The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

Technology

Can coders really become the new lawyers?

By Yves Faguy September 13, 2016 13 September 2016

Of all the technological advances that could disrupt the legal profession, one of the most intriguing is the decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).

DAO is the latest phenomenon to emerge from another phenomenon: the blockchain.

For those not yet versed in the technology, blockchain is Bitcoin’s core innovation. It serves as a secure digital ledger that records legal rights and so can verify transactions, publicly, without the need of a middleman (such as a lawyer). The fact that it’s public, in theory, makes it far more difficult to carry out fraudulent transactions (some will say impossible, but they might have also said the Titanic was too technologically advanced to sink).

By skipping the middleman, blockchain can help speed up business processes by making it easier for parties to complete transactions and enforce contracts, without involving lawyers. It’s why proponents call it a trust machine.

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Summer issue

Accessing law on demand

By Yves Faguy June 23, 2016 23 June 2016

Accessing law on demand

The marketplace, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

Just ask Uber’s founders, who in a few short years built the world’s most highly valued private company by understanding how hard it is for people to get around town. Airbnb, another champion of the on-demand economy, jumped at the opportunity to help homeowners make money from spare rooms by connecting them to tourists looking for a more authentic travelling experience. There’s also the emerging FinTech sector, credited with helping consumers gain access to credit where banks refuse to offer loans.

How strange then, that the legal industry persistently ignores a massive market of consumers with legal needs that, for whatever reason, continue to go unmet.

For the past couple of years, industry watchers have predicted that law firms will soon meet their Uber moment, as technology loosens the grip they have had on clients for decades.

Canada’s legal market is currently estimated at C$26-billion – a fraction of the U.S. market, now pegged at roughly C$555-billion, but significant nonetheless. Even more astonishing is that up to 85 per cent of Canadians choose not to involve a lawyer to resolve their legal problems.

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Legal innovation

BidSettle: Taking the emotions (and lawyers) out of settlements

By Yves Faguy May 13, 2016 13 May 2016

BidSettle is a new online tool that facilitates online settlements by allowing parties in a dispute to exchange  confidential settlement offers and counter-offers. CBA National sat down with its co-founder and CEO, Alexandre Désy (pictured above; the other co-founder is lawyer Philippe Lacoursiere) about using technology to help give people access to legal solutions.

CBA National: What gap in the market is BidSettle trying to fill?

Alexandre Désy: Well there's a huge gap in the market. Nobody uses legal services anymore except the rich, the poor who can use legal aid, and companies. At the least three quarters of the people don't use legal services anymore. We're trying to help those people help themselves. So a two-day trial will cost you $25,000 to go through the whole process — $50,000 if you take into consideration both parties, and we’re not even [factoring in] the risk and emotional hassle that a three-, or four-year long process will do to you.  So for anything under $60,000, it's not interesting economically to use the justice system.

N: How does BidSettle work?

AD: If you're getting sued for, say $20,000, the website will ask you what is the maximum that you're ready to give to settle, and to the other party it asks it what's the minimum it’s ready to receive to settle. And if they overlap, we split it in half and the settlements are automatically sent to both parties. It's free to use until a settlement is reached. Then we take 2.5 per cent for both parties. We then give back 15 per cent of our profits to access-to-justice initiatives.

N: What kind of cases is it ideal for?

AD: Sometimes emotions are involved and you want to preserve a relationship where people need to say I'm sorry; and so there are a lot of situations where BidSettle doesn't apply. But there are also situations where emotions get into the way and where it's better to have an emotionless process, because some people just can't talk to each other. It's only for cases that can be settled for a [dollar] amount.

N: How often are settlements reached?

AD: We launched [a couple of months] ago, so the stats can't tell us right now with certainty. It also takes time to use the tool because you might not find an overlap right away.

 

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Legal marketplace

Deloitte's growing presence in the Canadian legal marketplace

By Yves Faguy March 14, 2016 14 March 2016

Last week we reported on Deloitte’s recent partnership with Kira Systems.  Today we find out that it has acquired Conduit Law:

The newly formed Deloitte Conduit Law LLP will offer outsourced lawyers to support in-house legal teams, meet business needs on-demand at law firms, and deliver short-term projects or special engagements.

It’s pretty safe to say that this is a major development in the Canadian legal space. It's also telling that Deloitte is making inroads by partnering with some rather innovative players in that space, including Kira systems and Shelby Austin, founder of ATD Legal Services, which she sold a whilke back to Deloitte Canada under the banner of Legal Practice Solutions.  As for Conduit Law, the outfit has always prided itself on taking a client-centric approach, offering value-based billing and avoiding the billable hour business model. What's more, the firm has cut back on overhead by having most of its lawyers work out of their clients’ offices.

Also worth noting is that the Deloitte-Conduit Law deal comes on the heels of Axiom's acquistion of Cognition LLP, another champion of value-based billing. Traditional law firms take note.

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Environment

The race against climate change

By Yves Faguy March 10, 2016 10 March 2016

The race against climate change

 

As 2015 drew to a close, climate activist Bill McKibben compared the climate agreement reached in Paris to an overweight groom-to-be promising to “drop three suit sizes” in time for his wedding date a month away.

No doubt, when it comes to saving the planet, time is of the essence. Blowing past deadlines is hardly a palatable option for any of the 195 states that signed on to a new global governance structure for climate action – one designed to fulfill a promise to keep global temperatures under the warming limit of two degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels by the year 2100.

Leave aside all concerns that it’s far from certain that meeting that goal will spare us from the inferno. Assuming it will be good enough, the question for now is can anyone enforce those promises?

To meet the agreement’s stated goals, a recent study published by the scientific journal Nature reckons the global community will have to leave 80 per cent of global coal, 50 per cent of natural gas and 33 per cent of oil reserves in the ground for at least 25 years. 

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