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Monday, June 24, 2013

HONORARY DOCTORATES AWARDED

The Law Society of Upper Canada presented honorary doctorates to Ontario Court Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo and former Ontario associate chief justice Dennis O’Connor last week.

The LSUC presented the degrees during the call to the bar ceremony on June 21 at Roy Thomson Hall. The law society honoured Bonkalo “for her outstanding service to the profession and the judiciary, in particular, her sound judgment and understanding of law and the justice system.”

O’Connor, known for leading the Walkerton and Maher Arar inquiries, received the honour for his “exemplary career,” the law society said. He joined the Ontario Court of Appeal in 1998 and later served as associate chief justice of Ontario until his retirement in 2012.

SENIOR JUDGES APPOINTED

The Ontario government has appointed three judges to senior roles at the Ontario Court of Justice.

Justices Simon Armstrong, Timothy Lipson, and Sharon Nicklas will become regional senior judges with the court later this summer.

Armstrong, a judge since 2003, will take up the role in the central east region, replacing Justice Gregory Regis, while Lipson, who has served on the Ontario Court bench since 2002, will fill a post vacated by Justice Faith Finnestad in Toronto.

Nicklas, originally appointed a judge in 2007, takes the role in the central west region on Aug. 31 as she replaces Justice Kathryn Hawke.

LEGAL HIRING TRENDING UP

The legal industry will see increased hiring activity in the months to come, new research from Robert Half Legal suggests.

Four out of 10 lawyers who participated in the research said their law firms or companies plan to add new positions.

A further 50 per cent of respondents said their companies would maintain staff levels by filling vacant positions, Robert Half Legal reported last week.

Only five per cent of respondents said they would neither fill vacant positions nor create new ones. Meanwhile, four per cent of those interviewed for the research revealed plans to reduce or eliminate positions.

“A surge in business and corporate law-related work is prompting the expansion of legal teams, the research suggests. Almost half (49 per cent) of lawyers expect this practice area to drive hiring at their law firms and companies followed by litigation, cited by 44 per cent of those polled,” said Robert Half Legal last week.

But the research also found that for recruiting firms and companies, finding the right type of recruits is challenging.

“Although hiring is on the horizon for many, locating candidates with the specialized skills and abilities employers require may prove difficult: 69 per cent of survey respondents cited at least some challenge in finding skilled legal professionals,” the company noted.

BLG, CLIENT NAMED VALUE CHAMPIONS

A partnership that helped an in-house legal team to reduce its external counsel costs by about a fifth has won international recognition.

The Association of Corporate Counsel has named Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada and Borden Ladner Gervais LLP among its value champions for 2013.

The pair are the only Canadian entities on the list announced last week that also features firms from the United States, Italy, Britain, and China.

The savings have been “well north of 10 per cent and perhaps 15 to 20 per cent,” says Michael Boyce, Healthcare Insurance Reciprocal of Canada’s vice president of claims.

“That’s probably very conservative,” adds John Morris, a partner at BLG.

With the help of a consulting firm, the two companies introduced value-based pricing.

Boyce says the change has led to increased efficiencies on both sides without adversely affecting the quality of the service provided.

“It incentivized BLG to work harder and be more efficient and encouraged HIROC not to over use the services,” he says.

“We realized it’s not sufficient just to get the law firm to change their practices,” he adds, explaining how his company now has a completely paperless office, has reduced the “number of hands touching a file,” and relies on phone calls instead of written letters.

BLG was able to implement the fee structure partly through using paralegals.

“That was [already] something we were doing to try to make sure that the right work was being done at the right level,” says Morris.

But entering into discussions with the company provided an impetus to go further.

“A lot of the efficiencies have come through analyzing what we’re doing, the client giving us the licence to ask how we can do the work in different ways,” he adds.

POLL RESULTS

The results for the latest Law Times online poll are in.

According to the poll, more than two-thirds of respondents believe the Ontario government got it right with its proposed law targeting strategic litigation against public participation.

Seventy-seven per cent of poll respondents said they support the bill while the rest disagreed with it. The bill seeks to eliminate frivolous lawsuits aimed at intimidating members of the public who are vocal about matters of public interest.

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