The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Alex Shalashniy


Civil lawsuits against states: Are they worth it?

By Alex Shalashniy October 4, 2013 4 October 2013

Where should the justice system end and international affairs begin? 

The recent lawsuit filed by Sherri Wise in the BC Supreme Court against the Islamic Republic of Iran to collect damages in connection with injuries suffered in a Jerusalem Suicide bombing in 1997 carried out by Hamas will be the first real case brought under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, recently enacted, in part, to remove jurisdictional immunity for states that support terrorism (namely Iran and Syria).

Coincidentally, traditional notions of state immunity are also being challenged in the Supreme Court of Canada in the Estate of the Late Zahra (Ziba) Kazemi, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran. (The CBA will be intervening in the case.  It is arguing that Section 3(1) of the State Immunity Act providing for state immunity in the Canadian justice system should be interpreted in light of the Convention Against Torture , which allows victims of torture redress in the legal systems of State parties.  

Given the prospect of at least some d├ętente between Iran and the West, it is worth asking whether citizens exercising new rights of action against foreign governments will serve Canada’s national interest. Or will it serve to complicate efforts to ease relations with a country such as Iran? Is it worth it, considering the often limited options with respect to seizing assets to execute judgment? Indeed, the effect for victims may very well be minimal and the victories hollow.

(More after the jump)

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Mansbridge on Canada and the legal profession

By Alex Shalashniy August 20, 2013 20 August 2013

Peter Mansbridge, lead correspondent of the CBC, well known Canadian and holder of six honourary doctorates in law opened CLC 2013 in the first plenary session on Sunday.   On top of telling stories of meeting presidents and prime ministers, including being mistaken by CNN International correspondents for the President of Poland at Pope John Paul II’s funeral in 2005, Mansbridge tried to distill the essence of what it means to be a Canadian for delegates at the CLC.

Canada as a caring nation was the crux of his idea, as illustrated by three stories he shared with the delegates.  The first had to do with Sri Lankan children being cared for by three Vancouver nurses who funded an independent aid mission to Sri Lanka after it was ravaged by the 2004 Tsunami, having been left with the indelible idea of “Canada good”.  The second story had to do with parents taking their children to see a parade of Canadian WWII veterans in the Netherlands to learn “what a Canadian is”.  Finally, the last story had to do with an Afghan former refugee who went back to Afghanistan with CIDA to teach women how to interpret the new Afghan constitution to show the local women ‘what was possible in a country that is free.’

In helping to promote Canada as a caring nation, the legal profession needs to respond to the challenges identified in The Future of Legal Services in Canada: Trends and Issues, Mansbridge said. These challenges such as globalization, rapidly changing technology and the rise of consumer power are all common between the legal profession and the media and must be embraced to help both the media and legal profession continue building Canada as a caring nation.

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Going solo

By Alex Shalashniy August 18, 2013 18 August 2013

Three senior lawyers, Paul McLaughlin, W. Brent Gough Q.C. and Edward P. Gallagher gave an interesting talk at #CLC2013’s “Law Practice Bootcamp” today for lawyers either running their own firms or who might be considering moving to a solo practice.  The question is: Is a solo practice right for you?

Is solo the right path?

Solo practice has its real benefits.  In the words of Paul McLaughlin, "a small firm, with a loyal base of clients is the safest place to be in the economy right now with a broad enough base to absorb potential client losses."  However, to truly succeed one needs to possess what McLaughlin terms “the solo temperament.”  The hallmarks of this temperament involve fourteen or so character traits with the most important being entrepreneurial, self-motivating and going into solo practice with the idea that one will have to run a business, because, after all, law is a business

Brent Gough offered words of wisdom to young lawyers just starting out to be more selective in taking on cases in a general practice.  Curtailing the “fear of starvation”, as he said, is key to taking one’s firm to where they actually want to go, as opposed to the place guided by client cold calls.  Asking for retainers is also a key strategy in both client selection and ensuring one gets paid at the end of the day.   Referring clients to better-experienced colleagues should also not be feared due to the fact that clients satisfied with their service may very well come back to their original contact for future legal needs.

Run!!!! Social media is coming!

Social media also can’t be ignored, particularly for small firms. Alberta lawyer Ed Gallagher (@PatriotLaw) and ‘amateur social media guru’ gave the group a number of helpful tips with social media.   He pointed out that many of the publications regarding marketing codes of conduct such as the CBA Code of Professional Conduct (2009), the Guidelines for Ethical Marketing Practices Using New Information Technologies (2009) or each code of conduct in the provinces or applicable law society rules were published in the nascence of social media (yes, even 2009).  Primary to his presentation was the fact lawyers should be vigilant from providing legal advice online (thereby unwittingly creating a solicitor-client relationship), but maintain a fun social media presence and not default to the typical "soap box" style of law firm social media presentations characterized by constantly disclaimed posts a lack of personal interaction.   Sadly, too many firms maintain a boring presence online.  

An online marketing tip

Maintaining a good online presence isn’t difficult or expensive.  A solid strategy put forward by Gallagher that many firms should try is to pay a social media consultant (the cost is surprisingly cheap) to ensure a few posts go up every week.  These consultants can scour the Internet for relevant material and then have lawyers review potential posts.   Hiding from the Internet is not an option, it is here to stay managing risk and reputation is a key skill for lawyers in the 21st century to understand. 

Stay personal and don’t be dull!




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Alex Shalashniy is graduate of the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law and practices corporate law in Regina. He was the winner of the CBA's 2012 Edward K. Rowan-Legg Award.

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