The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy


Benjamin Alarie on intuition versus the data

By Yves Faguy June 16, 2017 16 June 2017

Benjamin Alarie on intuition versus the data


Over the last few years, we’ve seen artificial intelligence make inroads into every sector of the economy, from health care and education to finance and law. At the CCCA’s National Conference in April, Yves Faguy interviewed Benjamin Alarie, CEO of Blue J Legal, which uses machine learning to help predict tax case outcomes, about the promise that AI holds for law firms and possible pitfalls.

CBA National: There are quite a few legal outfits, here in Canada, moving into the AI space. How do you explain that?

Benjamin Alarie: There are a few different reasons why it’s happening now. One is that legal research for a very long time was purely analog. And then we saw the advent of digital in legal research and now we’re seeing the advent of computational legal research where you’re using applied mathematics to extract information from the digital content. And what facilitates that is the computing power that’s now available and the algorithms that allow us to harness that power and engage in computational legal research.

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The Supreme Court

Words of advice to lawyers from CJ McLachlin

By Yves Faguy June 13, 2017 13 June 2017

Words of advice to lawyers from CJ McLachlin


As the Canadian legal community digests the news that our Chief Justice of 17 years will be retiring in December, here’s some friendly advice Beverley McLachlin shared with us during an interview in 2010  for lawyers appearing before her court:

Think about what the court will need, what it will be grappling with. We regard counsel as sources of assistance in deciding the case. Will spending 20 minutes on facts help the court? Not really. We’ve already read the briefs and know the facts. So how can you best help the court? Maybe it’s by going to the most difficult issue you face. I’m not trying to give a prescription for how a case should be argued. It varies from case to case. But sometimes one gets the feeling that counsel are trying to bury the most difficult issue, or escape by it, and hope no one will notice. Well the chances are not good. In the spirit of being helpful to the judges, go to the most difficult part of the issue. Say ‘Your honours, you will be grappling with this issue. It is a difficult issue. This is what I have to say about it, and this is why I believe you should decide that issue in favour of my client.’ Give the judges the ammunition, the cases and the resources they need.

It’s perhaps obvious advice to many advocates out there, but I’m struck at how often lawyers are surprised when I relay her comments.

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Immigration law

Why Canada needs limits on immigration detention

By Yves Faguy June 12, 2017 12 June 2017

Why Canada needs limits on immigration detention


Immigration detention is a form of administrative detention, and as such should be brief.  But while that may be true for a large majority of immigration cases, says Anthony Navaneelan, a lawyer with the Refugee Law Office at Legal Aid Ontario, we’re seeing more and more cases “where individuals are being detained for extremely long periods of time” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Navaneelan, who was part of a panel discussion on immigration detention at the CBA’s Immigration Law Conference in Toronto last week, was making the case that there should be a clear time limit on immigration detention.  Unlike some other countries, Canada has not set a maximum length of time a person can be held.  Navanaleen proposes that limit be set at two years.

To be fair, the Canadian government has made efforts to reduce the length of detentions in Canada. According to the Canadian Border Services Agency, the average duration in 2016-2017 was 19 days, down from 23 days in 2015-2016. The figure has dropped by 20.4 per cent over the last three years.

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The blockchain patent rush

By Yves Faguy June 6, 2017 6 June 2017

The blockchain  patent rush


Blockchain, the peer-to-peer distributed ledger technology that underlies Bitcoin but which also has other uses, has everyone predicting it will revolutionize everything from banking and finance to insurance and law. That revolution, however, will play out over decades, explain Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani in the Harvard Business Review:

True blockchain-led transformation of business and government, we believe, is still many years away. That’s because blockchain is not a “disruptive” technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly. Blockchain is a foundational technology: It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems. But while the impact will be enormous, it will take decades for blockchain to seep into our economic and social infrastructure. The process of adoption will be gradual and steady, not sudden, as waves of technological and institutional change gain momentum.

But as the Economist reported earlier this year, that hasn’t stopped battle lines from being drawn early over patenting that “foundational” technology – or at least improvements on it.  Among notable companies filing patents are, Apple and Facebook, and the number of filings in the U.S. is tripling each year. But what makes this area of patenting particularly challenging is that open-source nature of core blockchain technology, say Paul Horbal and Brian De Vries:

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Climate law

Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement: The legal picture

By Yves Faguy June 2, 2017 2 June 2017

Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement: The legal picture

Now that the world has expressed profound regret at President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and issued warnings that its terms are non-negotiable, it’s worth pausing to consider what it all means legally.

The most puzzling statement Trump made yesterday is that he wants “a better deal” claiming, “Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in.”

More than a few commentators are calling Trump out on this claim. David Roberts explains:

Paris’s only constraint on Trump comes through intangibles like reputation and influence. It imposes absolutely no practical or legal constraint on his actions — not on trade policy, not on domestic energy policy, nothing.

That means all talk of Paris being a “bad deal” for the US, or hurting US trade, or affecting the US coal industry in any way, is nonsense. Paris does not and cannot do any of those things.

Indeed, though the treaty is technically binding under international law, it is built aound mostly non-binding undertakings. Yes, it requires countries to report on their progress, but the targets themselves are not legally binding. Michael Grunwald offers his best guess at the real motives behind the decision:

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