April 3, 2017
3 April 2017
Banking giant Wells Fargo fires 5,300 employees for opening fake accounts, which would later cost the CEO his job. Stadium caterer Centerplate fires its CEO after elevator video surfaces showing him kicking a dog, but not before the matter is painfully stretched out over days amid much second-guessing and threats of food boycotts. Soccer giant FIFA finds itself embroiled in bribery allegations over the World Cup. The Russian Olympic federation engages in mass doping.
What do these seemingly disparate scandals have in common? At the centre of their storm is some form of alleged bad conduct by key actors in the organization, showing critical ethical lapses that exposed their organizations to risk.
“Conduct risk” is quickly emerging as a leading threat in-house counsel and their C-level executives must manage. It comes at a time when regulators, legislators and a grumpy public are aiming their arrows at what seems to be a growing phenomenon of bad behaviour across both corporate and public institutions.
March 31, 2017
31 March 2017
In its landmark search and seizure ruling in R. v. Spencer, the Supreme Court was unanimous that real-time requests made by police to link Canadians’ IP addresses with basic subscriber information required a warrant, except in exigent circumstances. At least that appeared to be the obvious conclusion.
“Some degree of anonymity is a feature of much internet activity and depending on the totality of the circumstances, anonymity may be the foundation of a privacy interest that engages constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” the court wrote, in declaring a warrantless access regime being used by Canadian police to be unconstitutional.
But new documents suggest that Ottawa is entertaining a somewhat different read of that court decision.
A background document, obtained under access to information laws from Public Safety Canada, reads that “the Court stated that where [basic subscriber information] can reveal a person’s ‘personal choices or lifestyles,’ which may be compared to the ‘biographical core information’ protected under s.8 of the Charter, a reasonable law, warrant, or exigent circumstances are required for that information to be obtained lawfully.”
March 30, 2017
30 March 2017
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that law societies can suspend lawyers for not completing their mandatory continuing professional development. The top court held that the Law Society of Manitoba should enjoy “considerable latitude” in making rules that are the public interest.
Justice Richard Wagner wrote for the court:
To ensure that those standards have an effect, the Law Society must establish consequences for those who fail to adhere to them. As a practical matter, an unenforced educational standard is not a standard at all, but is merely aspirational.
A suspension is a reasonable way to ensure that lawyers comply with the CPD program’s educational requirements. Its purpose relates to compliance, not to punishment or professional competence. Other consequences, such as fines, may not ensure that the Law Society’s members comply with those requirements. An educational program that one can opt out of by paying a fine is not genuinely universal. I am mindful of the fact that in making these mandatory rules, the Law Society was responding to the reality that many lawyers in Manitoba had not complied with the CPD program when it was voluntary.
The Olympic Games – these words conjure up images of national anthems, medal counts, and the world’s best athletes competing for glory on the international stage.
But for many, reports of widespread human rights violations in the lead-up to the 2008, 2014 and 2016 Games overshadowed the excitement of watching the world’s finest go for gold.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has heeded calls from human rights organizations and other groups to establish the protection of human rights as a core value of the Games. In February, the IOC announced that it had revised its Host City Contract for the 2024 Games to strengthen human rights protections, including its first explicit reference to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The amended contract states that host cities are required to:
protect and respect human rights and ensure any violation of human rights is remedied in a manner consistent with international agreements, laws and regulations applicable in the Host Country and in a manner consistent with all internationally-recognized human rights standards and principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, applicable in the Host Country.
So, will this amendment really have an impact on the actions of future hosts?
March 29, 2017
29 March 2017
Catrin Griffiths reports that mid-tier firms are right to worry about PwC’s recent decision to snap up half of GE’s tax department – along with 600 of its lawyers – as part of a five-year deal to provide tax services to the multinational conglomerate, starting April 1:
So here’s the initial question for PwC: how long can you get away with providing business services to a market you are also competing with? Isn’t this doomed?
The answer is no, it’s not in the slightest bit doomed. PwC has been consistently smart about what it wants long-term, and right now what it’s doing is disrupting its own business. However strong its law firm consultancy service is, it pales into insignificance against the growth potential of its legal arm, which grossed £60m in the UK last year alone with a 24 per cent increase in billings. Yes, PwC may have lost audit clients among the top 100 – Burges Salmon and Ince & Co being two examples – but at the same time, it has won Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freehills. Neither CC nor HSF is likely to have sleepless nights over PwC as a competitor; they’re too busy worrying about the US firms.
Part of the worry for law firms, understandably, resides in what one industry watcher called a “rapid blurring of the boundaries between what used to be thought of as separate and distinct professional services.”
Fair enough. But another takeaway is that that PWC’s efforts are really a confirmation that clients see value in the delivery of in-house legal services.
Meaning of consent
March 28, 2017
28 March 2017
There is no right to sue for “involuntary parenthood.” That’s according to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in PP v DD, which upheld a lower court decision to toss out a father’s lawsuit against his former female sexual partner for making him a parent before he wanted to become one.
The decision helps prevent tort law from being used to control women by making them pay – literally – for the consequences of their reproductive choices.
I wrote about the lower court decision last year, arguing that it was the right call for women’s reproductive autonomy.
Let’s back up and recall the facts: PP, the male plaintiff (a doctor), and DD, the female defendant (who also worked in health care), had a brief sexual relationship in 2014. PP understood that DD took birth control pills, so they did not use condoms. DD became pregnant and informed PP, who suggested that she have an abortion. DD decided to have the baby, born in early 2015.
March 27, 2017
27 March 2017
An anniversary might be thought an occasion for commemorating the event to which it refers. Not so, apparently, the sesquicentennial of Confederation. Celebrations are due to take place, to be sure, but a visitor to Canada might be forgiven for wondering what it is that we are about to celebrate. He or she might head to the government’s Canada 150 website, and find plenty of information about the festivities that are due to occur―but precious little about the historical events that we will, or will not, be marking. Yet in case you forgot, July 1 will be the anniversary of the coming into force of what we now call the Constitution Act, 1867.
This lack of interest in one part of our constitution is all the more remarkable when contrasted with the attention being showered on another―the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is turning 35 this year, and the Canadian government wants to make sure we know. A special section of the Department of Justice’s website, complete with nifty graphics, is dedicated to the Charter’s 35th anniversary, while the Justice Minister herself is travelling the country speaking and tweeting. There was indignation when the previous government ignored the Charter’s 30th. The watchword this time seems to be “never again”―except, that is, for that pesky old Constitution Act.
March 24, 2017
24 March 2017
CBA National sat down with author and analyst of the global legal market (and former editor-in-chief of this publication) Jordan Furlong to talk about his just released book, Law Is A Buyer’s Market: Building a Client-First Law Firm in which he describes a rebalancing of power in the legal marketplace from sellers towards buyers, and offers some guidance on how law firms can respond to this fundamental shift.
CBA National: What surprised you the most about writing this book?
Jordan Furlong: I suppose one of the positive, unexpected takeaways is that we're not as far behind, collectively speaking, as we might otherwise have expected to be. When I first approached the subject, I proceeded on the assumption that there really weren't very many examples of law firms or organizations that are making strides towards becoming the kind of legal service supplier that the legal market requires. And I'm happy to report that there really are some. The obvious ones that are always mentioned – and they should be. In the U.S. Bryan Cave is a clear leader; Littler Mendelson, which of course now has an office in Toronto; Seyfarth Shaw. Some other firms don't get quite as much attention but are making strides in this direction: Perkins Coie is one of those; Davis Wright Tremaine certainly. Here in Canada, Gowlings usually heads my list of firms that are making real strides in this direction. But McCarthy's is making a serious investment and so is Osler. Among increasingly innovative Canadian firms, there’s Blakes and Torys too. I think the primary value in that for lawyers and law firms is they can say, “look, this can be done and it is being done right now in the market. There's no reason why we can't do it either.” And they can point them out to more skeptical colleagues.
N: So let’s say a firm recognizes that law is now a buyer’s market and is ready to align their innovation strategy, their interests and priorities with those of their clients. Where do you start?
March 22, 2017
22 March 2017
The federal budget proposes to spend $55 million over five years to hire new judges, aimed mostly at Alberta and Yukon, to speed up the trial process in Canada.
The prospect that scores of charges being thrown out due to trial delays caused by an over-burdened court system has been top-of-mind since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling last year in R. v. Jordan, setting a ceiling on delays at trial.
In fact, dozens of cases have been stayed, with Crown counsel shouldering the blame for not bringing cases forward fast enough. Lawyers across the country have called for a hike in spending to hire more judges, help legal aid, and streamline the court administration process.
March 22, 2017
22 March 2017
When progressive political leaders remind us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” the statement includes a caveat – that the arc does not travel in a straight line and that there will be setbacks.
But for climate activists, for whom time is of the essence, setbacks are to be avoided at all cost. “Do not backtrack” has become something of a rallying cry against regressive government action (or inaction).
In legal terms, that has led to calls for the recognition of the principle of non-regression in environmental law and policy, even as a fundamental human right. As University of Ottawa law professor Lynda Collins explains in the video above (around the 3:20 minute mark), non-regression means that part of one’s right to a healthy environment is to “have today’s level of environmental protection preserved.”
The Supreme Court
March 20, 2017
20 March 2017
Just what are “exigent circumstances,” anyway?
Turns out, they’re pretty specific.
“‘Exigent circumstances’ denotes not merely convenience, propitiousness or economy, but rather urgency,” wrote the majority of the Supreme Court in a decision passed down on Friday. “Even where exigent circumstances are present, however, they are not, on their own, sufficient to justify a warrantless search of a residence.”
The ruling, R. v. Paterson, offers new guidance and framework on when police can enter and search a private residence without a warrant. What’s clear is that it’s a very high bar.
March 15, 2017
15 March 2017
Economists will tell you that trust is necessary for a stable economy. So what are we to make of growing concerns about what businesses do with the personal data of internet users?
Poll after poll shows that consumers simply don’t trust companies with their data and are losing faith in government’s ability to protect their personal information. Meanwhile, regulators around the world struggle to keep pace with technology and business models that are, by nature, anti-privacy; at the same time they worry that overly stringent rules could dampen growth in the digital economy which is expected to contribute an estimated $4-trillion to major economies.
“Today, the digital economy is the economy,” Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development, said in a speech last year. In fact, mass data has become a valuable asset. Whether it’s vacuumed up by mobile or other internet devices, consumer data increasingly drives business decisions. Web-based giants like Google and Facebook are earning fat profits from targeted advertising.