immediately.  They are there to help you.  Their website also has some very helpful information.  Also worth noting is that both the Criminal Lawyers’ Association and the Advocates’ Society provide pro bono duty counsel for unrepresented lawyers at sittings of the Proceeding Management Conference.

3. Remember: The LSO’s Member Assistance Program (MAP) is there to help you in times of professional or personal crisis – and even though you may not, in retrospect, think of this as a crisis, it might feel like one at the time. Your MAP affords you access to a full range of 24/7/365 professional, confidential services. 


Trying to figure out when to provide a notice of claim?  

As soon as possible!  If you report a claim and nothing develops, your deductible won’t be triggered and there won’t be any surcharged increase in your premium.  In addition to helpful information, LawPro has an easy link on their site.


Again, all this information and more can be found here


RESOURCES

LSO'S webpage for dealing with a complaint.


LSO's  Tribunal website


LawPro's webpage for dealing with a complaint and filing a claim.



TRIBUNAL WEBSITE

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NEW TRIBUNAL WEBSITE!

The Law Society Tribunal is very pleased to announce the launch of its new website. The website is an important source of information about the Tribunal, containing notices, orders, reasons, rules, regulations and guides on how to use the Tribunal’s services. 


The new redesigned website now features:

  • consolidated, searchable documents; 
  • fillable forms ;
  • calendar view for upcoming hearings; and 
  • more intuitive navigation throughout the site.


These features increase the Tribunal’s transparency and accessibility for licensees/licence applicants, their representatives, and the public.

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Generate excitement

What's something exciting your business offers? Say it here.

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Close the deal

Give customers a reason to do business with you.

ARE YOU FACING SUSPENSION OR UNDER SUSPENSION?

Five Things You Can Do While Under Suspension by Darryl Singer

The Law Society of Ontario has published something called Guideline for Lawyers Who Have Been Suspended or Given an Undertaking Not to Practice. This document is a near-exhaustive list of all the things you cannot do while under suspension.


Sadly, the LSO does not publish anything which tells suspended lawyers the things they could, should, or might want to do while serving their suspension. This is too bad, particularly for those lawyers who have addiction or mental health issues which led them to the behaviors which the LSO deemed worthy of suspension. Furthermore, most lawyers I have assisted as they go through the LSO discipline process end up suffering some form of depression or anxiety when they are suspended. Whether the suspension is short or long, one cannot blame the suspended lawyer for feeling anxious about his or her reputation; continuation of the practice and service of the clients while suspended; how they will be viewed by the Bench and Bar when they return to practice; how they will address future client inquiries about their suspension, since the information lives forever on the LSO public database. Since there is nothing formal, I have compiled some brief examples of the things I recommend to my clients.


Here are 5 things you can do while under suspension if you should find yourself in that situation:


1. Internalize. Don’t blame the LSO, the complainant, or other circumstances. Take a hard look at what you and only you could have done to avoid the complaint that led to your suspension. Make a pact with yourself to put some sort of system in place to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again. For example, if client complaints led to discipline, start using your enforced free time to develop better communication protocols to be introduced upon your return to the office.


2. Continuing education. Use your time wisely. You do not have to take formal CPD programs, but your weeks or months off could be used to catch up on the latest case law developments, read new texts or articles on your area of law, or even start learning a new area of law. Consider also taking some non-law lessons in things like time management, technology, marketing and other things that are adjunct to but at the same time integral to good practice.


3. Take some “me time”. Many lawyers run into practice trouble simply as a result of being burned out, or struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues, financial pressures, marital issues etc. Use the down time productively to go for therapy, exercise, catch up on your Netflix queue, or just spending time with loved ones and reconnecting with friends.


4. Plan for your return. To many lawyers spend all their suspension time moping around (understandable). But better to spend your time thinking about where you want your practice to go upon your return. Consider the time off as sort of a forced reset. You now have time to draft and think about implementing a new marketing plan, business plan, office manual etc. We all talk about these things, and in the context of either a practice that is too busy, or one without enough cash flow, but somehow these things never get done. You can’t practice law during your suspension, so might as well use the quiet time to attack these things that there likely won’t be time to deal with once you return.


5. Commit to doing things better. You typically ended suspended for one or more of these issues: addiction, mental health, poor client management, poor financial management, dabbling in an area where you had no expertise, failing to reply to lawyers or the Law Society. Whatever the reason, the corollary of that got you there is the way to avoid it. Addiction- stick to treatment. Mental Health- commit to counselling and follow through. Client or financial management problems- implement and maintain better systems.


When facing suspension, the goal should be to come back to your practice refreshed, relaxed, and with a plan that will allow you to hit the ground running and never look back. When I faced a suspension stemming from an addiction resulting in an abject failure on my part to reply to client and Law Society communications, it forced me to take the entire month of August off. It was the first time in my career that I took more than a week away from the office. Ever since, I take the entire month of July off, two weeks at Christmas, a week at March Break, another week or so in August, and occasional long weekends throughout the year. The experience of suspension was life changing. I now practice with more breaks, spend more time with my kids, and am able to keep up the hectic pace of a busy litigation practice with mental clarity because I know that my clients will not disappear. It goes without saying that the Law Society proceeding was instrumental in my seeking the help I need to overcome addiction and depression and I have worked without failure over the last ten years to maintain by health.


A parting note, there is an important step to take before the suspension is imposed. If you are showing up for a hearing, and suspension is a possibility, regardless of how you feel your case will go, you need to take steps prior to that day to have a system in place for your files to be handled. This is easy if you are part of a firm with other lawyers, but if you are a sole practitioner then you will need to have a lawyer ready to step in. If you do this in advance of the suspension, even to the point of talking to clients with pending matters likely to be reached during your suspension, the suspension will get off to an easy start, as opposed to the added stress of transition adding to whatever issues already led you to the discipline panel in the first place.


Darryl Singer is Head of Commercial and Civil Litigation at Diamond & Diamond Lawyers LLP. He regularly represents lawyers and other professionals at disciplinary tribunals.


** This article  was originally published by The Lawyers Daily

lawyer facing suspension

lawyer facing suspension 

Five Reasons You Should Not Represent Yourself by Darryl Singer

I regularly represent lawyers at law society matters — at the LSO investigation stage and also defending them at the LSO Tribunal. I have noticed in the days I spend at the tribunal something which appears to be borne out in my review of tribunal decisions over the last two years. It seems about half of all lawyers appearing before the tribunal do so without counsel. And untold numbers of those who do retain counsel to represent them at the tribunal do so only after self-representing throughout the entire investigation process, a process which usually includes a form of “interview” akin to an examination for discovery.


These interviews are conducted by investigators skilled in the art of questioning, such as ex-detectives and forensic fraud examiners. They cannot be outsmarted, and your rights of refusal at these interviews are limited. Yet, many, if not most lawyers, put themselves under the microscope without the advice of experienced counsel.


Lawyers being lawyers think they know how to defend cases, so why get someone else to do for you what you can do yourself. I disagree and have compiled five reasons I do suggest you do no represent yourself.


1. You do not know the process.

While you may be an excellent lawyer in your particular area of law, unless you practice regularly before the LSO Tribunal, you will not be familiar with its practices and procedures. Even if you do administrative law at other tribunals, the LSO has its own “rules of thumb” and there is an understood way of doing things.


Moreover, like most areas of law, relationships matter. If you represent yourself, you will go in not knowing the LSO investigators, prosecutors (who, remember, are against you) and are not known by the adjudicators. Familiarity with the opposing side or the trier of fact does not have any bearing on the eventual outcome, which is always based on the merits, but good relationships and knowledge of the procedures help ensure the process will move more expeditiously, cost-effectively and as amicably as possible.


2. The LSO, in these instances, is not your friend.

The deck is stacked against you from the minute you receive the LSO’s letter indicating you are under investigation. Even in cases where the violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct is minor, or there are significant mitigating circumstances, at the end of the day you may very well be pleading guilty to professional misconduct and facing a penalty and a costs order. You need an objective voice to advise you as to whether a deal is appropriate or whether you should fight and how to proceed.


3. You are not up to date on the relevant case law and rules for hearings.

The evidentiary rules that you would be used to in court do not always apply in the tribunal process. Moreover, the case law evolves over time. You are not likely well versed in the most recent. And as you are in the crosshairs of the discipline process, you may not be utilizing your best research and analytical skills to find and assess relevant supporting cases.


4. Focusing on defending yourself will detract from your ability to run the rest of your practice.

You will inevitably get caught up in the importance of defending yourself and your other files will suffer, to the point that it could create additional complaints. Or even worse, you are so certain of your innocence that you do not take the defence seriously.


5. You lack the objectivity.

This is the most important item on this list. Generally speaking you have ended up on this predicament because of one of two reasons: (i) you have knowingly done something really bad hoping you wouldn’t get caught; or (ii) you have a mental health issue, addiction, or some other outside stressor impinging on your ability to properly manage your practice. 


Given that, it goes without saying that you simply do not possess the mental clarity, the lawyerly objectivity, or the time to mount an adequate defence. Almost every lawyer going through the discipline process suffers from some situational anxiety and depression. And that only makes sense, when your reputation and career may hang in the balance. If you had a mental health issue which led to the LSO troubles, this will inevitably get worse. If you did not have such issues before, get ready for it.


I have had more than one client in the last year who had failed suicide attempts as they thought it was the only way out. Trying to represent yourself will have a twofold effect: (a) for the five reasons noted above, you may not come out of the process with the best result possible; and (b) it will take an additional toll on your already fragile mental health. 


Take the advice you would give to anyone else — hire a lawyer who knows what he or she is doing in this area of law, and do not self-rep.


Darryl Singer is a lawyer at Diamond & Diamond Lawyers LLP and regularly represents lawyers and other professionals at disciplinary tribunals.


 ** This article  was originally published by The Lawyers Daily 

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MALPRACTICE: Observations on Lawyer Discipline in Ontario

Part I: Introduction to Lawyer Discipline in Ontario

The term, “malpractice” is not commonly used in Ontario, it being a more popular term stateside, but it is an excellent descriptor of the wide array of activities that the Law Society governs and enforces as a matter of discipline. The term, “malpractice” is imprecise, even in those jurisdictions that actively use the term, and probably includes both negligence as well as professional misconduct (and, as we shall see, the line between the two can often blur), but this article will focus entirely on professional misconduct rather than professional negligence per se


As a bencher of the Law Society of Ontario, I have had the privilege of sitting on the Proceedings Authorization Committee (“PAC”) for my entire time at the Law Society. It is a unique and ideal vantage point from which to observe professional misconduct since all matters that proceed to discipline must first be presented to, and ultimately authorized by, PAC. 


I have been asked to provide this article on lawyer discipline for the Federation of Ontario Law Association’s Practice Resource website. It is based on a similar, slightly narrower (in context) paper to be delivered at the 16th Annual Real Estate Law Summit hosted by the Law Society. Given the genesis of the article, there is a slight real estate flavor to the text, but the article is intended for all Ontario lawyers, regardless of practice area and regardless of sector (yes, in-house and public sector lawyers can also be disciplined for malpractice!). In terms of style, I have left it relatively “breezy” and somewhat deliberately bereft of detailed examples or rule citations (details of discipline examples makes the paper unnecessarily “personal”, and rule citations are easy enough to find if one really needs to know the exact wording of a given prohibited conduct). 


This article has three substantive sections. Firstly, there is a discussion of some miscellaneous comments on discipline, including a discussion on the likely nature of complainants, some observations about the role of PAC, the requirement for good character, and “conduct unbecoming”, a form of malpractice that occurs outside of the practice of law. 


Secondly, there is a discussion of some of the discrete types of conduct that Ontario lawyers are being disciplined for (although, curiously, files rarely manifest as discrete malpractice occurrences – more often, a lawyer subject to discipline has breached several rules at once). These are not the “top” malpractice events in terms of severity – those are more obvious and do not require much in the way of observation (e.g. criminal conduct, misappropriation of money, sexual offences, conflicts of interest, etc.). Likewise, the matters discussed in this section of the paper are not the “top” malpractice events in terms of frequency -- those too are relatively obvious and do not require much in the way of observation (e.g. failure to report, failure to pay fees, failure to meet CPD requirements, etc.). Given the fluid nature of website publication, I am hoping to grow this section of the paper over time, as more discipline matters of interest cross my plate.


Finally, this paper concludes with a discussion of what I call the “hierarchy of discipline” – in effect, a summary of, and observations on, the progressive discipline remedies available to the Law Society in responding to malpractice. This is a useful read for all lawyers. 


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Jeffrey W. Lem

Jeffrey W. Lem