The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

Legal marketplace

The growing prestige of the legal ops professional

By Yves Faguy November 15, 2016 15 November 2016

We live in pretty fluid times, where all professionals are seeking out a competitive edge. Over the last few years much of the discussion in legal circles has focused on how the legal industry has shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. The presumption flowing from that is that the shift is empowering in-house counsel who are increasingly demanding that external firms do more for less.

Now, things move slowly in the legal world.  Altman Weil, in its 2016 Chief Legal Officer Survey, revealed something interesting recently that D. Casey Flaherty picks up on, namely that law departments are, more often than not, neglecting to ask their firms to change their ways:

Reorganizing those numbers a bit, only 30.8% of CLOs rate themselves satisfied because they generally are (17.4%) or because they are pleased with their results from asking for change (13.4%). Of 69.2% who are not satisfied, the vast majority have not exercised their inherent authority to ask for change because they are focused only on outcomes/don't think it is their job to ask (43.2%) or have simply taken their business elsewhere (11.7%). The remaining 14.5% asked for change but did not get it.

This is what one might call an impasse:

  • Law firms are waiting on clients to make them change

  • Clients are waiting on law firms to be proactive or change in response to market pressure

Well, it's an impasse that may not last for long.  Thomson Reuters released a report, in which it fully acknowledges that there are no dramatic shifts in change implementation strategies carried out by law departments, save perhaps one. GCs are relying more and more on legal department operations professionals:

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Trade

NAFTA: Goodbye to all that?

By Yves Faguy November 11, 2016 11 November 2016

Canada and Mexico, it seems, are now happy to renegotiate NAFTA. But what if a President Donald Trump were really to scrap NAFTA, as he has promised he would if he can’t what he wants out of renegotiations? Article 2205 stipulates that “a Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written  notice of withdrawal to the other Parties.” It’s unclear whether Trump could act alone or whether he would require a vote from Congress. Still it’s worth remembering, there is still an underlying 1989 Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Canada, which was never repealed. Thomas Walkom suggests that the end of NAFTA wouldn’t be all bad for Canada because, contrary to NAFTA, the 1989 FTA doesn’t have an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism:

A 2015 study found that of the completed NAFTA disputes involving Canada, roughly half were decided in favour of the corporations.

Others never made it to the dispute-resolution stage because Canadian governments caved in.

By contrast, no Canadian corporate attempt to challenge U.S. laws under NAFTA has ever succeeded.

In short, a U.S. decision to pull out of NAFTA could benefit this country. Technically, Canada and Mexico could continue on with the pact. But it was designed around the giant U.S. market and makes little sense without it.

Wishful thinking perhaps. Michael Geist tries to guess at what NAFTA renegotiations might look like:

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The judiciary

When newspapers call judges traitors

By Yves Faguy November 4, 2016 4 November 2016

 

The London High Court ruling that Parliament must get a say in triggering article 50 has generated plenty of furor, including over this front page headline of the Daily Mail recklessly declaring the judges to be “enemies of the people.”

Here are some other unsettling headlines from the gutter press.

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Legal marketplace

MLT Aikins: Western Canada’s law firm

By Yves Faguy October 6, 2016 6 October 2016

 

In 2017, Saskatchewan’s largest law firm, MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman, will merge with Manitoba’s leading firm, Aikins MacAulay & Thorvaldson, to form MLT Aikins LLP in what is being billed as Western Canada’s law firm.  CBA National caught up with Don Wilson (pictured above), managing partner of MLT and incoming managing partner of the new entity to ask him what was behind the tie-up.

CBA National:    What were the main drivers for the mergers?

Don Wilson: There were two imperatives in our growth. One, we wanted to stay in Western Canada because we felt that was our sweet spot. Those were the people and businesses we understood. Secondly, we decided we would never grow in any fashion that jeopardized our culture. Lots of firms talk about it; we actually live it. We have this team approach to things. Nobody says “my client.” We all operate out of the same profit pool. We don’t have a head office mentality. So we wanted to be careful and measured in doing it because of culture.

N: So why Aikins?

DW: Well we have known and respected Aikins forever. I’ve certainly talked to their managing partners and senior people over the years. It sounds counterintuitive, but we also felt the best way to solidify our credibility of the claim of Western Canada’s law firm, was to add the fourth western province to our team. We felt the best way for us to grow in Alberta and BC was to do this with the preeminent Manitoba firms. Obviously they dominate in Manitoba, we have continued strength in Saskatchewan. Aikins also has significant contacts in Alberta and BC and now we can go to those marketplaces with 250 lawyers with wide variety of bench strength and expertise. From Aikins’ perspective, about a year and a half ago when they heard about our BC move, they were looking at redesigning their playing field. They loved the Western Canada firm concept.

N: Why is that western identity so important?

DW: The Canadian economy is, generally speaking, a commodity based economy right across the West. Everyone in Canada understands the oil patch largely in Alberta. But I don’t think they fully understand that commodities go way beyond that. There’s obviously forestry, uranium, potash, hard rock mining of all sorts. There is a common thread to the businesses in these provinces.

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Editor's Message

For a more informed public

By Yves Faguy September 27, 2016 27 September 2016

 

Canadians are a trusting bunch when it comes to our legal institutions.

On the surface at least, recent surveys show that we still have a healthy dose of confidence in our justice system, with roughly 6 out of 10 Canadians generally satisfied.

Dig a little into the anecdotal evidence, however, as the CBA’s Reaching Equal Justice report did in 2013, and you’ll hear a different story.

The most common complaint one hears from users that have been through our justice system is that it’s confusing, complex and difficult to navigate. Some have described it to be “untrustworthy and broken,” or expressed deep frustration with remedies that “are not meaningful.” Unfortunately people often have unrealistic expectations of legal outcomes, in part because they don’t always have a good grasp of how our justice system works.

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