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Congratulations on 50 Years of Service

Congratulations to the Honourable Justice A. M. Lutz, Steve Denecky Q.C., Gerald W. Pittman Q.C., and David P. MacNaughton for 50 fantastic years of service. It is interesting to note that in 1961, 72 lawyers were admitted to the Law Society of Alberta. In 2011, 290 lawyers were admitted to the Law Society of Alberta.

Your commitment to the legal profession is inspiring. Thank you!

 

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Don’t Miss this Stellar Program!

You will not want to miss our upcoming Legal Research seminar occurring in Calgary on October 5th and in Edmonton on October 13th. We sat down with our chair of the program, Karen M. McDougall, to share with you a bit more about this program. Karen is the principal of Casefinder, an Edmonton-based research and writing firm consulting to Alberta lawyers. She was called to the bar in 1992 and has spent most of her professional time since then practicing exclusively in research and writing.

Karen, why should someone attend this program?

We believe we have put together a research seminar with a difference.  Our “dream team” has the pedigree to offer insightful information on some truly advanced issues in research.  It will be informative and interactive — no droning lecture delivery here.

What are three (3) key nuggets of information a registrant would walk away with after attending this program?

A good idea of what competency in research should look like; updated information on the mechanics of and strategies for good research (including the use of social media as an important component); and advanced information on the legislative process and how to find legislation (including international and foreign laws) and uncommon laws like policies.

 

Click here to register for this full-day seminar!

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Virtual Law Office: A Tale of Two Cities, Part 3

You utilized this platform as a way of entering into a mentoring relationship. How did the Virtual Law Office benefit the relationship from both the mentor’s and mentee’s perspective?     

I attended the CFA Solo Practitioner and Small Law Firm conference in 2008. Blackberries with email were cutting edge then. I was using an HTC Smart phone at that time. Paul McLaughlin, the former Law Society Practice Management advisor,  was a speaker and his topic was the operation of a paperless office. As that had been one of the original goals of my VLO, to reduce or eliminate paper,  I had made a number of comments during the seminar about what I was doing in my firm, and through my training company Re-Group Collaboration Inc. toward that goal.

During the break Marc Delacruz of Grande Prairie introduced himself and asked me a question which stopped me in my tracks. “How” he asked, “did a person know what to say to prospective clients when they called and left messages?” I was curious. He was young,  shy and very embarrassed. Was this a student? A lay person? “No” replied Marc. He was 27. He had been admitted to the Bar in Manitoba after articling in a big firm where he had done primarily research. He was strongly attracted to family law practice, but admitted that he didn’t know where, or how, to start. He had relocated to Alberta with his family, his brother having set up a medical clinic in Grande Prairie. Marc’s family was originally from the Phillippines and his parents had worked hard to see all of their children educated as professionals.

Marc had bought a building for his new practice, was finishing the office construction – and his line of credit was getting quickly maxed. He needed to start taking clients.  In Grande Prairie there was an urgent need for family law counsel. A mere sign in his window with his phone number started the calls coming. But on that day, exposing his vulnerability to me, he stated that he hadn’t yet returned the calls. He was too paralyzed with fear of the unknown and the immensity of what he had embarked upon, to know what he was supposed to say to people, not as Marc, the person, but as Marc, the lawyer.

Now, lest you think that I am exaggerating, I’ll save the inside story for Marc who now,  three years later, is thriving in family law practice and will also be participating in this blog.

I was born to mother people – some think it is a weakness – some think it is a strength. Being too busy to worry about that question and with my usual motherly approach,  I invited Marc back to my office and showed him what I had been developing which would allow me to work remotely in family law practice.  I invited him to sit in on a client interview – with the client’s consent – invited him to come to a taxation where I was acting as counsel for the client taxing another lawyer’s accounts – with the client’s consent. I told him about my training company Re-Group Collaboration Inc., (which is a legal information and personal development company.) Marc was reluctant to take my time, but with each question asked, it became clearer that he needed a mentor who was willing to invest significant time in his development. There were no mentors in Grande Prairie that he felt he could approach, given he might have those in the community who were practicing family law on the other side of files before long. Many of his needs could not be met by short sessions with the Practice Advisor. He needed to know how to set up and run his law practice and how to “be confident” in family law. Hand holding was required – and the knowledge that no question was “too stupid” to be asked, nor would I ever judge his inexperience with anything other than “ok, better teach him that” responses.

Thus was born our “Virtual Relationship.”  My relationship with my IT Guru, Casey, was so successful by then that I thought a similar service might transfer to a mentorship relationship between Marc and me – and Casey – and Desiree – and Denise – and Bruce – and Danijela – and Cheryl…. Marc needed to experience what a successful small law firm could look like. His only experience was a big firm.  He knew how to manage a medical practice, but the fiscal realities of private law practice were significantly different. He needed not only to “rent a mom” – he needed to “rent a firm”, and since I was now succeeding in long distance marriage, what would be the difference in long distance mentorship? There seemed to be the same communications needs, the same distance challenges, the same remote access issues – just different content.

Marc and I contracted on the basis that we would meet regularly by phone.  He would have unlimited email and phone support from me. My firm resources would be made available to him, including all the support staff to teach him the ins and outs of their roles within the firm and he would have a “Virtual Desktop” within the firm – a virtual portal through which he would be able, under license, to use my precedents and other intellectual property to meet his needs as he built his firm. “Rent a Solicitor” discussions resulted in our entering into our paid mentorship contract for a year, with Marc “affiliating” with my firm while getting up to speed in the basics of running a family law firm. He attended in person at the firm for training in office systems and management; attended and observed collaborative meetings, went to court with me and we spent regular enjoyable hours by phone and video conferencing meeting his needs for senior counsel input as his caseload grew. During the second year I provided after-care, watching with pride as Delacruz Law Office grew from strength to strength. I drove up to Grande Prairie for Marc’s grand opening, along with Maritza Verdun-Jones, now an associate. It was wonderful to meet Marc’s supportive family, beaming with pride at their lawyer son and brother, head of his own firm. What a celebration day. I felt that I had acquired another son.

From my perspective, working with Marc helped me develop many of the training materials intended for use in my legal education company.  Primarily though, I gained a colleague who will make a solid contribution to family law in his community. Everyone in my law firm feels great pride in Marc’s accomplishments. We built community and helped to facilitate increased access to justice in Grande Prairie.  From his perspective, Marc gained his footing in the profession – and his confidence. Doing it was about meeting a need and using “Creative thinking 101″ to use resources in new ways.

Virtual law practice became more than just about me and my husband’s commute, or Maritza’s work-life balance. Through the mentorship process and Marc’s feedback about the experience,  ideas flowed to me about how to further expand and refine my VLO model in daily practice.

Is there an experience working within the Virtual Law Office that is particularly memorable?

It was a Saturday and I was in my Edmonton location; Marc had a client in his office in Grande Prairie who needed child support advice immediately about an unusually difficult situation. Using virtual resources, I video-conferenced Marc and his client into my desktop monitor,  created a child support screen, gave visual control of the screen to Marc while I described what they were seeing through a speaker phone. Marc’s client was delighted with the information – and with her lawyer’s ability to answer a tough question with help from Edmonton.

It was exciting to think of the possibilities that lay ahead for remote work and facilitating access to justice to a rural public.

Stayed tuned for Part 4: Implementing Aspects of the VLO into your Practice

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Virtual Law Office: A Tale of Two Cities, Part 2

What requirements did the Virtual Law Office have in terms of start-up and execution?

Casey will take this on in more detail, but from my perspective, there were a number of key needs to get started. I am sure there are many more, but these come to mind.

1.            Team ethics, teamwork, goal and project focus.
2.            A top notch IT consultant working with in-house tech manager – after hours on call availability.
3.            A reliable web host and a static IP address.
4.            Smart Technology – a tablet – networked.
5.            Web Cams/Projector, Bizhub. Kick-ass server.
6.            Encrypted remote access.
7.            Backups on backups.
8.            Exchange Server and network.
9.            Strong anti-virus software and security protocols.
10.          Lap top, 6″ Notebook and a Smart phone
11.          Advertising exposure province-wide.
12.          Loyal and tech-savvy staff enthusiastic about doing things in new ways.
13.          Policies and procedures promoting paperless files and remote functionality.
14.          Money. Lots of money.
15.          And did I mention teamwork?

What benefits does it provide to you to operate virtually?

I take clients all over Alberta now. Thinking virtually has opened up new worlds and locations.  It keeps my marriage together and in the last three years has allowed my husband and I to travel within Canada and the US, to Mexico, China, South Korea, Japan,  Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Alaska while operating a small law office by remote access. I’ve upgraded my hardware as technology has advanced and I now use a Netbook, Iphone and Ipad.

My associate, initially my student, was able to maintain work life balance – a key value for her. Ultimately she relocated to Vancouver for family reasons, but I understand she is seeking out the virtual model in that jurisdiction too.

Are there any aspects you would change?

I would spend less time on the bricks and mortar investments, and more time on firm exposure, sustaining technological change and training momentum, professional upgrading and skill development, research and growth of the concept to meet client needs. I would also spend even more time on team development, because a solid infrastructure is critical to the success of a VLO, unless you choose to practice entirely alone – and even then, in my opinion, you have to have some support anchored in a home base somewhere. It is misleading to think that one can live entirely in the clouds – at least, not in a divorce practice. Clients want real people helping during tough emotional times.  A voice on the phone – immediate advice during times of crisis – quick written replies and case momentum, even when the lawyer is not physically present, are essential. I would spend as much, or more, on the technology – and even more on the staff who are important to the success of the model I have developed.  (Memo to self – am I paying my team members enough?) Treating staff as what they are, members of our “case management team”, pays dividends in increased client case momentum, staff loyalty, and career satisfaction. I would spend more time in retreats and team development.

 

Stayed tuned for Part 3: A Mentoring Relationship is Born

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Virtual Law Office: A Tale of Two Cities, Part 1

Have you ever come across a challenge, dreamed up a solution, and then watched it succeed in action? Linda L. Long Q.C. of the Long Family Law Group did just that. In a series of posts, we will share with you Linda’s success story of creating a Virtual Law Office (VLO), a creation that not only provided a solution to her challenges, but offered solutions for many others along the way. Follow along as we share with you the inspiration, requirements for execution, challenges, and professional opportunities surrounding the VLO.

What was the inspiration behind the Virtual Law Office (VLO)?

Love. Pure love. I was born in Lethbridge; my husband in Edmonton. We married 33 years ago, had three children, have five grandchildren – and two busy professional careers. Our hearts have always been in the prairies, but our work has taken us across Canada through military service, and back to Edmonton where we raised our sons. I became a lawyer; Peter a Health Services Administrator. And we remain best friends.

Retirement planning, exit strategies, cruising addictions, timeshare longings have grown amidst the fierce fiscal imperatives of funding our present and future plans. How to knit it all together?

Important work came to Peter, the Edmontonian, in Lethbridge. The law kept calling Linda, the Lethbridgian, to work in Edmonton. A commute began – and the challenge arose. How would we live and work in two cities half a province apart? It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. We needed a revolution….in our thinking. Fortunately, it was not 1789. There were new kinds of clouds – and after setting up my little law firm virtually, I can truly say I have looked at clouds from both sides now….

But I digress….

Faced with the desire to go south often (my really great husband now living there in my principal residence), I needed to be able to work off-site. Expanding my practice into southern Alberta seemed to be a logical next step.   And then, of course, since I was driving to and fro so often, was there any reason not to see rural clients along the way? There was a shortage of family law practitioners in the south, apparently….So,  Linda Quixote, at the ready! Pick me, pick me!!

And that is how I came to develop a virtual law practice using a six-inch notebook, remote firm access, and a smart phone. To answer the challenge of maintaining quality legal services while sustaining a long term marriage, I had to rethink my exclusively  “bricks and mortar” service delivery and get truly creative – which meant going to the clients, sometimes in person, more often in virtual reality.

I entreated the universe to send me what I needed – an IT Consultant from heaven. My existing IT service provider could not respond to what I wanted – someone who could hold my hand during my growing pains and tell me what to buy, when to buy it, how to use it, and then provide aftercare and firm management support.

But, in response to my call, Casey MacDonald of SrvTools Inc. emerged out of the fabric of the universe.  Casey had it all, and I was happy to hire him on a year round flat rate monthly plan to be my “alpha and omega” techie and IT guru.  After all, I am old, and this is a young person’s game. So where better to start than by surrounding myself with those who are, or think, young.  I brought in Bruce, 21, Denise, 19, Danijela, 26, Desiree (age: don’t ask, don’t tell) Cheryl (age: not important – hi-tech thinker)… I trained them all in supporting substantive legal service delivery using the remote model, and they trained me in how to “think tech” – as far as my gray cells permitted at my age and stage.

I was launched. Casey and I, along with my trusty office manager, Desiree Birch, began to develop and implement plans for a virtual law office. Since Casey will be joining this blog a little later, I won’t try to reconstruct our technical history. He’s the “go-to-guy” for that. But I was helped along significantly by a CBA webinar “Top Ten Technologies for the Small Law Office” and by reading everything and anything I could get by Stephanie Kimbro, the original virtual lawyer in the U.S. Her work has now been absorbed by a company called Total Attorneys, which expands the product daily. Although I don’t use them, I keep up with their developments and, in micro, try to advance my own boutique firm’s needs.

Along the way I inherited a single parent associate lawyer who needed time flexibility.  The VLO operation suited her scheduling needs to a tee. She worked late daily by remote from home, came in for client interviews and support needs, and lived a flexible lifestyle while continuing to bill at a rate that kept her and her daughter in a comfortable standard of living.

Stayed tuned for Part 2: Execution, Benefits, and Areas of Opportunity

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Le droit en français

For the first time in history, LESA is offering a full-day seminar en français. Taking place at the Mayfield Inn & Suites on October 21, 2011, this is a program you will not want to miss if you are a French speaking practitioner. Watch the video above to hear two of our faculty members, Pierre C. Desrochers Q.C. (c.r.) and Michèle Vincent, explain why you should attend this program.

Click here to register online!

 

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Distracted Driving

Comprehensive  distracted driving legislation is now in force in Alberta as of September 1.

Check out this tip sheet on  the Alberta Transportation website, or visit here for more information.

From all of us at the Legal Education Society of Alberta, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable long weekend!

 

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Missed a Seminar? Papers Available Online!

Individual seminar papers are now available as PDF downloads! Watch your desk for our recent brochure highlighting available papers in various practice areas. Multiple purchase options are available and include:

1. PDF Download: To gain immediate access to the resources you need, and to avoid paying shipping and handling fees, visit our website at www.lesa.org and click on Educational Resources. Under Seminar Papers, you can easily search our collection by title, author, or seminar to purchase online and download the PDF.

2. Emailed PDF: If you wish to have the papers of your choice emailed to you for a processing fee of $10 per order, please send your order, noting that you wish to receive an email, to [email protected]

3. Shipped Hard Copy: If you wish to have a hard copy sent to you for a shipping and handling fee of $20 per order, please send your order, noting that you wish to receive the hard copy, to [email protected]

Click here to search for the resources you need!

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New Wills & Succession Act: Transition Guide – Pre-order Your Copy Today!

Launching Fall 2011 is our New Wills & Succession Act: Transition Guide.

There are big changes coming for all wills & estates practitioners in Alberta! The new Wills & Succession Act affects all areas of wills & succession law by consolidating several statutes, including the Wills Act, the Intestate Succession Act, the Survivorship Act, and the Dependents Relief Act. Significant amendments will also be made to the Matrimonial Property Act, the Administration of Estates Act, the Family Law Act, and the Trustee Act. Purchase this transition guide and prepare yourself for the upcoming new rules. Based on the materials from our sold-out seminar, this guide provides a general overview of what’s new as well as tips on what you need to do to prepare yourself and your clients.

Price: $195 + GST

Pre-order your copy by emailing [email protected] or by calling 780.420.1994.

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Farewell to LESA’s Summer Students and Thank You to LexisNexis

Josh de Groot and Adina Popescu were welcome and cheery additions to our LESA office over the last number of months! During their time with us, they worked with our volunteer authors to check citations and quotes for accuracy and assisted in the editing of our New Wills & Succession Act: Transition Guide (available this fall). In addition to this project, they provided assistance on our upcoming update of the Wills & Estates Legislation Practice Manual, as well as researched and wrote a number of memos for the committee working on the upcoming Family Law Practice Manual.

LexisNexis Canada generously provided Josh and Adina with four months of complementary access to the Quicklaw database. Thank you, LexisNexis, your generosity provided the necessary tools to effectively complete research assignments and update existing educational resources.

We wish Josh and Adina the best of luck in their last year of law school at the University of Alberta–and we hope they will come back to visit sometime soon!

The LESA team.