The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Ann Macaulay

The practice

Is your data safe?

By Ann Macaulay May 2, 2016 2 May 2016

Is your data safe?

Privacy and confidentiality concerns took centre stage in April in the wake of Panamanian-based law firm Mossack Fonseca’s massive data leak. The theft of millions of its confidential documents exposed the names of the firm’s clients and their use of offshore shell companies and tax havens.

Founding partner Roman Fonseca told Reuters the firm had ruled out an internal leak of the information. “This is not a leak. This is a hack,” he said. But whether the documents were leaked by an insider or hacked by an outsider, the big question is: What firm will be next?

“Law firms are appealing and sought-after targets,” said Dan Pinnington, vice president claims prevention and stakeholder relations at Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company in Toronto. “We’ve got loads of sensitive and confidential information, frequently have large sums of money in the trust accounts, bank accounts and, relative to many of our clients and particularly bigger institutions or corporate clients, we tend to have weaker security. So the hackers literally come after us.”

More than 80 per cent of American law firms have had some type of breach, according to a 2015 Bloomberg article. And there’s a wide range of hackers out there, including foreign governments, hacktivists, organized or petty criminals—even high schoolers trying their luck at breaking into a firm’s files.

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M&A

The art of the deal: a look at M&A in 2016

By Ann Macaulay January 5, 2016 5 January 2016

The art of the deal: a look at M&A in 2016

The low dollar, uncertain commodity prices and Canada’s new government are all factors at play in M&A projections for the new year, says Pavan Jawanda, an associate at McCarthy Tétrault in Vancouver.

The unseating of the Conservative government in favour of the Liberals in the October federal election appears to have affected the timing of some deals that are already in the market, says Jawanda, who specializes in mergers and acquisitions.

“Some sellers are sitting on some large capital gains and are of the view that they need to close a deal and crystallize some of those gains before year-end because of some potential tax uncertainty in 2016,” he says. “Potential tax changes, in and of themselves, aren’t driving companies to do deals they wouldn’t have otherwise done but they do seem to be affecting the timing of some deals that are already in the market.”

Jawanda says his firm has been busy over the past several months with a number of cross-border and international deals involving U.S. and foreign investors that are interested in building a Canadian presence and there is some expectation that the general trend in deal activity will continue into 2016, driven by a low Canadian dollar. “Now that currency analysts are forecasting that the lower dollar might be the new norm for the foreseeable future, it seems to be giving some foreign investors the comfort to get a deal done in a reasonable time frame.”

Uncertainty about commodity prices means some blockbuster deals in those areas may be sitting on the sidelines, but that’s by no means the whole story for M&A activity. “While deal volume in resource-based industries is still understandably lighter than levels from a couple of years ago, private mid-market and public deal activity in industries such as tech, consumer products, manufacturing and financial services seems to be thriving.”

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Health & Fitness

Creating a healthy workplace

By Ann Macaulay December 10, 2015 10 December 2015

Creating a healthy workplace

Staying physically and mentally healthy can be a big challenge in the high-stakes world of law. That’s why many law firms are turning to wellness programs to help attract and keep employees, boost morale, improve job satisfaction and reduce the costs of absenteeism and disability.

Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Toronto has an employee assistance program, a comprehensive extended health plan, annual flu shot clinics and subsidized fitness club memberships. The firm also uses CAREpath, which helps cancer patients navigate the health-care system.

“We think that healthy employees make a better workforce,” says David Tuck, director of HR, Compensation and Benefits Tuck. “And a better workforce makes for better client relations.”

When employees get sick, they’re encouraged to stay home – Tuck points out that technology allows everyone to do much of their work remotely.

McMillan LLP’s health and wellness program has been around for about a decade, says HR director Nisha Rider, who notes employees “need to be very resilient in what is a very challenging profession.”

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Leading the way on mental health

By Ann Macaulay October 27, 2015 27 October 2015

Leading the way on mental health

It’s no secret that lawyers have higher rates of depression than the general population. They suffer at a rate 3.6 times higher than non-lawyers, according to a frequently cited 1990 study. Others are dealing with a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, stress, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But the stigma surrounding mental illness leads to many lawyers keeping it a secret. Their fear of being seen as weak and potentially putting their jobs at risk leads them to suffer in silence. “Depression cries out vulnerability and weakness to many people,” says Ontario Bar Association President Orlando Da Silva, who has spoken openly over the past year about his own struggles with depression. “I was worried about permanent damage to my career and an inability to attract clients—especially as a trial lawyer, where you’re supposed to be strong and deal with people’s most difficult problems.”

The costs to the profession of not addressing mental health issues—both personally and financiallyare huge. Most lawyers who suffer from depression function at a very high level, says Da Silva, and work tends to be the last thing affected by it. But he describes his own “presenteeism,” when he’d be working late trying to concentrate on simply writing a letter. He could only think about how miserable he felt. “One of the costs for the firm for that of course is time that gets written off. That’s in addition to others who leave the practice or leave the firm and go into something they think is more manageable given their condition. And that’s a cost.”

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The practice

Lunch with Mahmud Jamal and W. David Rankin

By Ann Macaulay September 14, 2015 14 September 2015

Lunch with Mahmud Jamal and W. David Rankin

THE DINERS

 

The partner: Mahmud Jamal, Litigation Partner, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Toronto

Background: Jamal has argued 32 appeals before the Supreme Court of Canada. He is pro bono counsel for the CBA in the case of AG Canada v. Chambre des notaires du Québec, scheduled to be heard by the top court in November

The associate:  W. David Rankin, Litigation Associate, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, Toronto

Background: Rankin joined Osler in 2012 after serving as a law clerk to Mr. Justice Morris J. Fish of the Supreme Court of Canada. He carries on a general commercial litigation practice.

 

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