Law Times

September 27, 2010

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Law Times • sepTember 27, 2010 sion. The news media are tweeting every acrimonious minute of it. Michel Bastarache, a former judicial appointments I t's the biggest legal circus go- ing on these days. It's live every day on televi- Sparks fly over The Hill By Richard Cleroux justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, is heading an inquiry into whether Quebec judges were ap- pointed under pressure by provin- cial Liberal party bagmen. In do- ing so, he finds himself in a mess in which he's trying to keep a lid on nasty and bitter public hearings and save fellow judges' reputations while showing that the Quebec ju- dicial system is open and willing to examine itself. It's not an easy job. The allegations are serious. Ear- lier this year, former Quebec justice minister Marc Bellemare said two judges had been appointed under pressure from party bagmen. He named names: Michel Si- mard, associate chief justice of the Court of Quebec, and Gatineau lawyer Marc Bisson, who end- ed up receiving an appoint- ment to the Longueuil bench. But Bellemare is finding it dif- ficult to explain why he waited six years to make his allegations. At the same time, part of the problem for Bastarache is sort- ing out the six-year feud between Bellemare and Charest, as well as figuring out how many other judges might have benefited from patronage appointments. Tempers flared last Wednesday when Bellemare's lawyer Jean- François Bertrand hammered fundraiser Charles Rondeau. Bastarache finally blew it. He said he'd had enough. "You are harassing the witness," Bastarache said. "We've been at this two weeks. I don't want to spend an- other two weeks. Get closer to the subject at hand." The $6-million inquiry has come under public criticism for drifting off topic — the Belle- mare allegations — and into the Letter to the Editor CHANGES IMPROVING SERVICE TO CLIENTS: LAO I would like to clarify some issues raised in the article "Courts grappling with LAO delays" that appeared in Law Times on Sept. 7. For the past several years, Legal Aid Ontario has been increasing the use of technology to improve our processes and provide clients with more and faster services, including: • A simplified application process for clients to make it easier and faster for them to apply for legal aid. This pro- cess reduces the time required to complete an applica- tion by 62 per cent and frees up resources that can be reinvested in direct client services. Sixty-three per cent of clients receive a decision on their legal aid application on the same day, which allows them to begin moving forward with their legal matters. • Clients can access a full range of legal aid services over the phone, including applying for certificates. The toll-free number is 1-800-668-8258, and no coins are required, even from a payphone. Collect calls are accepted. Phone services provide a more convenient access point for clients facing language barriers or transportation challenges. LAO responds to more than 1,200 calls per day, and larger area of partisan politics and influence by party fundraisers. "Let me tell you, Mr. commis- sioner," Bertrand continued. "No, you won't tell me any- thing," Bastarache shot back. "But, but, but," Bertrand re- plied. "No buts!" the commissioner said while adjourning for lunch. After the break, Bertrand returned to the same subject. "I didn't deserve to be accused of harassment, Mr. commis- sioner." "That's your point of view," Bastarache retorted. "When you ask the same questions of a witness that he has already answered, that's harassment." "I've been a lot tougher on wit- nesses," Bertrand replied with a smile on his face. At that point, there were groans among other lawyers in the room. Justice isn't at stake here. No- body questions the judges' com- petency but rather how they came to get their appointments. As the inquiry drags on, Belle- mare has come out looking po- litically naive, while the Liberals and their bagmen are looking as if they played fast and loose with judicial appointments. As for Bastarache, he'll have to decide tricky questions, such as when a judicial appointment is a political or partisan matter and whether one is better than the other or both are bad. It won't be easy. LT Richard Cleroux is a freelance re- porter and columnist on Parliament Hill. His e-mail address is richard COMMENT PAGE 7 Maximizing productivity and happiness among your lawyers BY JEROME SHORE For Law Times I f you manage lawyers, you're probably con- cerned about their productivity. It's usually thought of as a combination of output and efficiency supported by wellness, peace of mind, and engagement in the work. But quite often in the pressure cooker of law, there isn't enough time or energy to tend to your flock and, in your leadership role, you're looking for new ideas. It's likely you learned little, if anything, about that in law school. To come up with some real-world and tested tech- niques, I asked a number of lawyers who manage others for their wisdom. Many comments correlated to an employee engagement strategy developed by David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work. He calls it the SCARF model, which suggests manag- ers use five broad strategies (status, certainty, au- tonomy, relationships, and fairness) to build well- ness and engagement and, therefore, productivity. First, build up the status of employees; second, communicate a lot to generate certainty; third, delegate enough to gain the advantages of au- tonomy; fourth, promote interaction to foster collaborative relationships; and fifth, ensure that people feel they are being treated fairly. Building feelings of status among lawyers who work for you will help them feel good about themselves, and they will want more of that. It comes from noticing their high-quality efforts and recognition as easy to give as a simple compli- ment. James Howie, a founding partner of Howie Sacks & Henry LLP, puts it this way: "Associates and partners are encouraged to focus on quality of work, things that are productive and helpful. We downplay hours put in. Work product that is high quality is rewarded more than hours docketed." McCarthy Tétrault LLP partner Bill Mc- Cullough articulates it this way: "I look for op- portunities to compliment associates on their writing," he says. "It seems to build their self- esteem and mental energy." Certainty is the notion of knowing what's going on. When people are uncertain, they can be a little insecure. Howard Sloan, president of the management committee at Goldman Sloan Nash & Haber LLP, has his own way of dealing with the issue. "When a lawyer who works for me is facing extraordinary stress, approximately 84 per cent of individuals applying for legal aid over the phone receive a decision on their ap- plication that same day. Calling the toll-free number also provides eligible clients with access to other legal aid services, such as summary criminal and family legal advice from a lawyer, general information, and referrals to other social service agencies. All of these services are available in 120 languages through an interpreter. We're constantly upgrading our technology for even better service. For example, we've established a priority queue to reduce wait times for victims of domestic vio- lence with the aim of connecting these callers with a le- gal aid representative as quickly as possible. This ongoing commitment to improving the toll-free service is appreci- ated by clients. In June, 98 per cent of callers reported be- ing "satisfied" or "very satisfied" overall with the services received from the LAO toll-free line. We have also redesigned and relaunched our web site with changes to make it more user-friendly. The revised site provides access to information about legal aid servic- es and other online resources. So far this year, the LAO web site has had more than 450,000 visitors and two million page views. The complete web site is accessible to clients using mobile phone browsers. In addition, we've introduced more payment meth- ods for clients, which means those with contribution agreements no longer need to visit a legal aid office to make payments. Instead, payments can now be made at any bank in Ontario. Clients don't need to have a bank account, and there's no fee for making a payment. This alternative also saves a trip to a legal aid office. I try to reach out in a way that will let them know they're important and valued," he says. "That pumps them up and builds loyalty." Jay Swartz, a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, has another suggestion. "When you give people responsibility and let them know that the team depends on them, they will gener- ally rise to the occasion and perform without un- due amounts of supervision," he says. Autonomy is the feeling that you're managing Speaker's Corner yourself and your work. It's the feeling of being in control. For David Rosenberg, general counsel at Carillion Canada Inc., "it's all about permission to take charge. So delega- tion includes permission to take initiative, to learn by doing, to think outside the box, and even some- times to risk making mistakes." Relationships in the workplace deliver the many benefits of collaboration. Mary Vallee of Graham Partners LLP in Barrie, Ont., de- scribes the advantages of a mentoring rela- tionship like this: "Firstly, it decreases stress as the associate is given direction to proceed and doesn't have to worry if she is taking the right step. Secondly, it increases the interac- tion between senior and junior lawyers and builds collegiality. Associates then feel more comfortable asking questions." The last element of the SCARF model is fair- ness. Essentially, people want appropriate reci- procity at work. They want to earn both money and recognition commensurate with what they put in. Rhonda Cohen, managing director at Sherrard Kuzz LLP, identifies two key strategies for achieving fairness. "First, we lead by exam- ple in accepting and acknowledging a range of models of what constitutes a successful lawyer," she says. "Second, we bonus on four equally weighted criteria: quality, teamwork, commu- nity outreach, and hours. In this way, we hope to develop a whole and happy lawyer, not just a billable-hours machine." So while you may often feel that you're swim- ming upstream while managing lawyers, there's certainly no shortage of good ideas you can imple- ment, quite often with something as simple as a kind word at a critical moment. LT Jerome Shore is the managing partner of The Coach- ing Clinic. You can reach him at 416-787-5555 or In the meantime, we've reduced leasing costs by $900,000 annually. In July 2008, LAO relocated the pro- vincial office to the Atrium on Bay. By adopting an open office concept for all staff, including for LAO's CEO, we were able to reduce our footprint by 23 per cent. The changes have resulted in improvements for legal aid lawyers. As part of our modernization strategy, we are improving technology and online services for law- yers. Lawyers doing legal aid work can take advantage of a number of online services, including billing and ac- knowledging certificates. In July alone, 6,500 certificates were acknowledged by lawyers using the system. At the same time, lawyers can now view certificate amendments and authorizations online. They can also choose to receive e-mail updates and text message alerts for the same purpose. LAO pays 70 per cent of the accounts it receives within 21 days. Accounts that require discretion because they have been billed above the tariff rate are considered on a case-by-case basis. Decisions are made based on a careful review of the amounts billed and the reasons for the higher amounts. Accounts for major cases, such as a murder or a guns-and-gangs matter, are matched against the budget set for the case and processed for payment when that review is completed. These are some of the ways LAO is streamlining admin- istration, reducing cost, and reinvesting savings into direct client services. Kristian Justesen, Manager of communications and public affairs, Legal Aid Ontario, Toronto

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