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October, 2019
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October, 2019 | President Message

President Message

Harris, Pam 1nov17
Author Pamela Harris

Every time I blink an eye a month goes by. We have said good-bye to September and are looking forward to Giving Thanks in a few weeks and before we know it, the Holiday season will be here.

At times it can be so easy to forget the plethora of things we have to be thankful for. Given the time of year and things that are happening in my universe, I thought it would be timely to share what I am thankful for as a little reminder to you.

I am thankful for my family, friends, team, TLOMA network and the fulfilling work I get to do that not only earns me a comfortable living but provides me with an immense amount of satisfaction and happiness. I am thankful for the great volunteers that I have had the absolute pleasure of working with and getting to know through the opportunities TLOMA has. I am grateful for the team at TLOMA who help us move forward in a positive way to provide our members with an outstanding professional association.

October is breast cancer awareness month and the week of October 6th is Mental Illness Awareness Week. Two very important illnesses that have no doubt touched us all in some way and will likely continue to do so. Breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed cancer for Canadian women and 1 in 5 people will personally experience a mental health problem or illness. I am thankful for those that give tirelessly of themselves to raise money for these charities which help research, educate, raise awareness and support those who have been impacted.

There is a TLOMA HR SIG on November 19 entitled, Mental Health in the Workplace - the Journey Towards Breaking the Silence’. Dana Hurst of People Corporation will moderate a discussion with two of our valued members; Georgia Rennick and Marva Bethune who will share their experiences and initiatives with us, I am thankful for all of you.

I am thankful for the Conference Committee and Business Partners; I am officially declaring the 2019 TLOMA Conference a huge success.  We received lots of positive feedback during the event along with ideas for future conferences. We have already discussed how we can implement this into the 2020 TLOMA Conference, but we need more from you. A survey was sent out to the delegates and business partners; please take a few minutes to provide us with your feedback and ideas. The conference is one of the biggest benefits to our members and we want to ensure we are serving your needs. We pay very close attention to the evaluation forms and review each and every comment. As a result of past Conference evaluations over the last few years we listened to our members’ needs and are going to be bringing the 2020 Conference to Toronto. Next year’s Conference is going to offer a condensed 2-day format. In addition, we are going to be offering firms the ability to transfer registrations meaning that if one of you can only make day 1 of the Conference another colleague can attend in your place on day 2. Over the last few years many members expressed the desire for this type of Conference and our goal is to provide a similar type of Conference experience in Toronto for those members that are unable to make the time commitment and travel for four days outside the city on an annual basis. This opportunity will also provide firms the ability to bring their team members to the Conference while an outside the city experience does not always allow for this luxury. While the agenda is still being finalized the Conference Committee has already confirmed that we are going to be offering more education sessions than in previous years. The goal is to offer as much as possible while still offering the social networking component to our delegates and business partners. We are a member driven association and strive to meet the needs of our members. For all those that still want to have a ‘retreat’ type of experience TLOMA is certainly planning to offer this type of experience in 2021. I am thankful for innovation and creativity of our members and Conference Committee!

I am thankful to the members who took time to complete the 2019 TLOMA Member Value Questionnaire. The information you have provided will drive the future actions of TLOMA, it is truly invaluable. Once the results will be compiled we will report back to our membership of our findings.

Thank you to our Education Coordinator and SIG Leaders for the fantastic meetings they have already executed for us and for the upcoming meetings you have planned. In October, there is an Human Resources SIG on Mentoring, Coaching and Developing Employees, a Technology SIG on Consumerization of Technology to Better the Business of Law and a Marketing SIG on Both Sides of the Client Intake Process: New Perspectives from Finance and Business Development. Please check the website under upcoming events to ensure you block time in your busy schedules to attend.

I am thankful for the upcoming networking event that is taking place on November 29th at The Omni King Edward; great work Dawn for securing an amazing venue for us to enjoy while we connect with one another. This year TLOMA will be supporting Fight to End Cancer charity and if any of the members are interested in donating there will be a user friendly link designed especially for TLOMA members.

Lastly, but not least, I am thankful to the wonderful Business Partners TLOMA has. Without their involvement and support we would not have the resources to offer the member benefits we have and would not be able to drive the association forward.

What are you thankful for?

Pam has been working at Oatley Vigmond LLP since 1989 and is currently the Director of Administration and Planning.  In this role, Pam has the privilege of working with an amazing group of partners, lawyers and peers.  Pam helps focus their time and energy on the priorities that improve how they do business, provide the best level of service to their clients and create a better experience for their employees. 

Pam values continuous learning while looking at things differently, to find the opportunities when no one else sees them. 

Pam believes that strong continuous learning skills are required to successfully adapt to changing work and life demands.  Pam applies continuous learning in the workplace by viewing all experiences as potential learning and re-examining assumptions, values, methods, policies and practices. 

Pam has been a member of TLOMA since 1996 and held the Board position of Human Resources Special Interest Group Leader from 2015 until 2016, Vice President in 2018 and is the current 2019 President.

October, 2019 | Article

Too Many Canadians are Entering Retirement with Inadequate Savings

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Marchand, Dawn
Author Dawn Marchand

According to a report released by the Broadbent Institute, half of Canadian couples between 55 and 64 have no employer pension and of those, less than 20 percent of middle-income families have saved enough to adequately supplement the Canada Pension Plan. Canada’s legal community is also underserved by workplace pension arrangements. But that could change for Canadian law firms very soon.

 

Teachers, government employees and union workers all have something in common – they enjoy guaranteed lifetime retirement income through defined benefit (DB) pension plans.  The rest of us, if we’re lucky, may have an employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) pension plan. But, actually calling a DC plan a ‘pension plan’ is a misnomer.  A DC plan is basically a savings plan; the member has to figure out how to grow it and then turn it into lifetime retirement income. Let’s look at both in a bit more detail.

 

Defined Contribution Plan (DC)

In a DC plan, an employer contributes money to an employee’s account to provide retirement income. The amount of money is usually a percentage of earnings.  Employees often contribute to the plan as well. The retirement benefit is the total of the accumulated contributions, together with any investment growth on the contributions. With most plans employees have responsibility for selecting investments.  Employees also have the responsibility to choose what to do at retirement—buy an annuity, manage and draw down the bucket of savings, or some combination. Under a DC plan the contributions are always known, but the retirement benefit never is. 

 

Defined Benefit Pension (DB)

These plans provide a defined monthly benefit at retirement that lasts for life, often with survivor benefits. The retirement benefit is known up front, defined by a formula – say five percent of career or final average earnings, or a percentage of contributions. Like DC plans, both employers and employees contribute a percentage of the employee’s earnings. The biggest advantage of DB plans is for the employee because they provide predictable lifetime retirement income. 

 

If they’re so great, why do so few employers offer a DB Pension?

The primary reason is that the employer must ensure that at any point in time, the assets of the plan are sufficient to provide the retirement benefits. This makes these types of plans financially risky. We all know financial markets and interest rates go up and down.  This can create unacceptable or even fatal cost volatility in contributions and in financial statement reporting, not to mention steady increases in life expectancy that also affect the cost of providing lifetime defined benefits.

 

Most workplaces have no pension arrangement

Most employers in Canada are small to medium sized enterprises that just do not have the resources to implement and monitor a retirement arrangement, let alone take on the extra cost of administration and fiduciary governance. Many get by with an off-the-shelf group RRSP – which is better than nothing at all. 

 

But research shows that the majority of private sector employees do not have a pension plan and may not be adequately prepared for retirement. Stats Canada data from December 2018 shows the following:

 

  • Canada’s total workforce with pension coverage:  47%
  • Private sector employees with a pension: 23%


Of the 23% in the private sector, the vast majority are union members who historically have negotiated defined benefit plans in their collective agreements. The majority of the rest have defined contribution plans.

 

For the legal community, the numbers are even more bleak. And that is no surprise. It is simply unrealistic to expect individual law firms, regardless of their size, to assume the financial, demographic, fiduciary and administrative risks associated with defined benefit plans. In fact, most law firms have no pension arrangements at all – DC or DB. 

 

A Defined Benefit Pension Plan for Law Firms

The Canadian Bar Insurance Association (“Lawyers Financial”) is a not-for-profit organization established over 40 years ago solely to serve the investment and insurance needs of lawyers, law firm employees and their families. 

 

In 2016, a Lawyers Financial task force, comprised of leading pension and actuarial experts began investigating pension options. The resulting decision was for Lawyers Financial to work with the CAAT Pension Plan, to provide predictable and sustainable lifetime pensions for Canada’s legal community.

 

CAAT is an $11 billion not-for-profit trust that has been delivering secure lifetime pensions for over 50 years. In 2018, CAAT launched DBplus, a plan that allows private sector employers to join. DBplus combines the best features of DC plans (cost certainty) with the best features of DB plans (predictability and cost efficiency for employers and valuable lifetime benefits for members). 

 

Lawyers Financial is currently working with CAAT to enable law firms of all sizes to provide predictable, cost certain, cost effective, adequate and sustainable workplace pensions through DBplus. As an example, law firm employees, associates and partners who participate in DBplus will earn a guaranteed lifetime pension, equal to 8.5 percent of total (employee and employer) contributions, accumulated with inflation. On average, someone who participates over their entire career in DBplus is expected to receive approximately $8 in benefits for each $1 they contribute.

 

DBplus is expected to launch for the legal community in 2020.  

Dawn Marchand is the Interim President and CEO of Lawyers Financial.  To be kept informed about this unique offering for Canada’s legal community, sign up to receive updates at www.lawyersfinancial.ca/pensionforlawyers

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October, 2019 | Article

The Risky Business of Document Sharing

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Mike_Sauber
Author Mr. Michael Sauber

The most common methods of sharing documents with clients, opposing firms, and others may be placing you and your firm at risk. To protect confidentiality, today’s technology offers much more secure ways to exchange documents.

 

How many emails have you sent or received in the past week? How many times have you shared a document through a thumb drive? Or how many documents have you shared through a consumer file sharing service? Whether you know it or not, all of these document sharing methods place you or your firm at risk.

 

Can you be trusted?

 

Your reputation depends on your clients’ trust. So, it follows that protecting their privileged information should be a top priority. But cyber hacking and simple human error can put that trust at risk when you share documents through insecure methods. Tax records, intellectual property, health information, and more could be exposed to others with less than noble intentions.

 

A lawyer or firm that allows confidential information to be compromised, even if unintentionally, could be held responsible. Most jurisdictions have rules that require lawyers to properly protect their clients’ confidential information. The Law Society of Ontario, for example, spells this out in the Rules of Professional Conduct1.

 

No Email is Completely Secure

 

Email makes document sharing easy. No need to wait for a courier. All you need to do to share a document with a client, opposing firm, or third party is specify the recipient, attach your document, and press “send”.2

 

Whether you know it or not, this process exposes you to all kinds of risks, from “bad actors” to human error. Yet, nearly 90 percent of firms surveyed said their firms use email to collaborate with clients or third parties on matters, with almost 75 percent using it daily.3

 

Email can expose your confidential information even when you take measures to protect it. The most common risks? Emails can be:

 

  • Intercepted and read at routers, internet service providers, or IT departments
  • Inadvertently sent to the wrong person
  • Forwarded to an unauthorized recipient
  • Printed and then read by an unauthorized recipient
  • Lost in a spam filter4


In the worst case, your emails may be the target of malicious hackers seeking to profit from your clients’ data. No email platform is completely immune to security breaches, and just one compromised inbox could put an entire firm’s data at risk. In a survey of IT professionals, 71% believed they had likely experienced a theft or loss of email attachments.4

 

There are measures you can take to reduce risk, but they aren’t foolproof. Encryption won’t protect against copying, forwarding, or downloading once the message has been decrypted. Confidentiality statements are no better. As licensed attorney Christopher T. Anderson states, “confidences, once let into an unsafe ether, are put at risk, and no ‘confidentiality statement’ can mitigate that.”3

 

Are You All Thumbs?

 

Thumb drives are a convenient way to share documents or take work home or on the road. They’re compact, plug into any USB port and can be read by anyone (provided the documents were created in common software).

 

But the thumb drive’s benefits are also its drawbacks. Because they are small they are easily lost. And because they can be read by anyone, their data is far from secure. In fact, LexisNexis found that 68 percent of IT professionals said they had likely or very likely experienced a theft or loss of data stored on a USB drive.4

 

Consumer File Sharing is for Consumers

 

Online file sharing services have become the go-to document sharing method for many consumers. They are especially useful for sharing documents too large to attach to an email. Once set up, they are easy to use and can even be integrated with your computer’s folder structure.

 

On the other hand, consumer file sharing services were never designed to protect your data. They don’t come with the security measures lawyers should be seeking for confidential documents. Even worse, because sharing is so easy, one mistaken keystroke could share every folder on your computer.

 

Why are these services a particular problem for law firms? In the LexisNexis survey, over half of respondents said they had put confidential information on free consumer file-sharing sites. And in many cases, the firm was not aware this was happening. Aside from security issues, what if the lawyer using these services leaves the firm? How easy will it be to locate the documents?

 

Secure Document Sharing

 

The preferred alternative to email, thumb drive, or consumer file sharing is a service built specifically for exchanging confidential documents. These internet-based services take strict security measures to ensure that data is kept safe. Email may still play a role, but documents are shared through a link or by logging in to the service, rather than through an attachment.

 

Not all secure document sharing is the same. Your system should include these essential features:

 

  • A secure hosting facility in your country of origin. You want your cloud provider to adhere to the data protection and privacy laws of your local jurisdiction.
  • Backup services for the data you are storing in the cloud.
  • Parties invited individually for each matter and required to authenticate through a password or multi-factor authentication before they can access a document.
  • An audit trail that tracks and records document receipt and open date and notifies the sender by email or text message.
  • Secure document access from anywhere through desktop or laptop computers, or through a mobile device.


Concluding Thoughts

Secure document exchange addresses virtually all the risks of traditional methods. If hackers get into your email system, your documents are safe because they aren’t stored on your email server. There are no thumb drives that can fall into the wrong hands. And your documents are protected by a team of security experts in a secure facility 24/7.

These cloud-based platforms provide cost benefits, too. Your cloud provider will regularly update hardware and software, so it always adheres to the latest performance and security standards. These services are typically much less costly than maintaining your own systems.

Don’t you owe it to your clients and your firm to explore secure document sharing?


1 Rules of Professional Conduct, Chapter 3, Section 3.3. Law Society of Ontario. Amended October 2014.
2 Fox-Mills, Alexis. The importance of secure file sharing for law firms. workshare.com. February 1, 2017.
3 File-Sharing in the Legal Industry. LexisNexis. 2014.
4 Christopher T. Anderson and Dan Barahona. When “secure enough” isn’t enough: A Law Firm Guide to Protecting the Confidentiality of Shared Client Files. LexisNexis. January 8, 2018.

Michael Sauber leads the marketing program for Korbitec, producer of Automated Civil Litigation (ACL) and GhostPractice billing, accounting and case management software. He has worked with document production technologies and professional services for over 30 years and is a frequent blogger on these topics. More at www.ghostpractice.ca and www.korbitecinc.com.
October, 2019 | Article

How to Get Out of Your Own Way

Personal Branding
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Heather Suttie
Author Heather Suttie

A first-person account of managing change and re-engineering a career.

We’ve all heard “the only constant is change” and “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” When these two aphorisms collide, things get tricky. This is why you may wish to embrace change before something almost kills you.

I’ve changed careers more than once, pioneered a start-up, engineered two business turnarounds, and restructured myself at least twice. All were successful and I’ve lived to tell it.

Stress, Loss and Resignation

Prior to life in legal, I had a 14-year career in broadcasting. During this time, I was – among other things – a business producer/anchor for the bootstrap start-up of Canada’s first 24-hour national television news network. The turnarounds involved the broadcast division of a news distribution company and the news department of a Canadian television network’s flagship station in Winnipeg.

The start-up was a privilege and while the first turnaround was a snap, the second nearly killed me.

It happened when my sister was battling brain cancer. I was working 100-hour weeks to complete the turnaround as fast as possible, knowing I would need to get home to Toronto to help my sister and mother deal with what was to come. The turnaround was complete in 19 months and as soon as maintenance management was in place, I resigned. By then, I was on the verge of a heart attack and under a doctor’s care. And more stress was imminent.

After returning to Toronto, my sister and I spent every day together for her remaining six months; and my mom and I cared for her at home, where she passed away just before Christmas 1997. The first few months afterward were filled with grief, estate matters, and all that happens when you lose someone you love.

Stepping Out: The Restructuring

Then came the self-imposed expectation to get on with the business of living. Among other things, that meant finding a job, which I did with the fervor of someone who’d been conditioned to assume that you’re no one without a job title. I searched, failed, and flailed for a couple of months until it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be any good to anyone until I was good to myself. So, I stepped out of life as I had known it in order to help myself heal.

This decision was not taken lightly and, frankly, I felt like a failure. But I needed to rebuild, and spent most of 1998 healing and restructuring myself.

This entailed a physical overhaul building up stamina and strength to swim a mile and complete 1,000 sit-ups every morning and weight train for an hour every evening. In between, I would walk in a park, window-shop, read, nap, see a movie, meet a friend, or whatever I felt like doing or not doing.

By mid-December, I was strong in body, mind, soul and spirit and was as a friend observed, “the girl he met at 19.”

Back in the Stream: The Low-Tech Rebuild

Better prepared for a new challenge, I joined the marketing team at Ernst & Young, one of the Big Four professional services firms. Initially, EY’s tightly structured environment was comforting and I was among some terrific people. However, my roles became to feel restrictive and I felt increasingly restless. Salvation came with severance when EY restructured, which presented another opportunity to re-engineer myself.

This rebuild was low-tech and involved one piece of paper on which I drew a grid resulting in four sections labeled:

  • What I Love
  • What I Like
  • What I’ll Tolerate
  • What I’ll Never Do Again


For 10 minutes, I jotted down traits from my work experiences, personal preferences, and other random thoughts that came to mind. It was quick and dirty, and not one bit scientific.

Once done, I tore off the sections What I’ll Tolerate and What I’ll Never Do Again and was left with What I Love and What I Like. Using only these two sections, I modeled various roles that could encompass elements such as change, challenge, bright people, professionalism, problem solving, teamwork, independence, responsibility, organization, spontaneity, planning, diverse opinions, creativity and humour.

One of the models became an outline for an independent legal marketing and business development consultancy, based on my experience as sole marketing counsel to Donahue LLP, which operated from 1997 to 2003 within EY as Canada’s first (and so far only) Big Four multidisciplinary business law firm. 

To complete the outline, I contacted 23 Canadian law firms to ask for opinions and input. Nineteen responded. Some knew what I was talking about and others didn’t. But it hardly mattered since each was helpful in my start-up and one became a long-standing client. That was 18 years ago. I haven’t looked back and love what I get to do.

My core practice encompasses legal market strategy, which often means helping firms and individual lawyers make tough choices and invoke change. While doing so is not easy, none has failed. In fact, I’ve witnessed rejuvenated and thriving law firm practices along with triumphant personal successes.

Embrace Change: Get Out of Your Own Way

 

So, in a nutshell, here’s what I’ve learned and passed on to others when it comes to embracing change:

 

Clinging like a barnacle to “what was” does not serve you well. Work to your strengths, acknowledge your values; cleave to them and build your life around them.

 

Understand that no one can stop you except yourself. When you accept that, you will get out of your own way and step into your power. Then, your transformation will be glorious.

 

[Disclosure: EY became a client of mine in 2011.]

 

This article first appeared on 'Attorney at Work,' August 2019.

Heather Suttie is a legal market strategist and management consultant. Specializing in marketing and business development, she works with lawyers, law firms and legal service providers — Global to Solo — BigLaw to NewLaw — helping them thrive in the evolving legal industry by claiming a distinctive position and sustained competitive advantage resulting in greater market share, revenue and profits. Reach her at 416.964.9607 or www.heathersuttie.ca.

October, 2019 | Article

From Getting to Giving: Transforming Your Networking

Industry Alginment
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Author Jane Southren

From what I have seen thus far in my journey helping professionals build powerful supportive professional networks, there is one struggle that seems to be shared among them.

It is the conflict that arises in their minds because they experience ‘networking’ as a fundamentally ‘disingenuous’ exercise - one in which they perceive themselves as seeking some kind of personal gain or opportunity under the ‘false pretence’ of seeking to ‘make friends’. 

As it turns out, this phenomenon is so pervasive that it has even been the subject matter of scientific research!

The University of Toronto’s Tiziana Casciaro and her two co-authors, studying the psychological impact of networking on professionals, found that a high percentage of professionals describe networking as feeling “dirty” because they perceive the intentional pursuit of professional relationships to be motivated by self-interest, which is more “arduous to justify to oneself morally” than is the creation of friendships or personal ties, which they do not perceive as suffering from the same ‘taint’ of self-interest.

Anecdotally, I can confirm that I see this perception raising its head again and again in my practice, and it has almost always had a detrimental impact on the level of success my clients have experienced up to that stage in their careers.

The solution to this tension, and the route to the place where networking becomes a positive and enjoyable experience for people, lies in changing one’s mindset around networking — in particular, changing your understanding of the goals and objectives of networking away from being self-serving and self-interested and toward being contributive, generous and genuinely aimed at providing value to others.

There is a great little book called The Gift: A Revolution in Networking Mastery by Matthew Ferry, et al. that I sometimes give to clients as a resource to support them in changing their mindset around networking to “What am I here to give?” from “What am I here to get?”

It advocates for networking in accordance with a principle the authors call The Law of Contribution, which states that your level of happiness and success is directly proportional to the number of people you serve selflessly. By operation of their theory, any opportunity you have to meet or engage with people is an opportunity to make a positive contribution to their lives in some way, which will in turn manifest in stronger relationships, greater satisfaction and greater success in your life.

If you follow this theory, when you go into a room or an interpersonal interaction of any kind, the thoughts at the front of your mind are: “How can I contribute? What can I do to provide value or serve to this person/group/community in a way that matters to them?”

That approach drives an interaction characterized by curiosity, interest in others, a lot of questions and a genuine investment in the interaction rather than an interaction in which you feel like you have to persuade someone to do something for your benefit or broadcast your value proposition in just the right way to make someone in the room want to hire you.

So what do I mean by “contributing?” How does one go about “providing value” or “serving” in this context?

What constitutes a contribution, value or service depends on the context in which you are trying to define it.

I use the idea of creating social capital to guide me in trying to define how I can contribute in any particular circumstance. Just like other forms of capital, it will continue to accumulate and when it reaches a certain level it will start to pay dividends and you will start to be able to draw against it for the things you want or need. But you have to make enough deposits into your social capital account before you will be able to comfortably start to withdraw against it.

You create social capital for yourself (make deposits) when you contribute one or more of the following three things to someone else:

  • Your people: The connections and relationships you have in your network are incredibly valuable. Connecting people appropriately and in a manner that could benefit both of them is a service to both of them. Natural connectors are not that common, but everyone can learn the skill and develop the habit of catalyzing valuable connections.
  • Your skills/talents/knowledge: You have both inherent and acquired skills, talents and knowledge that are also incredibly valuable. They might not seem it to you because we tend to underestimate the value of the things that come easily to us. But trust me when I tell you that many, many people in the world have need of your skills, talents and knowledge. When you learn in the course of interacting with someone that they are struggling with something that would be easy for you to help them with, don’t hesitate — make an offer.
  • Your emotional investment: The sense of genuine human connection is becoming more and more rare and, therefore, more and more valuable in our world. Your genuine excitement, support, empathy and any other form of emotional investment will often be extremely valuable to others. So many people feel like they are isolated in their experiences. When you see an opportunity to cheerlead or commiserate with someone with whom you are interacting, don’t hold back. Sincere and appropriate emotional investment resonates with people in the deeper parts of their brains and causes the release of dopamine, which is associated with feelings of connection, friendship and loyalty.


The vast majority of us went into our careers because we wanted to help, solve problems, fix things. Given that that is how we are naturally wired, it stands to reason that if we get out in the world with a mindset that is consistent with that wiring and aim to help wherever we can, we will feel more comfortable and authentic.

You will also be much more compelling to the people around you and more likely to inspire those with whom you are interacting to want to engage with you more. That will lead to the generation of authentic relationships that include a lot of potential for co-creating opportunities that are beneficial to both of you. And isn’t that really the point? Don’t we all really want to work and share opportunities with the people we admire and who inspire us?

Give it a try when you find yourself living in dread of your next networking interaction and let me know how it goes!

Jane Southren is a business development advisor and consultant, and the founder of Jane Southren Consulting.

A former practicing litigator and in-house business development director with a leading Canadian law firm, Jane is a well-known speaker, powerhouse coach, mentor and advisor to lawyers, accountants and other service professionals seeking to build their businesses.  Jane and her team lead individuals and groups to cultivate insights, develop strategies, implement behavioural changes and build the habits they need to build sustainable, independent practices that they love - practices that are aligned with their values and their personal and professional goals. 

To learn more about our services check us out online at www.southren.ca or reach out to Jane at jane@southren.ca.

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October, 2019 | Article

Why the Digital File has Finally Become a Realistic Proposition, and why that Matters

DMS
virginio
Author Virginio Basile

The paperless office is a concept that’s been talked about for more than four decades[1] – yet for most of that time, let’s face it, it’s been a mythical Nirvana. In this article Tikit’s Virginio Basile* explains why we finally have the technology to turn it into a potent reality.

On a recent client visit I couldn’t help feeling that something was conspicuously absent, although at first I couldn’t pin down just what it was. It then dawned on me that there were no binders, files or folders on desks – in short, there was no paper. Here it was, before my eyes, after decades of discussion and aspiration. Finally the paperless office had arrived, for this firm at least. How was it achieved? The key is having the right type of document management system (DMS). The paperless office has finally become a viable concept if the right technology is deployed, and it makes a remarkable difference to the efficiency of firms.

The problem with paper

To begin with, we can surely agree that paper has had its day. It’s flammable and gets lost, but those are the least of its problems. It takes up expensive space, which also needs to be both accessible and secure. It requires a lot of paraphernalia – including filing cabinets, staples, paper clips, files, folders, pens, hole punches etc., all of which, as well as the paper itself, needs to be bought and stored. Paper also needs to be kept in an appropriately dry environment so it doesn’t degrade. Files need to be kept securely and compliantly, with disaster recovery and business continuity in mind. Files need to be managed so that they are held and then destroyed in a timely manner. And of course the destruction has to be securely executed, possibly using a specialist shredding agency.

And this is assuming that every piece of information which relates to a given matter has found its way into the appropriate physical file in the first place. This in itself is challenging when 30 per cent of data comes flying into the firm from outside – usually as emails and physical correspondence – and the remaining 70 per cent is generated internally. This includes contracts, PDFs etc. which are received in soft copy and which we print out internally, as well as the work product that’s originated within the firm. Collating all of this disparate and dispersed data, which arrives in different mediums, into one physical and well-ordered file, is a time-consuming task.

Nor, of course, is paper the most efficient repository for knowledge, as anyone who has sifted the same pile of papers more than once for the single document which you know is there, yet still can’t find, will confirm. And remember, aside from the wear and tear on our tempers of misplacing documents, it’s the time taken which matters. Add the time spent searching for mislaid pieces of paper to the time spent just physically moving paper from one place to another and then retrieving it, and it accumulates into a significant amount. 

Indeed paper’s biggest expense is the cost of the time that it greedily sucks out of your day as it’s piled up, filed, stored and hunted down. Yet industry surveys tell us that 84 per cent of firms still rely on paper to some degree, and 55 per cent of lawyers still prefer to work with paper. In 2019, why is this the case? A lot of the reason is to do with the fact that we’re working with what we’re given. And for decades (if not centuries) that has been paper, filed in physical folders, which are stored in filing cabinets, then in records management rooms, and then in off-site archive storage. This is not an efficient approach, so it’s where technology can become of paramount importance. 

 

Adopting a matter-driven DMS

 

Of course law firms are trying to be efficient. But the reason paper still reigns in the vast majority of firms is because people can’t get away from it. They still don’t have the right tools with which to digitize properly, comprehensively, thoroughly and completely. Digitization has been embraced to varying degrees, but there are still too many loopholes. These introduce the possibility that something important – an email, a letter, the 32nd version of a contract – hasn’t made it into a digital file. So it’s not safe to rely upon digital.

 

The consequence of this is that far too many firms are still running a “halfway house”. They’ll scan and file documents systematically in an effort to compile a digital file – but still find it impossible to be confident enough to make the digital version the sole official matter file. The result is that they go to the time and trouble of creating a digital version. But actually, why bother, if at the end of the day it’s just a soft-copy back-up of the real “official” matter file which is still on paper?

 

Firms, for their own good, need to get out of this muddled halfway house of their own making. But people can only use the tools they’re given. It’s now time to give them the right tools with which to digitize properly and which will truly enable the transition towards paperless.

 

And actually that’s already happening. Around 50 per cent of the AmLaw 100 is already making the changeover towards paperless, and the right tool is a matter-driven document management systems (DMS). This type of DMS systematically enables firms to create official client matter files digitally, rendering paper redundant.

 

This is made feasible by the way in which matter-centric DMSs work: they in effect “barcode” every unique piece of information individually, be it a document, email, contract or piece of scanned correspondence. Each element has its own unique identifier within the system, enabling the creation of virtual official client matter files within the DMS. This for the first time enables the profound shift to paperless official matter files.

 

Deployment

Firms which adopt a matter-centric DMS will reap the rewards of relinquishing their dependence on paper: no more paper costs, lower storage costs, quicker access to documents and much enhanced security and compliance (each document has its own audit trail). At same time they can enjoy the intrinsic benefits of adopting a cloud-based DMS: documents are available anytime, anywhere, on any internet enabled device; document collaboration and sharing becomes possible; and the system is infinitely scalable.

 

Moving towards paperless does take more than just the right DMS, however. Firms have to draw up policies which enable the transition to paperless. For example, it’s essential to “attack” all the paper which is coming in the door. Procedures to digitize, barcode and shred need to be instituted. Likewise, digital controls have to be applied to all internally generated work product so that every component produced is barcoded as belonging to a specific matter in the DMS. Conversely, all the processes which were part and parcel of working with paper have to be eliminated to stop paper creeping back in.

 

In addition, some thought must be given to the cultural transformation which people will have to make. But this is less of an issue than it might first appear, simply because the experience of the firms which have already transitioned is that life is so much better paperless that resistance to it doesn’t last long.

 

The move to digital is already happening, simply because the tool that consolidates all data into digital matter files is finally now here. There can only be one official file, and that’s now the digital one. Paper is relegated to archived offsite storage.

 

Technology has created the environment in which paperless becomes possible and even those who still like paper can’t dismiss the conspicuous benefits of bringing all matter information together in one place, at the knowledge worker’s fingertips. Utilizing the right DMS technology, the paradigm shift away from paper is now underway.

 

Want to learn more? Join Virginio and Tikit for an educational webinar on October 30th. Register here.



[1] An early prediction of the paperless office was made in a 1975 Business Week article.

Virginio Basile is Tikit’s Vice President Professional Services, North America. Tikit is a world‐leader in technology solutions for law firms and supplies NetDocuments, the market’s leading cloud‐based document and email management solution. To learn more about NetDocuments and its capabilities, contact Virginio at virginio.basile@tikit.com
October, 2019 | Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight - Doug Moody

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Author Doug Moody

At TLOMA, we provide education, professional development, mentorship, and support to our Membership. Through these initiatives, TLOMA members are offered both a professional and social network of professionals working in law firms of all sizes. To encourage members to grow their network at TLOMA, we would like to profile TLOMA members in each issue of TLOMA Today to give readers a snapshot of who we are within the legal industry.

Name: Doug Moody

How long have you been a member of TLOMA? 2 years

Where do you work? Barriston Law

What do you enjoy most about working in the legal industryAlthough I had been a User of the Legal Industry as a Client for 25 + years having owned and operated businesses and bought and sold numerous properties, I have only been working in the industry for two years – and what a two years it has been! To get a head start on the learning curve, the week before I started in Sept 2017, I attended the ILTA conference in Vegas. It was then that I realized how much I didn’t know about law and my new upcoming role; and then, to make matters worse, a few weeks later, I attended my first TLOMA conference at Deerhurst. So by the end of my first month, I was questioning whether or not I would ever catch on to this fast paced, highly emotional world.

 

But, like a sponge I have tried to absorb as much as I can about all facets of the legal world remotely related to my role as COO.  In terms of what I like best, two things stand out – the people and the variety of tasks. I am fortunate to work with a highly motivated professional group of people who afford me a great deal of trust and support; and secondly,  the variety of duties that helping run a law firm entails, adds greatly  to the level of enjoyment. I would also like to note that the warmth with which I have been embraced by the TLOMA members from my first conference in the fall of 2017 over the past two years has also been a career highlight for me. In that regard, I am looking forward to another great conference this year at Blue Mountain.

 

Describe a career accomplishment that you are particularly proud of:  In the winter of 2019, when the Executive Committee first heard about what B Corps are and why they are so important, we didn’t know if we would have what it takes to become certified right away. We decided to begin the certification process to see where our strengths and weaknesses lie, and then, over time, work to improve with the goal of one day becoming certified. A team of 3 people, Joanne McPhail, Co-Managing Partner, Tom Wolfenden our Finance manager and I, met each week for 5 weeks to go through the B Corp Assessment. By the beginning of May we had our summer students join the firm, and on their first day our small B Corp committee met with them to introduce them to B CORPS and get them on board with helping work towards the certification. The process really made us understand what it means to be a business that truly takes into consideration the impact your decisions have on your workers, clients, community and environment. The group worked tirelessly all summer to go through each question one by one, identifying areas that Barriston complies with B CORP values and then create action plans for the areas that we could improve. On August 2nd, after 3 weeks of an intense audit, we found out that we had officially become B Corp certified. This made us the first law firm in Ontario, the third in Canada and 35th in the world to achieve B Corp Certification. Since we started the process, we have grown the committee to include 7 members, plus our 3 summer students who will join the committee once again next summer.

 

If you are interested in participating in the Member Spotlight feature of TLOMA Today to share some of your experiences at TLOMA, please email editor@tloma.com for more information.

October, 2019 | Movers and Shakers
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Movers and Shakers

New Members

Daryl Craig

Director, Information Technology

Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP

Vanessa De Santis

HR Manager

Baker McKenzie LLP

Chantal Wade

Director, Compensation

Sun Life

Cristina Yabut

Finance & HR Programs Manager

Rubin Thomlinson LLP

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