Month: May 2014
By Sarah Roussel-Lewis
The Young Advocate Series
The Art of the Interview: How Lawyers Talk with Clients
Discovery Techniques: A Practical Guide to the Discovery Process
Legal Writing: Mastering Clarity and Precision
By John Hollander
Toronto: Irwin Law, 2013
The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library has recently acquired part of the Young Advocate Series, which are handy guides to the following topics: Legal writing, discovery and interviewing. Lawyers interested in learning the basics of these topics should consider dropping by the library to pick one of them up.
They do contain a great many tips and techniques that permit the thoughtful junior lawyer to develop and advance skills essential to the profession. 1
These great resources by John Hollander were created to help new lawyers discover useful tricks-of-the-trade. Many chapters include examples, exercises and thoughtful questions. For example:
Select a standard interview session that you encounter frequently (perhaps a new client interview for one of your areas of practice). Prepare a list of topics you normally cover. Assume that the client is familiar with the jargon you would use and has experience dealing with people in your area of practice.
Now, review that list and adapt it to suit a new client who has no familiarity at all with the services you offer. Design several questions that probe behind the answers that you would ordinarily accept at face value from a client who is more familiar with the matters at hand. 2
Not only is the commentary interesting and relevant, but visually the books are quite appealing. The liberal use of bright colours and attractive graphics make these items stand out. Another attractive quality of this series is the use of easy-to-read language, making the topics much easier to digest. All three are under 200 pages and are small in stature, making them easily portable for lawyers who are always on the go.
One thing that could deter from the series is the faux dust jacket they have attached. The items are coil bound but they have added a page at the back that works as a dust jacket. It makes for a slightly awkward packaging which could get damaged very easily.
The content, being so general and simple, could also detract from the series. These items would be a good basis for young lawyers looking to get a quick look into a subject they aren’t experienced in. For a senior lawyer, these might be less helpful, as the topics are quite basic and do not delve deep enough.
These textbooks are available through the Irwin Law e-library in the Members’ Section and in print at our library. Please stop by the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library to check out these valuable legal resources. Call numbers: KF 311 .H73 2013, KF 8900 .H73 2013 and KF 240 .H734 2013.
In the Legal Sourcery book review, new, thought-provoking, and notable library resources are reviewed. If you would like to read any of the resources reviewed, please contact our library at firstname.lastname@example.org or (306) 569-8020. Let us know if there is a book you would like reviewed.
1. Hollander, John. Legal Writing: Mastering Clarity and Precision (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2013) at vii
2. Hollander, John. The Art of the Interview: How Lawyers Talk with Clients (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2013) at 70
2014’s New Year Day ushered in new liquor laws allowing strippers in Saskatchewan bars. Did you know that 60 years ago you could end up in jail for having a beer in a bar if you were not sitting down in a chair? What was Saskatchewan liquor law like 100 years ago?
Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to ban private sector sale of alcohol. The sale of liquor were banned in April 1915 and all bars and club licenses were abolished the following July. In 1924 Saskatchewan voted to end prohibition and adopted a system of government controlled liquor stores. There remained no bars, no beer parlours, no licensed clubs, and no canteens selling liquors in Saskatchewan. Under government control, the quantities of alcohol an individual could purchase each day were 2 gallons of beer, 1 gallon of wine, and 1 quart of whisky. Bootlegging in Saskatchewan increased 111% in the first year after prohibition was lifted and sale of hard liquor under government control increased by 33% in two years from 1925 to 1927. In January 1927, an article in Spokane’s Spokesman Review reported that Saskatchewan might be called “the province where liquor is easy to buy and hard to drink”.
“There is no difficulty about the individual getting all the beer, wine and spirits that anyone could drink. But he must not drink it in his office, or at his club, or in his restaurant, or standing up alongside a hotel bar or sitting down to it in a beer parlor or in any other public place unless it be at a banquet.”
The sale of liquor by the glass became legal in 1935. After much debate, it was decided that women should be allowed to drink in beer parlours too – but not in the same beer parlours as men. There were separated beer parlours for men and women and there must be no communicating door between the two. The only man allowed to enter the women’s beer parlour would be the waiter or bartender, for the law prohibited women to serve beer. A man and wife might wish to enjoy a beer together but under the law they would have to do so in separate parlours. If either one finished the drink first, it would be illegal for him or her to go next door to look for the spouse. In beer parlours, sale of food, meals or any other kind of drinks were not allowed. In September 1952, a Saskatoon man was fined $100, with an alternative sentence of 45 days in jail, for drinking in a beer parlour standing up. From Acting-Magistrate J.M. Goldenberg’s judgment:
“I am faced with the possibility that I will send this man to jail for 45 days for what cannot be described otherwise than a very petty offence. That strikes me as a punishment that is much more severe than the offence calls for.” (Ottawa Citizen, September 26, 1952)
It wasn’t till 1959 that women were allowed to drink in the same beverage outlets as men and in 1965, women were allowed to serve in beer parlours provided that they were hotel owners or wives of hotel owners.
Leader-Post, July 31, 1958 “Liquor Report has 37 varied recommendations”
Leader-Post, May 20, 1953 “Ladies’ beer parlors discussed by hotelmen”
Ottawa Citizen, Nov. 25, 1959 “Domain Gone”
The Spokesman-Review, January 28, 1927 “Easy to Buy, Hard to Drink, Said of Saskatchewan Control“
Ottawa Citizen, October 18, 1928 – The Fifth Column “Just What is Being ‘Controlled’ By Liquor Control in Canada”
The Montreal Gazette, Jan. 25, 1935 “Saskatchewan’s Beer parlors”
The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan “Prohibition and Temperance”
Ottawa Citizen, March 2, 1946 “Want milk bars, not beer parlors”
After months of bickering, a divorce lawyer completes negotiations with the other side and calls his client with the good news.
“So what did you work out?” George asks the lawyer.
“Well, what it boils down to is that the party of the first part, to wit, George Smith, shall convey to the party of the second part and to her heirs and assigns forever fee simple to the matrimonial estate, including all property real and personal and all chattels appurtenant thereto.”
“I don’t get any of that,” George muttered.
“That’s right.” 1
Latin terms, legal jargon, run-on sentences littered with convoluted modifiers … for a member of the public, it is a confusing endeavor to wade through what is commonplace for lawyers and legal professionals, as the joke above shows. Access to justice has been a very hot topic in the legal world, and to help the public better understand their rights and responsibilities, it seems that a good place to start would be to replace antiquated legal jargon with plain language.
One of the great paradoxes about the legal profession is that lawyers are, on the one hand, among the most eloquent users of the English language while, on the other, they are perhaps its most notorious abusers. –Peter Tiersma, The Nature of Legal Language
The Copyeditor’s Handbook (my personal Bible, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) tells us that “A writer’s word choices set the tone for a piece (formal, informal, colloquial) … Word choice also gives cues to the readers about the author’s conception of them. Shop talk, jargon, and lingo should be reserved for publications aimed at a specialized audience that is familiar with the argot.” 2 It is a common practice of editors, marketers and communication professionals of all types to tailor their writing style to their audience. For example, if you are writing for an academic crowd who understand a certain level of specialized language, or jargon, on a specific topic, then a switch to plain language would sound patronizing or condescending. Read the rest of this entry »
Feature Blogger: Reché McKeague
On May 20, 2014, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a judgment that quickly went viral. Morland-Jones v Taerk, 2014 ONSC 3061, was described variously by people in my social media feeds as “not just a judgment, but rather perhaps the most perfect short story I have read,” “litigious ridiculousness,” and, simply, “awesome.”
What kind of judgment engenders this kind of interest and response from lawyers? One which is changing the law as we know it? One dealing with matters of national importance? No. The judgment at issue, viewed over 38,500 times in its first 48 hours on CanLII and with two commentaries on CanLII Connects within a day, is about bickering neighbours.
The parties “live in stately houses on a well-manicured, picturesque street” in Toronto. The plaintiffs have two of their 11 security cameras trained on the defendants’ front door and driveway. (The defendants did not counter-claim.) The plaintiffs’ allegations against their across-the-street neighbours include:
- Performing a “poop and scoop” – after removing and bagging dog feces from her front yard, the defendant crossed the street and placed the bag in the plaintiffs’ garbage can which was out on the street for collection;
- Allowing their dog to occasionally urinate on the bushes lining the plaintiffs’ lawn;
- Parking their car in a legal parking spot in front of the plaintiffs’ house “just to annoy them” (which is rich, as the plaintiffs’ non-stop security footage shows the plaintiffs’ park in front of the defendants’ house every day);
- Standing on their driveway and taking pictures of the plaintiffs’ house across the street (which allegation the defendants deny by advising that the defendant was only pretending to take pictures); and,
- Standing on their property and looking at the plaintiffs’ house.
The subject-matter of the claim is certainly ridiculous. This may be part of the reason for the judgment’s popularity. However, what really makes the judgment fun to read is the judge’s obvious disdain for the parties: “In my view, the parties do not need a judge; what they need is a rather stern kindergarten teacher.” At least one commentator has suggested that the tone of the judgment is inappropriate, and that “[i]t is not the duty of the judge to make fun of the litigants.” Be that as it may, it is the most entertaining judgment I’ve read since R v Duncan, 2013 ONCJ 160.
By Kelly Laycock
As our members will know, the Law Society Library maintains a number of valuable databases, from our library catalogue to provincial bills and regulations. The most popular of these resources is our Saskatchewan Case Digest database, which is searched an average of 3,000 times a month. This is where we post recent judgments from all three levels of Saskatchewan court, complete with summary digests. This database is also where we pull cases from for our semi-monthly newsletter, Case Mail, currently in its 16th volume.
Well, these excellent resources take a lot of time and effort to maintain, and in this post I’d like to send a shout-out to our hardworking, unsung heroes of the digesting world. You know who you are!
Over the years, the Law Society of Saskatchewan has employed a number of qualified contract digesters to review and summarize the often complicated and confusing decisions written in legalese. Now, this is no task for the faint of heart. I mean, it’s true that some of the judgments are only a few pages long. No problem, right? But most number between 20 and 50 pages long – I’ve even seen a few reach more than 100 pages! And we’re talking some of the most heinous criminal cases, ugly family law disputes and bitter estate feuds. Sprinkle in some bankruptcies, a pile of impaired driving charges and complex administrative and corporate law decisions, and you could have a permanent state of depression on your hands! Our digesters have the gruelling task of reading and digesting (in the sense of understanding) the content to produce a concisely worded digest highlighting the most important points so that the rest of us can spend our time watching cute cat videos on the Internet.
For those of you who have ever read any of these judgments, you can appreciate the skill that digesters need in order to decipher these complex topics. The qualifications include a thorough knowledge of the law and the proven ability to communicate that knowledge in a simple but effective manner. We don’t want a flowery novel; we want the facts of that 50-page decision laid out in a couple of paragraphs, nothing more and nothing less. Our digesters must have a law degree, and a very specific set of writing and comprehension skills, not to mention the considerable time to do the work.
Oh, and for the sake of their own sanity, perhaps a sense of humour would come in handy, too!
To all of our past, present and future digesters, we salute you!
Angelina Wall is a Case Digester for the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library. She was called to the Bar in 2000 and practiced in a mid-size private firm in South West Saskatchewan for 11 years. In 2011, Angelina left private practice to assist her husband both on their grain farm and in raising their three active children. She began case digesting in 2013 and thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to maintain contact with the legal profession on a part-time basis.
By Sarah Roussel-Lewis
Some interesting reads to help you ease into your week:
- 5 ways to keep your client occupied during mediation downtime (Lawyerist)
- Can a kid bring his or her own support claim? (Family LLB)
- Ethical vs. Unethical: the troubling tales of Tony Merchant (Slaw)
- Six questions on murdered and missing aboriginal women that must be answered: Tim Harper (The Star)
- Victoria Day, a public (statutory) holiday in some jurisdictions (First Reference Talks)
- Who has won if everyone can rewrite history? (CBA National Magazine)
- Canada-U.S. meat labelling row hears free speech arguments (CBC News)
- Counting down to Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) – 10 steps to prepare for CASL (Lexology)
- Supreme Court tosses man’s Dragon’s Den complain (The Star)
- Top court to hear care of wrongfully imprisoned B.C. man who wants to sue Crown (Times Colonist)
- Hot off the press: social assistance on reserve in BC (ELAN)
By Alan Kilpatrick
The Law Society of Saskatchewan Library provides Criminal Spectrum to all Saskatchewan members. This is an excellent case law resource for those working in the criminal law field. The case law collection contains reported and unreported decisions. Please access the database from the Members Section of the Law Society of Saskatchewan website. Read the rest of this entry »