The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

Q&A

Singapore’s ambitions for the legal industry

By Yves Faguy December 11, 2018 11 December 2018

Singapore’s ambitions for the legal industry

 

Singapore wants to modernize the delivery of legal services to achieve two aims: to make justice more accessible to regular users and to position itself as Asia’s – if not the world’s – state-of-the-art legal hub. Already considered by some the preferred seat for arbitration in Asia, it has recently allowed third-party financing for arbitration-related disputes. On the access-to-justice front, the country is looking at the implementation of scale costs for litigation. CBA National caught up with Mark A. Cohen, CEO of Legal Mosaic, who has recently returned from a residency period at the Singapore Academy of Law, to share with us his impressions.

CBA National: What’s most striking to you about the legal industry in Singapore?

Mark A. Cohen: Well, first of all, it’s the alignment of the different stakeholders —from the Singapore Academy of Law to regulators to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and law schools. They are all focused on improving legal delivery and education, and making Singapore a major regional, if not global, legal player. This effort feeds off Singapore’s enormous success in financial services and fintech and its standing as a dispute resolution and commercial center. I’m just wowed by the thoughtfulness of their game plan to achieve these objectives. I’m also impressed by the understanding and focus on the need to retrain lawyers and legal professionals as well as to take a global view. I’m also impressed by their ability to execute. Singapore is small and nimble, but its resources, brainpower, and global standing is formidable. There’s also a real sense of urgency in this and other initiatives they undertake.

N: Why is there a sense of urgency?

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Law firms

Changes in the marketplace that call for innovation

By Yves Faguy November 21, 2018 21 November 2018

Changes in the marketplace that call for innovation

“An innovator is someone who makes a change in Year One that everyone else has to make in Year Five.”

Michael Torpey knows that from experience. As a practitioner in the 1990s, he spotted an opportunity after the U.S. Congress passed a new law designed to limit frivolous securities lawsuits. It required the first plaintiff filing a securities class action to publish a notice informing potential class members of their right to move to be named lead plaintiff.

“I figured out then that I [knew] where all the cases were being filed around the country,” Torpey said during his keynote address at the CBA’s Law Firm Leadership Conference this month in Toronto. Most of the securities litigators at the time were in New York and San Francisco, he explained. So he prepared an information package for everybody that got sued, paid some visits to some of the targeted companies, and volunteered his time to assess their case.  “For the next two or three years, I got 50 percent of the cases that were filed in the whole U.S,” he said. Apparently, nobody else had thought of doing that, until a couple of years later, when “everybody had thought of it.”

“I had an advantage that went away,” says Torpey, now the managing partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in San Francisco, named by the Financial Times as the most innovative law firm in North America in 2016 and 2017. There’s a lesson in that for law firms, he adds. “If your innovation is good, you get a little bit of edge for a little while. And if it’s not good, even though you spent a lot of money and nobody is following it, well you’re out of luck.”

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Supreme Court

Judges must ensure language rights are respected

By Yves Faguy November 16, 2018 16 November 2018

Judges must ensure language rights are respected

Any person who appears in a federal court must be able to exercise their right to speak in the official language of their choice.  That’s what the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in handing down s decision in Mazraani v. Industrial Alliance Insurance and Financial Services Inc.

“This is a great decision that meets our expectations concerning language rights and access to justice,” says Nicolas Rouleau who represented the Canadian Bar Association as intervener in the matter. “It clearly confirms the equal status of French and English in the federal courts.”

The case involved a representative for Industrial Alliance, Kassem Mazraani who after seeing his contract terminated, sought insurance benefits.  These were refused to him as he was considered to be a contractor for Industrial. Mazraani, who spoke only English, eventually took his case it to the Tax Court of Canada, where he represented himself. But many witnesses, as well as counsel for Industrial, who as intervener had an interest in the outcome of the proceedings, requested to speak in French.

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Q&A

Penelope Simons on getting companies to respect human rights

By Yves Faguy November 14, 2018 14 November 2018

Penelope Simons on getting companies to respect human rights

 

This week, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) published its 2018 report, concluding that most of the 100 companies reviewed are failing to live up to their duties under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Prior to the report’s release, CBA National interviewed Professor Penelope Simons of the University of Ottawa and the recipient of the 2018 Walter S. Tarnopolsky Award, recognized for her contribution to human rights, domestically and internationally, about how to address corporate complicity in human rights abuses.

CBA National: Can you give us a sense first of where we’re at in terms of corporate accountability for human rights violations?

Penelope Simons: This issue has been debated globally for decades. But in the early 2000s, the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights adopted the Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises which were submitted to what is now the Human Rights Council. The HRC rejected them. The Norms were drafted in mandatory language and were essentially a blueprint for a treaty that would impose binding legal obligations on business actors. Both states and businesses were strongly against the development of such obligations. However, the HRC did appoint, Harvard professor John Ruggie, as the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Business and Human Rights. He developed a policy framework and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) to operationalize the policy framework. In 2011 the Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed the Guiding Principles. This was an important step forward, to have widely accepted document addressing business and human rights. However, the UNGPs are also flawed in a number of ways.

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Fintech

Canada’s cautious stance on regulating open banking

By Yves Faguy November 8, 2018 8 November 2018

Canada’s cautious stance on regulating open banking

 

When it comes to banking, Canadians tend to reach for the familiar.  Loyal to a fault, consumers here look to their primary financial institution for most products, even when they suspect they could get a better deal elsewhere.  No surprise then that few have taken notice of the open banking phenomenon sweeping across the globe, particularly in Europe, the U.S. and parts of Asia.

What is open banking? It’s an emerging model, fashioned by a mix of fintech innovation, changing consumer habits and regulatory forces, in which banks are being pressured to open up their customers’ data to third parties. This is done by allowing them to access open APIs, which offer a standard way for programmers to work with code they didn’t write, so that they can develop new and useful financial products for consumers. Those products, in turn, remove much of the hassle — known as friction — that comes with signing up new customers, and getting them to complete transactions using data collected by their banks.

For the consumers, the appeal is in getting better rates on lending rates and more transparency on financial products. 

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