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Monday, July 6, 2009


OSLER CUTS SUPPORT STAFF
In what’s being described as an “administrative reorganization” unrelated to the recession, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP has slashed 23 members of its support staff.

Ruth Woods, the firm’s chief administrative officer, tells Law Times while the recessionary economy has forced the firm to take a hard look at its operations, it’s unlikely Osler will refill the eliminated posts when work picks up.

“If you take it from the top business imperative, we always have to provide the most cost-effective legal services to our clients,” says Woods. “As we were reviewing our administrative functions we felt we needed to remove some cost.”

The firm removed as many “discretionary costs” as possible and “allowed a significant amount of attrition to take place” before cutting staff, she adds.

Woods says the 23 job cuts represent just under two per cent of the firm’s workforce, says Woods. Legal assistants, paralegals, and administrative staff from various other groups, such as information technology, human resources, and hospitality, from the firm’s offices in Toronto, Montreal, and New York were affected.

Osler is helping the departing employees find new jobs, she says, adding the firm has “absolutely no intention of doing a reorganization on the legal side.”

Several other big firms, such as Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, also have slashed support staff during the recession. McCarthy Teétrault LLP recently sent a small group of associate lawyers packing.

LAW OFFICES CHALLENGED

Law firms’ ability to find success in the midst of challenging economic times depends largely on their area of specialty and ability to adapt, according to a report from staffing company Robert Half Legal.

“The economic downturn has changed the landscape in the legal field,” says Jonathan Veale, division director of Robert Half Legal. “Law firms with practice groups that specialize in bankruptcy and restructuring, intellectual property, litigation, and employment law are seeing increased demand for legal services.

Other firms, meanwhile are seeking new strategies for improving efficiencies and generating revenue in the coming year.”

The company lists the following as key findings from the report, titled “Delivering value-added legal services in challenging times”:

• demand for legal services is growing in practice areas such as bankruptcy and restructuring, litigation, intellectual property, litigation, and employment law;

• experienced lawyers with a book of business are finding new employment opportunities, but recent law school graduates and generalists are encountering a competitive market;

• many law firms face steep revenue goals, prompting them to rethink client service approaches;

• alternative billing practices are gaining wider acceptance as clients ask for more flexible arrangements from their law firms;

• corporate legal departments are limiting spending on outside counsel to the most strategic areas and reassessing the allocation of legal work; and

• increasingly, corporate legal departments are using project professionals to manage rising workloads and meet demand for their legal services.

The results are from Robert Half’s Future Law Office project. More information is available at www.futurelawoffice.com.

BCCLA HAS POLICE BLOG
A place to read about one’s clients?
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has launched a police blog, which should be of interest to not just the public but students and trial lawyers.

www.RightsCity.org
encourages individuals to write about their experiences with police and it also follows the 25 police complaints the BCCLA has filed since 2004.

BCCLA president Robert Holmes says: “We hope that by engaging and educating the community through stories we post, and also by posting articles, comments, and stories by members and organizations that share our goals, we can all work together to achieve the best policing possible.”

RightsCity is a blog on current policing issues and provides opportunity for people and community organizations to comment on policing news and contribute articles.

“RightsCity is not just about problems in policing and accountability, but also successes and positive changes achieved by communities and police agencies,” says Holmes.

LCO LAUNCHES DISABILITIES PROJECT
Last week, the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) launched public consultations to look at how the law affects persons with disabilities.

The consultations are the the first stage of a project that is expected to develop a new approach to this area of the law. It seeks input on how the law should define "disability.”        

According to the LCO, more than 15 per cent of Ontario’s population have a disability, with the numbers increasing across Canada.

"Given the increased occurrence of disability associated with aging, almost everyone will, at some point in their lives, either experience disability or have a family member who does" says Dr. Patricia Hughes, executive director of the LCO.

The disabled continue to experience wide-ranging disadvantages such as ongoing barriers in education and employment, and are disproportionately likely to have to survive on low-incomes, and to be victims of violent crime and domestic assault, says Hughes.

"This suggests a need to critically examine current legal approaches to disability issues and to develop a new framework of principles for this area of the law," she says.

 In this first stage of the project, the LCO is seeking input on the way in which the law approaches defining disability.

Its consultation paper is online at www.lco-cdo.org/en/disabilities.html.  Responses to the Consultation Paper will be accepted until Aug. 28, 2009. 

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