Lawyers

Legal Research vs. Intellectual Technology

paralegalOne may argue that the backbone of law is legal research but what if legal personnel were no longer required to fill this need?

With technology making its way into every aspect of our lives, it isn’t surprising that incorporated intellectual technology is predicted to overtake simple legal research tasks and replace legal researchers.

On the one hand, this may be a relief to clients as they will no longer be billed for the long hours legal professions spend researching information. Clients will pay a fraction of the price as the intellectual technology will have the ability to obtain the information in a short time span. As legal intellectual technology progresses, the legal searches will become more complex and the answers will be provided much better. Everyone wins! Right? Not exactly.

moneyMany legal professionals, such as paralegals have dedicated a significant amount of their academic careers to master the art of legal research. In larger law firms, lawyers often rely on Paralegals to conduct legal research at a fraction of the cost the lawyers would charge if they had done the research themselves. For an illustration, imagine a lawyer who is paid $300 per hour he/she would charge that amount for every hour spent on finding the answers the client requires. Legal research can vary from a quick 30-minute search to 10 hours of research or more. That’s anywhere from $150 – 3000. Conversely, if a paralegal conducts the search, the lawyer will charge the client much less, for example $100/hr. Consequently, the client pays anywhere from $50 – 1000.

Although many clients believe that $100 for research is excessive, some legal professionals argue that it may seem simplistic but is far from it. Legal professionals are liable for the information they provide, so there is a need for thoroughness. Legal research requires reliable sources which can sometimes result in hours of reading through a statute, case law and government websites. Every issue is treated in a unique manner to assure the best results.

Furthermore, sources are then compared to check for consistency and address any gaps in information. After conducting research, the information is then simplified to ensure that the client can understand what is being conveyed.


What’s your opinion- would you prefer intellectual technology or individuals conducting research on your behalf?

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Points of Discussion:
1. How do you feel about the progression of intellectual technology in the legal field?
 

 

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A Free Women’s Clinic

Everyone should have access to justice but reality can be very different. Over the past 14 years, B.C has reduced its legal aid funding by 40%, leaving many individuals without the assistance they require. Although legal aid provides individuals with up to 25 hours of legal assistance this is far from sufficient for most women.

money Impact

A 40% decrease in funding only leaves enough funding to protect women in high conflict circumstances such as domestic violence victims. Consequently, many women who are not able to obtain legal representation while their husbands can, lose their cases in court. Women are often forced to represent themselves and unable to obtain the same access to justice as someone who would have more resources. Mothers involved in divorce matters are particularly impacted by less funding if they are the primary caregivers for the child but can’t afford a lawyer. For this reason, many paralegals have argued for the chance to represent individuals who cannot afford representation.

 untitledRise Women’s Legal Centre

The Rise Women’s Legal Centre is targeted towards women who require the kind of assistance noted above. Prior to its opening, the phone was already ringing with women seeking help. The lawyers involved were barely surprised as they understood the need for such a clinic. The clinic is situated in British Columbia and made up of multiple lawyers and law students. In Ontario, Paralegals are now permitted to practice family law with the assistance of a lawyer. The courts had declared a legal crisis when numerous individuals chose to self-represent in family law cases as they were unable to afford lawyers.  Individuals were stuck in a limbo where they couldn’t afford legal representation but they also didn’t qualify for legal aid. As a result of self-representation, documents were misfiled and had to be corrected and resubmitted, legal procedures had to be explained in more detail and legal proceedings were delayed.

 

Do you believe this is a step in the right direction?

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Justice For Amanda Todd

bleech

This picture was created by one of her peers. Amanda was tagged in numerous photos similar to this one by her peers after leaving her school. In her video she elaborates on the difficulties she had moving on due to her peers tagging her in similar pictures such as this.

Amanda Todd was 15 when she took her life as a result of online bullying. She was blackmailed into exposing her breasts on webcam to an online predator and was stalked and bullied by him. She changed schools but he found her again and made a Facebook page with her friends showing her breasts as the profile picture. As a result, she was continuously bullied by peers. She committed suicide in October of 2012.  The Canadian justice system is trying to persecute the man allegedly behind this heinous crime, Aydin Coban, but is facing considerable difficulty due to international law regulations.

Aydin Coban resides in the Netherlands and was under suspicion for distributing child porn in Amanda’s case but was not formally charged with her death. Upon further investigation it was determined that Coban had been arrested in January of 2014 for harassing victims online and charges including indecent assault and production and dissemination of child pornography.  A few months later, the RCMP declared that he was also charged with five accounts including extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography in B.C in relation to Amanda Todd’s case. Coban has been suspected of blackmailing youth from all over the world to perform sexual acts over webcam. He is also facing sextortion and distribution of child pornography in a case of another Canadian youth.

Coban’s trial is currently in pretrial-motion hearings stage; the parties argue before a judge what evidence should be admissible, who can or cannot testify and if the case should be dismissed completely. It has been stated that Coban will not be charged in relation to non- Dutch victims (including Amanda). Christian van Dijk, Coban’s lawyer, has disclosed that Coban is on trial for 39 alleged victims. De Bruin, the Canadian lawyer for Todd has stated that Coban could be handed-over to Canadian authorities if the authorities choose to take that path. Conversely, Van Dijk has explained that extradition is not an option so long as the case continues in the Netherlands.

With the expansion and complexity of technology it has become difficult to determine the jurisdiction and legal implications of international crimes. Cybercrime and exploitation have become easier through the internet and various social media facets. Alternatively, these tools also serve to create social awareness and can be used as tool for victims to have a voice. For instance, Amanda Todd made a YouTube video explaining how she was exploited and bullied.

Countless youths are targeted and blackmailed by unknown faces online and then isolated by their peers when their story is brought to the public eye. Unfortunately, there are still individuals who suggest “don’t show your boobs online “is the solution but the topic is far more complex than nudity, legally and morally. Sometimes victims are unaware that photos are being taken of them or being shared. Predators often have information about the victim’s family, their residence, their school and more to manipulate their victims such was Amanda’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E .

What are your thoughts?

Do you believe Coban should have a Canadian trial?

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Disney Philosophy At Work

Disney plays an integral part in our lives as children and then again once we have children. Aside from the fairy tales and princesses being rescued by princes, there were some very wise words of wisdom. Here are some of my favourite Disney quotes to help get me by in the world of work.

“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.” — Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean).
Our approach to addressing a problem often determines what the outcome will be – utter defeat or overcoming the issue. Sometimes taking a step back and re-evaluating the situation can help us re-focus and target the issue more efficiently.

“The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability.” – Remy (Ratatouille)
This is especially true when you work in legal field, you are always thinking on your feet and reprioritizing your responsibilities.  Sometimes we just have to be mentally prepared to have something unpredictable thrown our way to ensure we don’t crumble under pressure when it does appear.

“All you need is faith, trust and a little pixie dust” -Peter Pan in Peter Pan
Well Peter Pan got the gist of it right but pixie dust for most of us is our caffeine fix. Sometimes when you’re overwhelmed with work you just need to have faith that the task will be completed and you’ll get through it with your sanity intact.

“Just keep swimming” – Dory, Finding Nemo
Our work environments can sometimes become so busy we aren’t sure what to do next. Sometimes it’s just a matter of continuing to plow through the work until it’s done.

“Things don’t always work out the first time but keep trying” – Donald Duck
Sometimes addressing an issue requires multiple attempts and approaches; just because it didn’t work the first time doesn’t mean your attempts were futile. Keep going!

“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” – Walt Disney
Regardless of your profession, give every project your all. Your work ethic is your signature at work; if you want your clients to associate your signature with certain qualities you have to demonstrate those skills for them.

“The very things that hold us down are going to lift you up.” – Timothy Mouse
Wise mouse! Our struggles often become our strengths because we learn how to adapt. As we test our abilities and explore our potential we not only better understand ourselves but build confidence to take on more.

“You’re at peace because you know it’s okay to be afraid.” – Mulan
Fear can be a good thing; it can help us grow if we utilize it correctly. Rather than allowing fear to paralyze you, try to use it as motivation to address whatever is scaring you.

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Christopher Robin
Give yourself credit! Don’t underestimate yourself; take some risks and see where it goes. You may surprise yourself.

“I was so upset I forgot to be happy.” – Eeyore, Winne the Pooh
If you have a bad day at work, leave your negative energy at work.  If you carry around negative energy with you, it will only pour into every other aspect of your life.  It’s done, let it go and stop punishing yourself further by dwelling on it.

“Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s memories.” – Genie, Aladdin Try to make the most of every day even on those days where you forget to breathe. Try to create a memory that will bring a smile to your face the following day.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney
Nothing gives me as much satisfaction as knowing that I’ve achieved the “impossible”.  When I’m overwhelmed, I remind myself how amazing it would be to be able to say “I got it all done”.

“Hakuna Matata” –Timon and Pumba, Lion King
It means no worries for the rest of your days (admit it, you sang that). Remember that there are bigger things in life than work. Remember to be grateful for what you have and enjoy the life you have created for yourself.

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Which quote resonates with you the most? Leave it in the comments

 

 

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Balancing Mental Health in the Legal Realm

This piece builds on the Mental Health in the Legal Realm piece, if you have not had a chance to read it please click on the “link“.

I would like to begin again by stating that not all legal environments are the same.

If you are feeling anxiety and stressed at work here are some tips that may help you cope with your situation. They are not written in any particular order of importance.

What can you do?

  1. Make time for yourself -do something that allows you to feel free and at peace such as: yoga, exercising, meditating, a hobby or even just running a hot bath. Allow yourself to have time to do something you love while tuning the world out.
  2. Although it can be hard to find a confidant in a world that seems “cut throat” – if you can find a colleague to help you through the tough times at work it can make work life a lot easier.
  3. Leave work at lunch – a walk, visit a park or eat out, sometimes a physical distance from the place of anxiety can help you regain control. If you’re thinking “but there will be so much work when I get back” not allowing yourself to take that mental break might be contributing to the problem. The work will still be there when you get back but stepping away and coming back can make you more productive and reenergized.
  4. The LSUC recognizes the issue of substance abuse and the need for help. Consequently, the LSUC has offered a program known as The Member Assistance Program (MAP) for lawyers and paralegals to help legal practitioners confront substance abuse issues.
  5. Legal practitioners are also encouraged to take advantage of their employee benefits, the help is there and it is offered for a reason; you are not weak.
  6. Sole practitioners if you want to go on vacation, let your clients know far in advance when you will be going on vacation and ask a trustworthy colleague to look after your practice while you’re gone.
  7. If you do not receive a pat on the back from your boss, reward yourself anyways. Do something that makes you feel alive and like you’re pampering yourself, you DESERVE IT!
  8. When you’re constantly striving for the best it can lead to a lack of a satisfaction despite how much you’ve achieved; try to give yourself credit where it’s due. Don’t sell yourself short. You work hard and you deserve recognition especially from yourself. When you feel defeated and like you aren’t achieving your goals, remind yourself of what you have already accomplished. It’s easier to keep yourself motivated that way.
  9. Try to stay in the moment. When you get a large load of work at once it can be easy to lose sight of what should be tackled first. Keeping a calm mind and working through one task at a time can be the difference between an anxiety attack and being productive.
  10. Count on your support system – whoever that might be. Sometimes venting is all you really need. It’s okay to admit that you’re in over your head to a group of individuals who won’t judge you and are there to support you through it.
  11. Find comfort in your work environment. For instance, many individuals enjoy a hot beverage when things get overwhelming; if that’s your source of comfort, then make yourself a hot cup of tea or coffee when you feel overwhelmed. Others may prefer flowers, perhaps you’d like to bring in flowers to keep on your desk while you work. If you prefer listening to music, then see how you can introduce that into your work routine. Making the most of your environment can sometimes ease the mental stress associated with being in that environment.

Please don’t forget to “like” , “reblog”, and “share” this piece as you can be helping someone who is currently suffering from anxiety and stress. Remember, they may not tell you personally but that doesn’t mean that an individual isn’t having trouble coping.

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Points of Discussion:

  1. Did you find these tips helpful?
  2. Which of these tips can you see yourself implementing?
  3. Have you worked in environment where you felt stressed out? How did you cope?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Family Law Can Be A Dangerous Business

It is no surprise that family law involves a great deal of passion and emotion for everyone involved but what happens when the passion turns violent? Maria Mitousis, an established lawyer became the victim of a bombing fueled by revenge. Mitousis works in a small law firm in Winnipeg and has an established legal career.

Ms. Mitousis was bombed by an ex- husband of a client. Mitousis was representing her client in two matters: one of divorce and the second in a lawsuit for an auto body shop that was owned jointly by her client and her client’s husband Guido Amsel. She had received mail which upon opening exploded. Mitousis has lost her right hand and her left hand is severely injured. She has suffered multiple injuries to her face, chest and thighs.

The accused, Guido Amsel, a 49-year-old man had gone through a long and bitter divorce with his wife who was represented by Ms. Mitousis. Ms. Mitousis argued that Mr. Amsel owed her client $40,000 from the auto body shop they had ran together while married.

Amsel planned a revenge rampage after the case was settled. Amsel is accused of filling digital voice recorders with explosive compounds and mailing them to places linked to the legal battles.  Amsel is accused of sending out multiple explosive devices linked to the legal proceedings.

One explosive was sent to Ms. Mitousis’ law firm. Another explosive was sent to his ex-wife’s workplace which was successfully detonated.  A third explosive was sent to a law firm that once represented Amsel in his legal battle until the lawyer withdrew his case due to a breakdown in the relationship; this bomb was also safely detonated.

Amsel has been charged with two accounts of attempted murder along with additional charges. He has not yet entered his plea in respect to the charges and currently does not have representation. Family lawyers across Canada are taking this incident very seriously and taking precautions to protect themselves.  Following the incident, multiple family lawyers have admitted to being victims of verbal abuse and even death threats but are shocked after hearing Ms. Mitousis’ story.  Many legal practitioners are re-examining former cases and clients to account for possible future threats. Furthermore, some family lawyers have admitted to being paranoid and changing their routes to work to avoid establishing patterns for their clients hostile ex’s.

Clients often view opposing council as part of the issue which can result in hostility. Although lawyers can argue a case, the judge makes the final decision in accordance to the law and precedents. An individual’s misplaced anger can often be displaced on to the opposing party’s council as an extension of the client they represent.  When individuals choose to utter threats and take legal matters into their own hands, the result is usually detrimental to their own case.  It’s important to recognize that opposing council is only fulfilling their job- to represent their client to the best of their abilities; it’s not a personal vendetta against someone.

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Points of Discussion:

1. Were you aware of the hostility lawyers face? Are you surprised?

2. What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from legal professionals!

1.  Have you been a victim of client hostility?

Law School = Heterosexuality?

When most people consider law school they generally don’t assume that they would be signing up for three years of abstinence but that’s exactly what this school was asking for.

Trinity Western University sought the approval of the Law Society of Upper Canada for opening a new law school. The school was focused on protecting Christian values and went as far to require students to sign a covenant binding them to not to have sex outside of a heterosexual marriage during their attendance at the university. The contract went as for to state that violation of these terms could result in suspension or expulsion.

The Law Society of Upper Canada rejected the proposal and the B.C university took the matter to court. The case could progress and be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Legal implications

The Law Society of Upper Canada rejected this proposal due to a violation of human rights. The university’s proposed contract would discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Individuals belonging to this group would be unable to form relationships they wish to form. If the university was open to LGBTQ students they would have to suppress their sexuality and refrain from forming intimate relationships. Many legal practitioners argue that these rules violate fundamental rights of equality of opportunity.

For

The lawyer representing the universities interests supported his position with a case from 2001. The case was about TWU teaching college graduates being denied accreditation by the B.C College of Teachers for allegedly discriminating against students. The judge found that there was a lack of evidence to support this claim and allowed the graduate students to obtain accreditation.  Consequently, the TWU representative argued that the present case is similar to the case in 2001. He went as far as to argue, that the decision had already been made as the Supreme Court of Canada should continue to protect religious freedoms.

Against

The lawyer representing the Law Society of Upper Canada argued that there are significant differences in the case and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have significantly changed since the 2001 ruling. He went on to argue that if TWU was to get approval it would not only be seeking to operate a law school to promote its religious beliefs but also only operate if it was allowed to provide its services if it is guaranteed access to the largest market for future law school graduates.  If TWU is successful in its claim the school will only produce Christian heterosexual lawyers. Consequently many minority groups will be denied an opportunity to learn at TWU.

Points of Discussion:

1. How do you feel about a Christian based heterosexual law school?
2. Should law schools dictate who you can have intimate relationships with?

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