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The Canadian Bar Association

Julie Sobowale

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Does your office need an ombudsperson?

By Julie Sobowale June 16, 2017 16 June 2017

Does your office need an ombudsperson?

 

Melanie Raymond vividly remembers her first impression of law firm culture as an articling student.

“I was surprised in my first encounters with fellow colleagues about how everybody was bragging about being overloaded with work,” says Raymond, a commissioner at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. “I was surprised how this was something that was seen as positive.”

Every workplace culture is different – and those differences can lead to conflict. In a diverse work environment, it’s easy to miscommunicate and a simple misunderstanding can quickly escalate into a full-blown fight. 

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Corporate counsel

Blockchain for in-house counsel

By Julie Sobowale June 16, 2017 16 June 2017

Blockchain for in-house counsel

 

Jillian Friedman fell into the Bitcoin world three years ago. After finishing her articles, she started taking notice of the cryptocurrency and began working with the Bitcoin Embassy in early 2014.

“I started reading a lot about Bitcoin and went down the rabbit hole,” says Friedman. “I’m not a libertarian but I was intrigued by the application of libertarian philosophy to a technology and economic system.”

Friedman quickly became an expert in blockchain and the National Bank of Canada took notice. The bank hired her in 2015 to focus on technology law. She believes blockchain will have a big effect in commerce.

“I’m far more involved in the business side of things,” says Friedman. “I’ve been working closely by tech people for two years. It makes my job to identify risks a lot easier. I learn how things work.”

Blockchain is the legal tech darling of the year. Beyond the hype, blockchain is revolutionary technology that could change how we interact with one another. From financial transactions to health records, blockchain promises to be the next major legal tech frontier.

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Digital communications

Netflix tax may be coming soon to Canada

By Julie Sobowale March 2, 2017 2 March 2017

Netflix tax may be coming soon to Canada

 

Are your Netflix and chill plans in danger? That’s what’s headlines have been saying in recent weeks with the federal government contemplating levying additional taxes on streaming services. While it’s unknown if and when a tax would be levied, the debate raises issues of digital media, Canadian content and tax reform.

The story of Netflix began in 1997 when the company was sending DVDs by mail to consumers. In 2007 the company launched its streaming services and in 2013 started to release its own original content. Netflix expanded into Canada in 2010 and is now operating in more than 190 countries. Even as other competitors move into the market – including Amazon Prime Video and Bell’s CraveTV – Netflix remains the leader in streaming services. This new market has created issues for Canada on how to deal with online content from foreign companies.

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Practice hub

Making the most of media attention

By Julie Sobowale September 27, 2016 27 September 2016

Making the most of media attention

Jason van Rassel has been the “approacher” in this scenario hundreds of times. The former Calgary Herald justice reporter is now the journalist-in-residence at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law, and teaches law students about a variety of media topics – from pitching stories to the media to managing crisis communications.

“Reporters and lawyers don’t do the same things, but both have respective roles in keeping a court open to the public,” says Rassel. “There should be a cooperative relationship.”

Lawyers shouldn’t be afraid of the spotlight, he adds: the media can be a great benefit to your clients and your practice.

To attract media coverage, consider your audience and the story you want to tell.

 

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Corporate counsel

Crisis 101: A survival guide for in-house counsel

By Julie Sobowale April 14, 2016 14 April 2016

Crisis 101: A survival guide for in-house counsel

What began as a simple recall of cars became front-page news. On February 7, 2014, General Motors ordered the recall of 800,000 vehicles due to faulty ignition switches. GM told the public that the switches could malfunction, causing the engine to stall and the airbags not to deploy. GM revealed that it knew as early as 2004 about the faculty switches that caused 124 deaths and 275 people to be injured. After an internal investigation conducted by external counsel, 15 executives were fired. By the end of 2014, nearly 30 million cars where recalled and $900 million was paid out to the U.S. government for a compensation fund for victims’ families. 

Meanwhile another car company is in the middle of a crisis. In 2014, American and European regulators noticed discrepancies in Volkswagen vehicles when testing emissions. This was not an accident. Volkswagen programmed their cars to show low levels of emissions in laboratory testing when in real-world scenarios the car emits up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide. By September 2015, under pressure from U.S. regulators, Volkswagen admitted to cheating.

Crises destroy companies. While GM and Volkswagen may seem like rare nightmare scenarios, their tales of lies and cover-ups can happen to any organization. In-house counsel must be prepared for the worst and help their organizations be in the best position not only to survive but be better.

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