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Monday, March 17, 2014

LEGAL TECH COURSE LAUNCHED

Osgoode Hall Law School and the University of Victoria will offer a new course on legal information technology next year.

The course is the first of its kind, according to James Williams, a Google Inc. software engineer who’s part of the faculty that will teach it. The course, which centres on technology, legal services, and justice, is timely, said Williams.

“We think it is important for a number of reasons, the most pressing of which is that we believe the legal marketplace is about to undergo a number of major changes. I work in the U.S., where there are already significant disruptions to the market, including reduced opportunities for junior lawyers and the elimination of many lower level positions,” he said.

Williams added: “There are a few drivers, of which technology is an increasingly important one. I believe we are about to see a wave of new business models and software tools that are going to have a lasting impact on legal service delivery. Here at Google, we are working on a project or two, and there are many startups in the valley with new products.”

Monica Goyal, a Toronto lawyer and digital entrepreneur, and online dispute resolution expert Darin Thompson are also faculty members. The course will likely begin in January of next year.

TWO LAWYERS NAMED TO SUPERIOR COURT

The federal government has appointed two lawyers to the Ontario Superior Court bench.

Paul Nicholson will sit in Newmarket, Ont., while Gregory Verbeem will join the bench in Windsor, Ont. Nicholson replaces Justice Clifford Nelson, who elected to become a supernumerary judge as of Feb. 25. Nicholson, who most recently was a sole practitioner, largely practised family law.

Verbeem replaces Justice Richard Gates, who became a supernumerary judge last year. Verbeem served as a judicial law clerk for the regional senior justice in the southwest region and has been an associate and partner with Bartlet & Richardes LLP since 1996. His main practice areas were personal injury and commercial litigation.

NEW LEGAL AID STATS

Ontario and Prince Edward Island’s legal aid systems spent less money on criminal matters as a percentage of total resources than other jurisdictions last year, according to a newly published 2012-13 Statistics Canada report on legal aid.

Ontario and Prince Edward Island allocated 47 per cent of their resources for criminal matters, whereas the 10 other jurisdictions that provided data reported spending between 55 and 75 per cent of their funds on criminal matters.

The report notes provincial and territorial governments across Canada reported contributing $658 million to legal aid plans while the federal government provided $112 million.

POLL RESULTS

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

According to the poll, there’s significant division on alternative business structures with about 52 per cent of respondents suggesting the liberalization of law firm ownership is a risky idea. On the other side, about 48 per cent of respondents agreed with a Law Society of Upper Canada report that raised the prospect of significant liberalization.

LSUC benchers voted on Feb. 27 to launch a consultation on four options for non-lawyer ownership of law firms following a report from a working group looking at the issue. The options followed an analysis of what working group chairman Malcolm Mercer said had worked for Britain and Australia.

LAWYER ORDERED TO SURRENDER LICENCE

The Law Society of Upper Canada has allowed a Kingston, Ont., lawyer to surrender his licence to practise law.

The hearing panel’s decision included findings that Jehuda Kaminer acted in a conflict of interest while representing a client in a Small Claims Court matter by initiating and maintaining a sexual relationship; receivedcash in trust from the client and failed to deposit the funds into his trust account; and failed to fulfil his personal undertaking to a fellow legal practitioner in relation to a real estate transaction.

A hearing panel had previously suspended Kaminer after finding him to have been in a conflict of interest in a separate matter. That case included findings he had a relationship with a client whose husband he had also represented. Theclients, identified only as Mr. and Mrs. M, had retained the lawyer to complete their divorce.

HEENAN BLAIKIE ENERGY LAWYERS JOIN GOWLINGS

A team of nuclear energy lawyers from Heenan Blaikie LLP has joined Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP.

Four of the five lawyers—Ahab Abdel-Aziz, Matthew Benson, Magdalena Hanebach, and William Jackman—will be at the firm’s Toronto office, while Bruce Johnson will work as a consultant based in Qatar.

Gowlings touts Abdel-Aziz, who joins the firms as a partner and global director of nuclear power generation, as “a leader in the international nuclear sector for over 20 years.”

“Ahab is one of Canada’s outstanding legal practitioners in the global nuclear space,” said Scott Jolliffe, Gowlings chair and chief executive officer.

“He brings an extraordinary reputation for innovation in his field, both in Canada and internationally. We are thrilled to welcome him, along with Matthew, Magdalena, William, and Bruce. Their experience will allow us to deliver an even greater depth of services to our clients in the energy sector.”

NEW LAWYER AT CASSELS BROCK

Bernd Christmas has joined Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP.

Christmas, who formerly practised at Bernd Christmas Law Group, “will serve as a critical resource to the Cassels Brock client base, which includes many of the country’s leading mining and natural resource companies, financial institutions, and corporate entities, as well as international clients doing business in Canada,” the firm said in a news release.

At Cassels Brock, Christmas will advise on commercial, financial, environmental, social, and political issues surrounding business negotiations with First Nations bands, tribal counsel, and other organizations.

Christmas became the first Mi’kmaw to become a lawyer in Canada in 1993, according to Cassels Brock.

“The ability to work effectively with First Nations for the mutual benefit of their communities and our clients is vital and becoming increasingly more important every day. In that regard, Bernd’s unique background and experience will be a tremendous asset,” said David Peterson, chairman of Cassels Brock.

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