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Small firm, big firm

Editorial Obiter

This week, I had two separate conversations with two lawyers, one at a large, established firm in Toronto and the other at a small firm in rural Ontario.

What struck me was not what the lawyers did differently but how both acknowledged that needs of lawyers (and their clients) vary wildly depending on where they practice and the type of firm they’re at.

To use a hackneyed phrase, both of them indicated there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for all lawyers on how to best do their jobs.

This issue of Law Times contains stories that relate to technology and shows how there is a vast array of opinion on how best to regulate the use of technology within widely varying practices.

Our cover story looks at how prospective benchers view the role of the regulator in this realm.

Some are pushing for more rules and guidelines to help set clearer ideas of what is expected, while others already feel lawyers are grappling with enough regulatory oversight.

“Every day there are press releases and announcements and committees — and it gets so noisy that it is impossible for a sole practitioner or a small firm to keep on top of their practice, keep on top of the law and now these technology things,” says Mitch Kowalski, who is running for a seat.

What isn’t debatable is that the way lawyers do business is changing. Anita Balakrishnan reports on how Phil Brown, counsel of professional development and competence at the Law Society of Ontario, for example, told an Ontario Bar Association Institute event that technology can pose a challenge for record-keeping, especially as lawyers shift to text messages to communicate.

“It makes sense in this world of fleeting communications; you want to memorialize them. You want to make sure you’ve somehow documented a conversation,” says Brown, who suggested screenshots as a possible solution. Expect the issue to continue to be top of mind as the election swings into full gear. Specific solutions and ideas are welcome.

Law Times Poll

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that real estate lawyer Doug Downey will be Ontario’s new attorney general. Do you expect Downey to take a substantially different approach to his portfolio than his predecessor in the role?