Archive for March, 2007

I’ve Moved

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

When I went away to university to study political science I spent the first year living in residence.  It was in residence that I came face to face with my earliest true experience of status and privilege.  Yes, in years to come it would be who bought their clothes at The Polo Store (it was the late 1980s by then) or at Brooks Brothers or what kind of car one drives.  But back in those relatively naïve days of 1986 the key status symbol was … who had a beer fridge in their dorm room.  Well, intrepid reader, I must admit – I did not.  I had all the best pinup posters of the day and a stereo system that had the speakers directed at the windows and could blast heavy metal music that could be heard clear across the quad.  (It makes my teeth rattle and ache just thinking about it today.  And, yes, I did have long hair back then – heck, I had hair.)  But I … did not have … a beer fridge.

So now I’m all grown up and a responsible adult (that’s my story and I’m sticking with it) with a new and growing law firm.  And how am I going to show the world that my firm is doing well?  Yup, you guessed it, I’ve bought a beer fridge.  The problem, of course, is that I have now built up a reputation and certain standards that just cannot be thrown away.  So how to balance the desire for a beer fridge (and all the power and prestige that comes with it) with the desire to remain a respectable, upstanding member of the legal community?  The answer:  house the beer fridge in a new fancy office.

And so, it is with great pride and fanfare I announce that the firm is moving to its new offices on April 1, 2007.  No, it’s not an April Fool’s joke – I can do much better than making people send snail mail to the wrong address.  As of that day, the new office will be located at:


121 Richmond Street West, Suite 806


Toronto, Ontario 

M5H 2K1

The plan is to shut down the office on Wednesday March 28 to pack up, move everything on Thursday March 29 and unpack everything on Friday March 30.  If everything goes according to plan (and that always happens, right?), we’ll be ready to see you on Monday April 2.  Stop by and have a coffee – or, better yet, a beer.  Cheers! 

CALC

Goodman & Carr

Monday, March 26th, 2007

There has been a lot of ink spilled lately about the demise of Goodman and Carr. Pundits are running around saying that it’s another sign of the death of the mid-sized law firm.

It seems to me that the legal industry is finally coming to a cross-roads. In the past, lawyers were part of a guild and the focus was on professionalism and standards. The last thing a lawyer wanted to be was a business person. In fact, when you see lawyers wearing their robes there is still a small sash (for lack of a better word) that runs over the left shoulder blade and looks like an upside down letter Y. In

England 100 years ago and more, it was unseemly for a lawyer to take money for his (as it was only men in those days) services. But the reality was that they still had to eat, so the old robes had a slit in them and clients would drop gold coins down this sash. The lawyer was a lawyer first, business person second.

Today, the lawyer is constantly being told that the law is a business and should be treated as such. The focus has gone from law as a “pure” profession to being a business that happens to sell legal knowledge. The fly in the ointment for this modern-day view is that, if lawyers wanted to be (or were good at being) business people, they would have gone out and become investment bankers, stock brokers or small business owners and made as much, or even more, money than they do as lawyers.

Ever since I left my old firm and went out on my own, I am frequently told by friends about how “brave”, “gutsy”, etc., etc. I was to do it. This is the polite way of saying “good for you, I wish I could do that, but I just don’t dare take the risk.” Now, let’s not think that I’ve got a swelled head. I’ll be the first to admit that my departure from the big firm was preceded by over three years of planning, purchasing of equipment and supplies and furniture. And even when I took the plunge, I didn’t run out and get nice new offices, but I went for a shared-office arrangement. Ten months later, I’m finally moving into those new offices (that’s for the next posting). But true entrepreneurs, which many of my clients are, take a “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” mentality. They are constantly seeing nothing but the upside. While I see the upside, I also spend a great deal of time looking at all the potential downsides.

So the problem the legal industry is facing is that law is now supposed to be a business but the lawyers are probably some of the worst business people around. They don’t have a natural affinity for business and their training teaches them to see the glass as half empty while the entrepreneur sees it as half-full. Is it any wonder, then, that firms like Goodman and Carr go under? The problem with the larger law firms is that they have generally priced themselves out of the range of entrepreneurs and small businesses. In doing so, they have also lost out on a vast wealth of knowledge and experience. I would personally assess only 10% of my business acumen to business training. The other 90% has come from being the lawyer for small businesses and watching what they have done that has worked and, perhaps more importantly, experiencing their failures with them and learning from those mistakes. This has helped me to learn what advice I can soundly give to my clients – and to my own business.

So, God Speed to Goodman and Carr. Will the rest of the legal community learn from its demise? Probably not. That’s OK – it’s just more work for me and my little shop. And that’s why, when I grow up, I want to be a small business lawyer.

CALC

Welcome to the Ontario Legal Blog

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

I was walking past

Nathan Philips Square

(site of City Hall) in

Toronto the other day. In the south-west corner of the square is a statue of Winston Churchill. As an honour to Churchill, there is a platform with a lectern just in front of the statue. The space is dedicated to any person who wishes to talk about any topic of public interest. This is not a new concept by any stretch, but as I walked by the site I realized that in the more than a decade that I have been in

Toronto
and have passed by the site many, many times, I have only ever seen one person giving a speech there. The gentleman was a Christian who was proselytizing. I paid little attention at the time since he was, in my case, preaching to the converted. But I did have a measure of respect for him as he was standing there giving his speech with the clear realization that few people, if any, were actually listening to what he was saying.

As I walked past the site the other day it dawned upon me that nobody takes part in public oration anymore because, among other things, there are blogs. I had already made the decision to start this blog, but it was interesting for me to realize that this blog is really a continuation of what has been a very long tradition. One need only think back to Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the scene when Brian is being chased by the Romans and ends up in a line of public speakers – all of whom, coincidentally, were also proselytizing and setting forth prophecies. Today the lineup is in the blogosphere instead.

On the one hand, launching this new blog is a bit of a daunting task as I wonder whether people will treat it like I and the many others did on hearing the gentleman speaking at

Nathan Philips Square

and just pay no attention. On the other hand, I also see this as a very liberating opportunity. You see, for the past decade I have been working for some of the largest law firms in the country. Many years ago, before blogs were in vogue, I created my own web site and sought to let people know about myself and my abilities. I was asked by the firm I worked for at the time to shut down the web site. The reason was that they had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars working with marketing analysts and experts to finely hone their corporate image. The last thing they wanted was some upstart young, entrepreneurial lawyer screwing up their branding exercise. So, the second they found out about my web site, they very quickly and very firmly instructed me to take down the site. The result was that visitors to ontariolegal.com were met with an “Under Construction” page for years (as subsequent firms I worked for had similar dim views of independent web sites run by their lawyers). Ironically, however, these firms have now come to the realization that blogs are a good thing – so long as they are created and maintained under the firm’s strict supervision. The more things change …

And that’s where the liberating opportunity comes in. For example, if I wanted to say that I like large breasts, I can now say this. I don’t have to answer to “the man” anymore. Now, two percent of the people who have read this far will have just been insulted to see the statement that I like large breasts. Three percent will be sitting at their computers scratching their heads wondering why I just came up with such an odd statement and may well wonder whether it’s actually true or not. And the other ninety-five percent will have immediately realized the statement for what it truly is – a cheap ploy to hopefully attract people to my fledgling blog that are otherwise searching for “large breasts” on either Google or Yahoo or some other search engine. As I understand it, the more times I have the words “large breasts” or otherwise incorporate the concept of large breasts into my blog article, the higher the chances that it will be picked up by the search engines for people doing this type of search. From my several friends who work in the IT field at large and small companies, it’s quite surprising how many people are surfing the web doing searches like this on company time!

The other advantage of this blog is that it will give me the liberating opportunity to provide timely, or sometimes not so timely but still relevant, information to my clients and others. The miserly part of my brain is cheering the opportunity to provide updates to happenings at my firm and elsewhere without incurring the costs of having my web designer (who is very good by the way) re-configure my web site. The “ornery old coot” part of my brain that is growing with each passing year is excited at the ability to have a forum to rant and rave every once in a while about topics that are hopefully of interest to people besides myself – and even if they are not of interest, it just gives me an opportunity to “vent”. The gossip part of my brain is looking forward to the ability to share interesting tidbits of practical information that will hopefully prove useful to other people. And, the volunteer part of my brain is excited at the opportunity of providing some basic information on new developments in the law or legislation that can impact upon the world of small business.

So, please drop by often as I will be making fairly regular postings. Above all else, I will try and keep the postings “light” and try to infuse whatever humour I can (although I will warn you now that my humour stylings tend to be of the “cornball” or “hayseed” variety – what can I say, I gotta be me). I will also try my best to provide at least some substance to the postings to make them worthwhile. Oh, and did I mention the large breasts?

CALC