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November, 2018
November, 2018 | Article

ANNOUNCEMENT

After an extensive search and recruitment process, we are thrilled to announce the selection of Rose Yanco as our new Executive Director effective November 26th, 2018. Please join me in welcoming Rose to TLOMA during this exciting new chapter in our history!

Yanco, Rose 30oct18Rose joins TLOMA with over 12 years of volunteer management experience and over 8 years of board governance experience.  She has spent her last 8 years as Director of Education working with a national not-for-profit organization for trial lawyers, judges, and advocates. In this role Rose was responsible for the planning, development, delivery, and continuous improvement of innovative and award-winning advocacy education programs across Canada.

As a strategic leader providing leadership, mentoring, and supervision to a team of CPD professionals, Rose ensured program delivery excellence and significant growth opportunities for the organization. Rose is a lawyer licensed in the Province of Ontario.  Prior to entering the world of Professional Development, she practiced in the areas of civil litigation and child welfare protection. 

Rose is a strong believer in the fearless pursuit of excellence where one thrives to be their best. She not only promotes continuing development for others but is personally committed to lifelong learning.  In addition to the completion of many continuing education courses, Rose holds Certificates in Executive Leadership, Adult Training and Development, Litigation, Dispute Resolution and the Administration of Justice. 

With the arrival of our new Executive Director we remind our membership that our mission and core values will always remain the same.  Liz Barrington, who was integral to the interview process, will be a key part of Rose’s transition into TLOMA.

Regards,

Michelle Medel
TLOMA 2018 President 

November, 2018 | Presidents Message

President's Message

Michelle Medel
Author Michelle Medel

Hi TLOMA, for a change I am writing you from home. With a cozy fire and dinner bubbling away, I’m snuggled on the couch with my laptop and can’t believe it is already November! With the holiday season fast approaching, now is the time many of us start thinking about goals/work plans for the upcoming year – perhaps it’s an upcoming renovation, move or merger, introducing new technology, a new benefits program, or even hiring staff  in order to achieve better work-life balance.  Just as you did when you developed your first business plan, it is important to take a step back and evaluate your next set of goals - that way you’re proactively managing your work life and setting measurable benchmarks you can track. Based on my conversations with friends, here are a few tips to make sure you’re planning for success. 

For instance, where are you today? As with any plan, the first step is to accurately assess where you are now. How well have you met your 2018 goals? Are there areas still lacking that will need to be rolled over into 2019? What strengths and successes can you build on? Knowing where you are now gives you a starting point from which you can realistically plan the path to your next set of goals. Once you have reviewed your plan, consider external factors that may affect your work plans for the upcoming year. Evaluate what factors might shape your approach to achieving your own targets. Think about additional resources you may need. Be honest with yourself about the resources you’ll need in order to avoid being stretched too thin, and build that into your plan. Create a roadmap… once you’ve set your stretch goals, create a realistic roadmap for how you’ll achieve them. Breaking your goals or the list down into smaller, more manageable chunks will help make achieving them seem less overwhelming and, more importantly, will make success more likely. Take it day-by-day/step-by-step. One prioritization technique is to separate the need-to-haves from the nice-to-haves. Another strategy is to focus on items that you know can be accomplished quickly and check those off first. Momentum is a powerful thing!  Lastly, create a contingency plan.  While doing your research up front and planning ahead will give you the greatest chance of successfully working your plan, make sure you build in wiggle room to deal with unanticipated road apples you may encounter. With a great plan in place, you’ll be able to ring in the New Year confidently. Cheers to that!

With all this planning in mind, the 2018 Board and the incoming 2019 Board candidates are convening for our annual Strategic Planning meeting November 17, 2018. This is our time to review our successes and obstacles in 2018 and look forward to what we need/want to do in 2019 and beyond. The legal landscape is constantly changing, and TLOMA needs to adapt to this change. Thus the November meeting is about reflecting on how TLOMA is structured, how we govern, communicate, work with our Business Partners, and provide quality educational sessions and networking opportunities to continue to bring value to our members.  In addition to this meeting, we also have several other events to take us to the end of 2018:

Well, I think that’s all for now. It smells like dinner is ready and seems like a good time to enjoy a glass of wine. Hope to see you soon. 

Sláinte,
Michelle 

Michelle Medel is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Lerners LLP.   In this role, Michelle directs all Human Resources functions with respect to the Professionals and Legal Support Staff for the Firm.  She is also responsible for the Toronto Associate/Student Programs.  This includes developing, implementing and managing the recruitment, orientation, training and professional development of the firm’s Associates and Students.  She also provides strategic leadership by articulating Human Resource needs and plans to the Executive Management Team and Partnership. 
November, 2018 | Article

Practical Guidance for Complying with Canada’s New Privacy Breach Rules

The Future of the Workplace for Law Firms
14915-alex-cameron-toronto-lawyer-1
Author Alex Cameron

As of November 1, 2018, organizations subject to Canadian privacy law must comply with important new rules in relation to privacy breaches. For a detailed review of the new rules and implications for organizations under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act ("PIPEDA"), see Important New Rules for Mandatory Privacy Breach Notification, Reporting and Record Keeping in Canada. In this article, we provide six key considerations for organizations seeking to comply with the new rules and to mitigate the risk of civil and criminal liability associated with a failure to comply.

1. Identify the range of rules that may apply in a privacy breach

The new rules in PIPEDA will be directly applicable to most private sector organizations operating in Canada. However, questions remain about the extent to which the PIPEDA rules will be applicable in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, which have enacted privacy laws that apply within those provinces and supplant the application of PIPEDA in many cases. In addition, foreign breach notification rules (e.g. the General Data Protection Regulation and US state laws) and industry specific notification rules may be applicable in some cases. In approaching compliance with the new rules under PIPEDA, it is important that organizations understand the full range of rules that may be applicable to their operations, as well as the ways that each set of rules may impose different notification, reporting and record keeping requirements.

2. Assess breach detection capabilities

Proactive auditing and detection measures have previously been encouraged by the Commissioner as part of the safeguarding obligation under PIPEDA: Evolving Cybersecurity Regulatory Guidance – Key Finding from Privacy Commissioner of Canada. In order to ensure that potential privacy breaches will be identified for appropriate action under the new rules in PIPEDA, organizations should assess and update their incident detection capabilities as needed. In addition to the use of data loss prevention tools and related technical measures to prevent and flag potential breaches, organizations should consider how audits and detailed privacy training programs can help identify privacy breaches. Privacy training programs should be reviewed and updated to educate employees about breach scenarios, their responsibilities, and the importance of the new rules. 

3. Update incident response plans

Organizations should update their incident response plans to help ensure effective incident response and compliance with the new rules. For example, incident response plans should provide a clear roadmap for employees to escalate privacy incidents in a pre-determined manner so that designated decision makers can address any necessary actions under PIPEDA. This roadmap should include appropriate communication protocols and rules to protect legal privilege. Organizations should also consider updating incident response plans to (i) reflect a breach record keeping strategy and relevant insurance considerations, highlighted below, and (ii) identify the types of organizations (e.g. law enforcement, financial institutions) that may need to be notified under the new PIPEDA rules depending on the nature of the breach.

4. Implement a breach record keeping strategy

Pursuant to the new rules, organizations are required to retain a record of every privacy breach, no matter how benign or insignificant the breach may appear and irrespective of whether individuals are notified. The breach record must contain sufficient information to enable the Commissioner to verify compliance with the breach notification and reporting requirements in PIPEDA. The content of the breach record is of particular significance in respect of breaches that do not lead to notification because the organization will need to explain in the record why notice was not given.

Organizations should adopt a considered approach to breach record keeping, bearing in mind privilege, business objectives and the limits of the obligation under PIPEDA. For example, breach records should be prepared by legal counsel, or with the advice of legal counsel. Any drafts of a breach record should be marked "Privileged and Confidential" and submitted to legal counsel for advice about whether the requirements of PIPEDA have been met before the record is finalized. In addition, although there may be contractual or other purposes for keeping breach records, organizations should consider whether to maintain PIPEDA breach records in a standalone file and refrain from creating such records in respect of the following as appropriate:

  • - suspected or potential breaches (i.e. breaches that have not been determined to have occurred);
  • - information that is not under the organization's control (e.g. information that is processed as a service provider for another organization);
  • - breaches affecting employee personal information if the organization is not a federal work, undertaking or business under PIPEDA; and
  • - information or activities that are not subject to PIPEDA (e.g. non-commercial activities or non-personal information).


PIPEDA breach records must be kept for 24 months after a breach is determined to have occurred. Each breach record should clearly indicate the date the breach was determined to have occurred and the date on which the record may be destroyed, subject to whether the record must be retained for a litigation hold or other purpose. PIPEDA breach records should be securely retained and not disclosed or produced for any purpose, subject to the advice of legal counsel. Legal advice should be obtained in respect of any requests for disclosure or production of a PIPEDA breach record for any purpose.

5. Review service provider relationships

Where an organization engages a service provider to process personal information on its behalf, that organization remains accountable under PIPEDA and is considered to remain in control of the information. Since the new PIPEDA rules apply to the organization with "control" of personal information that is breached, that organization should consider the full range of contractual and other measures necessary to manage risk and compliance arising out of service provider breaches.

Contractual measures may include provisions requiring the service provider to notify the organization of all suspected breaches, to cooperate with the organization and share information to investigate such breaches, and to provide the organization with all information necessary for it to meet its notification, reporting and record-keeping obligations. While these are not new considerations, the introduction of mandatory breach notification and record-keeping requirements under PIPEDA heightens the need to scrutinize service provider relationships to ensure that they contain the full range of necessary protections.

6. Understand insurance coverage and requirements

In recent years, organizations in Canada and abroad have increasingly turned to cyber insurance to transfer the potentially staggering costs and liability that can be associated with privacy breaches. The introduction of mandatory breach notification and record keeping in Canada is expected to exacerbate such risks and further drive the evolution of the cyber insurance market. Organizations should ensure that they clearly understand the scope of coverage under their insurance policies in the context of a breach. For example, in responding to an incident and meeting the new requirements under PIPEDA, organizations will often incur costs to engage forensics experts and to obtain legal advice about what the new PIPEDA rules require in a given case. Requirements to notify insurers, the limitations of the coverage and the presence of any requirements to obtain insurer consent prior to notifying individuals, offering credit monitoring to individuals, or taking other steps, should be identified and mapped out as part of an incident response plan so that no relevant insurance considerations are overlooked in the heat of a crisis.

Conclusion

The coming into force of mandatory breach notification, reporting and record keeping under PIPEDA is widely expected to have a dramatic impact on the privacy compliance and risk landscape in Canada. In this article, we have sought to highlight six key practical steps that organizations should consider in meeting their obligations under the new rules in PIPEDA to help mitigate such risks. In addition to reviewing the PIPEDA provisions and regulations in respect of privacy breaches, organizations should review the final privacy breach guidance to be issued by the Commissioner and gain a deeper understanding of the range of domestic and international rules that may be applicable to them in the event of a data breach.

Alex Cameron is Chair of the Privacy and Cybersecurity Group at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. He has a leading practice in the areas of cybersecurity and privacy and is consistently sought out by clients from all industry sectors, including numerous Fortune 100 and 500 companies, in his areas of practice.  

Digitcom Telecommuniations Canada Inc. - Communication Solutions for Law Offices - November 27, 2018.
BDO Canada LLP - Red Carpet Event - "Update to WIP" - December 4, 2018
TLOMA - December Networking Event - December 7, 2018
November, 2018 | Article

The 6 Myths That Are Preventing You from Getting More Clients... Faster

Harnessing the Power of Referrals for Legal Professionals (Part 2)
TLOMA_SocialMedia_Twitter HalfPage
Andrew Z. Brown
Author Andrew Brown

Harnessing the Power of Referrals for Legal Professionals (Part 2)

A recent study found that 74% of organizations concluded that leveraging referrals is their least expensive method of acquiring new clients. At the same time, roughly 44% of these organizations claim that referrals are the best way to acquire new clients*.

And yet, over the last half-dozen years, the number of organizations that have adopted structured referral programs has stalled at 30%. The question that needs to be answered is: Why do most organizations miss out on embracing a method that produces such positive top-line and bottom-line results?

To answer this question, in Part 1 of this series, we turned to organizations that value referred business and referral strategies. Specifically, we drew upon insights from Lerners, LLP, Caravel Law LLP, and Sandler Training.

Here, we dispel six common myths about referrals that are contributing to why companies are slow to embrace structured referral programs. Once again, we draw upon the same organizations (and add Fogler, Rubinoff LLP).

1. Myth about who referral sources are

If you believe that a referral source can only be a client, you are far from being alone. However, a transaction does not define whether someone is a viable referral source. Rather, the key dimension to focus on is trust. Specifically, a referral source must trust you and/or your firm. They must also be trusted by the person, organization, or type of organization, that you want to count among your clients.

Lesson for you to put into action: Expand the types of potential referral sources well beyond your current or former clients.

2. Myth about how referrals happen

Do you believe that being a competent legal practitioner means would-be clients will find their way to you? That may have been the case when there were far fewer lawyers. But, today’s reality is quite different. Lerners’ Partner, Cynthia Kuehl, ‘bursts the bubble’: "Being an exceptional lawyer is no guarantee that you will build, or sustain, a constant flow of clients. Furthermore, being a strong lawyer doesn’t mean that you will be effective at leveraging referrals for new clients."  Fogler, Rubinoff’s Partner leading the firm’s Estate Litigation practice, Eric Hoffstein, adds, "You have to be deliberate about getting referrals. Ultimately, that means, making a concerted effort to do so all the time."

Lessons for you to put into action: Implement a referral program that focuses on identifying, evaluating, and nurturing the types of referrals you need; and Make sure that your referral program is overseen by someone with the skills unique to referral management.

3. Myth about why referrals don’t happen

When discussing referrals, do you fall in the traditional camp that thinks, ‘My clients are not going to want to share their stories or promote me?’ Holding onto that assumption is not only limiting your growth but, according to Caravel Law’s Director of Business Development, Michael Budworth, is the opposite of today’s business environment. He emphasizes that, "If you have successfully helped someone address a difficult or anxiety-provoking legal issue, chances are clients are more than willing to share their positive experiences about working with you."

Lesson for you to put into action: Make sure your referral program helps your referral sources tell their stories at the times, and in the venues, that will actually lead to new business for you and/or your firm.

4. Myth about the value of referral activity

It’s easy to think any referral activity is worthwhile. Particularly, if you haven’t implemented a program where referral activity is defined, measured, and optimized with the sole purpose of bringing you new business. However, not all referral activity is equal nor does it provide equal value to you. Just consider three different referral scenarios: a reference in an RFP response, a connection being made on LinkedIn, and a public endorsement. These referral behaviours reveal a different level of trust that a referral source has in you. At the same time, during each of these activities, your referral source is viewed differently by those organizations or clients who you want as clients. As a result, each of these referral activities provides a different value to you. As Lerners’ Kuehl underscores, "Not all referral efforts are good efforts."

Lesson for you to put into action: Include in your referral program the kinds of referral activities that are important to you achieving your revenue targets.

5. Myth about the effectiveness of managing referrals

Managing referrals is not on the curriculum of most law schools. So, it can’t be critical to your practicing law, right? Well, the truth is that to manage a growing and profitable practice requires leveraging referrals in a way that is methodical and strategic. The good news, according to Caravel Law’s Budworth, is that "Referral programs are incredibly efficient and productive. However, you need to have a well-thought-out plan along with the discipline to get the results you want."

Lesson for you to put into action: Make sure your referral program includes time-specific targets, well-defined processes, and is overseen by someone with referral management skills.

6. Myth about when to engage your referral sources

The prevailing myth is that you should only ask your referral sources for referrals after you have successfully served them. Chris Kelly, owner of Sandler Training office in Toronto instructs his clients to structure their ‘asks’ for referrals at very specific times of their relationship – for example, when they are on-boarding a new client. He also recommends reaching out and asking existing clients (and previous clients) for referrals on a regular basis. But, he emphasizes: "Manage expectations so that your referral sources know in advance that you’re expecting them to refer business to them."

Lesson for you to put into action: Make sure that you identify those times in your relationship with referrals when they can make referrals and are most willing to do so.

In the next article in the Harnessing the Power of Referrals series, we’ll review what people truly love (and dislike) about managing referrals.

*Study: The State of Referral Marketing in 2017 (Web Profits).

Andrew Brown is Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Bridgemaker Referral Programs. He is the lead author of the ‘How to Grow Your Business Through Better Relationships’ series – which includes books on getting the most from referral sources, channel partners, and strategic alliances. He is also a frequent speaker on these topics within the professional service sector and host of a popular series of 25-minute webinars on how to build, roll out, and improve referral programs.

November, 2018 | Article

Leadership Skills, Episode 2(A) – Communication

C. Nadeau-O'Shea Article
Roxana Radulescu
Author Roxana Radulescu

What I find striking about us humans, is that when we talk about communication we refer to a diversity of ways that allow us to express ourselves – speaking, gesticulating, dancing, singing, painting, drawing, even simply making eye contact. All good forms of communication, are helping us to express who we are, what we want to say, what we like or don’t like, how we think.

We’ll definitely talk about how we can express ourselves better as leaders – in Episode 2(B).

But in this episode of our leadership series, we’re not going to talk about communication as we most generally perceive it. We’re going to turn tables and start with one form of communication that we usually disregard, dislike, downgrade, deny. It’s called listening.

Because leaders who don’t listen, don’t really communicate. They merely express themselves, nothing more. Communication involves some sort of a dialogue. And that’s an essential step to take when you’re a leader, because then you can include all opinions, perceptions, ideas, plans, in the big picture. Which leads to engagement, loyalty, teamwork - all that good stuff we want.

But listening is tricky, right? It’s tougher than we openly admit, hence its minuscule place in the hierarchy of communication skills we want to develop.

Simply nodding does not guarantee listening – so, what does?

‘No, that’s not what I meant,’ or ‘You’re not listening to me,’ or ‘I’ve just told you that.’ Familiar? Not that this ever happened to any of us here, I just happened to hear other people complaining.

Why does this happen, when all we did was listen? I mean, you know, we thought we were listening, because we were nodding our head (repeatedly), humming as well, and even maintaining eye contact.

So why is it then that, at some point in the conversation, we get this feedback that we weren’t, in fact, listening.

What is listening and what makes it so difficult?

First off, we tend to treat listening as this passive thing we do (or don’t have to do?) when the other is talking. We look at it as ‘let them talk, while I think about my groceries shopping list.' Because we do that, I mean, our brain does it (oh, not our brain, other people’s).

The brain is busy thinking about the next actions we need to take, even when we don’t want it to. But our brain has its own mind and doesn’t care about what we want it to do. This is how, especially when we think we don’t have to do anything, we’re always busy thinking about something. One of the most difficult things to achieve is to clear our minds and not think about anything - those of you who meditate or who have ever tried to, perfectly know this feeling. There’s always a buzz, hum, thought, fraction of an action hidden right there, in a corner of our mind. That’s how, instead of listening to what the other is saying, we’re busy trying to decipher our own thoughts.

Second, we all prefer to tell our story rather than listen to someone else’s. OK, maybe not us reading this post here, of course, but most of the people do. Why? Simply because when I’m telling my story I’m more involved. I recreate the events, which makes me also re-experience some of the feelings, which, in turn, makes me so involved in the story. When another person tells us their story, it’s more difficult to get involved, we’re strangers to that story and it takes time to get a grip of what it is about. Unless the story teller makes it engaging (and that’s another story altogether), we find ourselves thinking ‘shopping lists’ all over again.

The ‘shopping list’ is our metaphor for everything else we’re thinking about: how am I going to respond to what they’ve just said now (which is already what they just said a while ago, because I don’t know what they’re saying now anymore, as I’m thinking about what I am going to say); piles of work, night out with friends, things I need to start doing right after reading this article, you get the picture.

Third, we’re human. Leaders or not, we can only focus for a little while, because we cannot help but pay attention to everything that’s going on around us. Wait, what? Yes, focus is the opposite of attention. Focus requires a lot of effort and us pushing every distraction aside. Focus happens especially when we’re in flow, ‘in the zone,’ because that’s when we’re engaged, involved, motivated.

Focus means I don’t pay attention. Wait, what?

Focus means I zoom in to you while you’re speaking, without paying attention to who comes in the room, to what happens in my mind, to the building shaking because there’s an earthquake. But, as I said, we can only focus for a little while, and under these specific circumstances of involvement and motivation. And we already decided, we love our own stories more than other people’s stories. Which is why they don’t keep us motivated and engaged enough for us to get into that state of focus.

So, what can we do?

It’s something we already do, just not all the time and maybe without us being aware of it.

Think about someone you care about telling you they got the job they wanted.

First, hear their voice and how they say it. They are usually enthusiastic, and enthusiasm is catching. When we respond, we do it without thinking about our shopping list. When we hear ‘hey, I got that job’ we naturally go ‘wow, I’m so happy for you.’

We match their state of mind, because we care. Caring makes us focus on what they are saying. When I care about your story, I am there, with you, in your story. I bring my story there, because I can relate to yours now. And that’s how we can build a combined story – the story of ‘how you got that job and how we celebrated together.’ Because when I care, I can focus, and that’s what makes me capable to understand what you’re saying and also a bit of how you’re feeling.

So now that I’m focused, I am interested, and the next thing I know is I’m asking you for more details: what will you be doing, when do you start, do they train you, how much do they pay you (okay, maybe not that, we leave that for the shopping list).

It’s a natural reaction for us to ask questions when we listen. I mean, when we truly listen. And often we forget that listening is a verb, not a noun, that it’s an action, and it’s very much active. It’s not that I don’t have to do anything and ‘just listen.’ On the contrary, there’s a lot of things I do that tell you I’m listening.

Think about it: when we care and focus and truly listen, what do we do, apart from nodding and humming? We ask questions, we go back to make sure we didn’t misunderstand, we ask for clarifications, we summarize, we investigate further, we ask for the next steps.

It goes all the way back when, as children, someone was reading a story to us and, because we were captivated by it, we wanted to know more, hear more, see more. Or maybe later on in our lives, when we asked the question: ‘so let me get this straight, are you dumping me?’. That’s one piece of active listening! And all because I cared.

So there, we already listen properly, when we care.

The ‘recipe’ I am proposing is: start with the heart and zoom in on the mind (you add your own ingredients, in the quantities that work for you).

Roxanaarticle

When I care, I will instantly focus, and when I focus, I will be able to hear what you’re saying and truly understand you. I will nod and hum and I will also ask questions, summarize, clarify, agree next steps, maybe even take notes and make sure you get them, too.

Once I listen to understand, I build the foundation for a long-term relationship.

At the end of the day, ‘shopping lists’ aside, we all crave to be:

  • heard
  • understood
  • valued (or, even better, loved).


And then, once we’ve truly listened, we get a ‘that’s exactly what I meant’, or ‘thanks for listening to me’, or ‘nobody else asked me that, thank you for checking’.

That’s the magic moment when you’ve opened-up a whole new world to a healthy relationship with the people in your team. That’s when you, as the leader, having the vision and having listened to people, can start planning your journey together, as you now know you are all in it wholeheartedly.

Because, when somebody listens to me and understands me, I feel I matter. Don’t you?

---

 If you’re interested in this topic, you may also want to watch and read:

Roxana Radulescu is the Founder of All Personal, a bespoke training and coaching agency. She helps individuals (re)discover and work-out their personal skills ‘muscles’, so they increase their self-awareness and improve their confidence, impact, relationships and, ultimately, quality of life.

Her podcast series, All Personal, features people who discovered their skills muscles turns the good old saying ‘nothing personal, just business’ upside down, and proves that, in fact, it’s all personal, nothing is just business.

She is a contributing author to blogs and magazines in Canada and the UK:

Roxana is also a Mentoring Coach with George Brown College in Toronto, a TEDx speaker, a certified coach and trainer, and a Learning & Development professional.

She headed the L&D department of an international law firm for ten years, she holds a diploma in Learning & Development and a certificate in Human Resources from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development in the UK, as well as a Master of Arts in Knowledge, Information and Project Management from the University of Bucharest, Romania.

November, 2018 | Article

Lawyers, Lemons and Lemmings

Lawyers lemons lemmings
TLOMA 2019 Conference HalfPage
Heather Suttie
Author Heather Suttie

Lawyers, lemons and lemmings may seem very disparate, but they have more in common than you might think.

When leading an exercise in differentiation at a law firm, I often give each lawyer a lemon and ask that they consider its characteristics: how it feels in their hand, its weight, its round or oblong shape, pointy or blunt ends, blemishes and bumps, smooth, pebbled or patchy skin. Most lawyers roll their lemon around and study it thoroughly. Litigators take notes. After a one-minute examination, the lemons are dumped in a bucket and set aside.

As for lemmings, lawyers have worn this label for decades due to misconceptions about lemmings and lawyers both. There’s an urban myth that lemmings commit mass suicide by hurling themselves off cliffs into the sea, where they drown; in other words, they behave with a mindless and ultimately self-destructive herd mentality. In fact, lemmings are (like many other animals in the wild) self-preservationists, as well as strong swimmers.

This derogatory label may have come from Ralph Nader’s 1973 article “Lemming-Like Lawyers.” In it, the American consumer advocate, lawyer and author railed against the conformity of U.S. bar exams, which he charged were regurgitations of historical and sometimes antiquated legal rulings and did not require the judgment and creativity that is needed to address contemporary legal issues.

The point is, whether you’re a lawyer, a lemon, or even a lemming, you’re different from others of your species, and those unique factors distinguish you from the rest of your kind.

NOT THE SENSE GOD GAVE A LEMON 

So why don’t more firms demonstrate differentiating traits that enable them to stand out from the rest?

According to Altman Weil’s 2018 Law Firms in Transition Survey, 50 per cent of lawyers from the 398 respondent U.S. firms answered ‘no’ when asked if their firm had a value proposition that differentiated them from their competition. What’s more, 59 per cent said they were “not feeling enough economic pain” to spur significant change.

Complacency is part of the problem, according to The Bellwether Report 2018: The Culture Clash — Solicitor Confidence vs. Client Power, from LexisNexis U.K. This study of independent law firms found that while 97 per cent of respondents recognize the importance of a client-first culture, 69 per cent say their firms are doing little or nothing to meet demands.

All of this is puzzling behaviour in the face of continuing reports of partner under performance, overcapacity, and unrelenting and growing competition.

THE LEMMING FACTOR 

There was a time before global full-service legal conglomerates entered the Canadian market when law firms claimed their distinctions, took a position and marketed themselves accordingly.

For example, many years ago McCarthy Tétrault LLP, once Canada’s largest law firm, touted its size, among other attributes. These days Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, now the largest Canadian firm, doesn’t take that approach. In fact, no firm does, because size is irrelevant. While other major firms once had well-known value propositions in distinct areas such as M&A or banking or finance, practice or industry distinctions are today the domain of boutique and specialty firms, and even they sometimes hide their lamps under bushels.

Is there any correlation between lawyers and lemmings? While some lemming behaviour is a myth, this much is true: their population peaks roughly every four years, then dips to near extinction. When the population is high, food gets scarce and these rodents become aggressive toward each other. That lemmings exhibit similar behaviour to one another in their search for sustenance is not surprising, since each is hungry and competitive.

LAWYERS, LAW FIRMS, LEMMINGS AND LEMONS  

Being everything to everyone may leave you as nothing to no one. But this fate is avoidable when your unique characteristics enable you to stand out from the pack — whether you are a professional, a law firm, a rodent, or a tart citrus fruit.

At the end of the differentiation exercise, when the lemons – whether there are 10 or 100 – are dumped from the bucket and the lawyers are asked to find theirs, identification happens in mere moments.

A few years ago a sharp lawyer, anticipating the need to identify her lemon, peeled it before dropping it into the bucket. Did she cheat? No. Instead, she enabled differentiation by altering its appearance. That’s something playwright Oscar Wilde might have applauded, as he once quipped, “A grapefruit is just a lemon that saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.”

Heather Suttie is a legal marketing and business development consultant. She works with a range of firms — Global to Solo, BigLaw to NewLaw. Reach her at +1.416.964.9607 or www.heathersuttie.ca. This column first appeared in Lexpert, November 2017.

November, 2018 | Member Spotlight

Business Partner Spotlight: Digitcom Telecommunications Canada Inc.

business-partner-spotlight image
Cohen, Ivan
Author Ivan Cohen

Name of Organization/Company: Digitcom Telecommunications Canada Inc.

Organization / Company Overview: Digitcom currently has a staff of 50, including administration, account executives, inside and outside technical support.  Staff are Avaya Corporation trained with regular upgrade training to keep everyone at the top of their game.  As the largest reseller of Avaya Telephone systems in Canada, Digitcom is uniquely positioned to provide service and support across Canada. 

Expertise and Growth: In addition to primarily selling and servicing Avaya and NEC solutions, Digitcom's expertise lies in its configuration skills in all aspects of system design and implementation.  Your firm will benefit from over 450 features of a new telephone system solution, because our goal is to determine the correct feature set to suit your firm's style and operation. We configure, install, train and provide post-installation, award-winning customer service, and support. Over its 27 years of service, Digitcom has helped well over 3,200 businesses. Digitcom offers multiple solution types:  On-premise, hosted, and hybrid...  Digitcom also provides contact centre services, and managed IT services.  We work for you - providing consultancy services to improve operational efficiency and caller experience through improvements to your phone system and service, always with an eye on financial savings. 

Service Overview: Digitcom's service starts with answering 99% of all calls live, within five rings, throughout the business day.  Your service request is answered by a Digitcom staff member who truly cares about you and your system, not overseas, or by a third party call centre. We service what we sell, as well as what we don't sell. Emergency service is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  If you are unsatisfied with your current interconnect provider we'll gladly jump in and provide the same reliable service as we already do with many other TLOMA members. We service PREMISES solutions from AVAYA and NEC. We continue to service and have exceptional migration programs for Nortel, Norstar, BCM and larger Nortel CS1000 and Avaya Definity systems.

How Many Years Have You Been a Business Partner of TLOMA? Over 17 years

What has been your partnership experience with TLOMA over the years? Excellent. We appreciate the opportunity to work and network together.

Favourite TLOMA memory? We enjoy the Trade Show and the Networking events. 

Where was the last place you vacationed? Dominican Republic.

What is your favourite movie? Flashdance.

What is your favourite book? Anything by John Grisham!

What are your favourite hobbies? I collect antique telephones and ride horses.

Name one thing you can't live without? My spouse, Nancy.

Ivan has been working in the telecommunications field since 1985, the dawn of cellular communications, and specifically with landline telephone systems since 1996. Trained by Nortel Networks on the Norstar product line and more recently, a graduate of Avaya University courses with APSS certification for both voice and data applications, Ivan holds the position of Senior Account Executive and has been with Digitcom since 2004.

November, 2018 | Movers and Shakers
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