Category: New Media Observations

04 Mar

The Family Focus

Hull & Hull LLP Estate Planning, New Media Observations Tags: , , , 0 Comments

By my count, in the relatively short history of our website, our firm’s lawyers have blogged on the transfer of wealth by the boomers to their children on six separate occasions.  See, for example, this blog and this blog.  And our blogs reflect a trend to report on the subject as the dominant sociological issue in the business media.  See, for example, this piece by Jonathan Chevreau of the National Post.

Numerous surveys have been released as to the intentions of boomers with respect to their estate plans.  The fundamental characteristic is a focus (on those in their fifties) on enjoying quality time with their families and ensuring that their estate plan properly provides for their children both before and after they are gone.  Some have suggested that this "family focus" is a departure from previous generations although I think this is open to question. Nonetheless, the statistics are illuminating, particularly respecting inter-vivos gifts to children. 

Take, for instance, the findings of a Royal Bank of Canada Poll released in November, 2007:

1.  Fifty-seven per cent of Canadians in their fifties have received or are expecting to receive money  from their parents and in-laws;

2.   Approximately three in five respondents in their fifties expect to give money, during their lifetime, to their own adult children; of those, sixty-nine per cent say they will do so because they want to see their children enjoy their lives; seven per cent say that they would not, believing that their children need to earn their own way or wait until their parent dies. 

5.   When contemplating their legacy, seven in ten respondents want to be remembered as a person who enjoyed time with their family. This family focus is also reflected in the finding that four in five of those in their fifties believe that "their children are their legacy."

David M. Smith


12 Feb

Elections and Social Networks

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Even as Canadians, we cannot help but get caught up in the media frenzy surrounding the U.S. Presidential State Primaries. In the last couple of months, the dominating story has been the campaign between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democratic Party nomination.

Last week, Michael Geist, noted technology law professor, columnist, and blogger wrote an interesting article about how Barack Obama has courted the youth vote by embracing technology, especially social networks, like Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. Obama’s approach appears to have worked as a social networking tool. The official Obama Facebook support page has over 500,000 friends versus Hillary’s 100,000 friends.

Aside from using technology to reach voters, Obama has also taken positions on issues that are important to young voters, such as net neutrality legislation and digital copyright, subjects most politicians, including Canada’s mainstream political parties fail to address.

From the sidelines, it will be interesting to see how the primaries work out and if more Facebook friends results in more delegates. I would encourage anyone interested in technology, privacy law, and social media to regularly read Mr. Geist’s blog.

Thanks for reading,

Diane Vieira

23 Mar

Lawyers and the Telework Revolution

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A few weeks ago, in the face of a snowstorm, I decided to work from home and avoid the messy commute to our downtown Toronto offices. I’m happy to report that I was quite productive that day, notwithstanding the lure of hot chocolate, pajamas and a good movie.

With the advent of Blackberrys, high-speed Internet, e-mail and remote computer access, more and more lawyers are changing the way they work, including where they work. More lawyers are learning to operate from home-based workspaces, at least some of the time. This allows lawyers to be more flexible and juggle the competing demands of work and family. You can get home for dinner with the family, and then catch up on e-mails and get a head start on the next day’s work. I personally telecommute every day, thanks to my Blackberry.

Is there a telework revolution afoot in the legal profession? Many studies show that teleworking two to three days a week actually increases productivity. It certainly leads to increased flexibility and mobility. However, my own view is that it would be difficult to work 100 percent of the time from home. The practice of law involves personal contact, with both colleagues and clients.

It is likely too early to tell whether a revolution is taking place. However, there’s no denying that the telework age is here, and lawyers are reaping the benefits, at least some of the time.

Have a great day!

16 Mar

Mitch Albom’s “For One More Day” continued…

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Yesterday, I wrote about an amazing book by Mitch Albom that I came across recently called “For One More Day”. In the introduction to the book, the author peaks your interest by asking the following question:

"Have you ever lost someone you love and wanted one more conversation, one more chance to make up for the time when you thought they would be here forever?"

Short answer? Well, of course!

The book is a fascinating story of a son and his mother who were in fact fortunate enough to be able to get "one more day" together. Imagine how priceless that must be – an opportunity to say the words that were never said, to share the thoughts that were never spoken, and to rid the relationship of any lingering regret …

Charley’s mother left him with words of wisdom regarding his impending marriage, words which (with slight modification) really can apply to any relationship it seems. She said:

“You have to work at it together. And you have to love three things. You have to love:

(i) each other

(ii) children

(iii) your marriage.

… There may be times that you fight, and sometimes you … won’t even like each other. But those are the times you have to love your marriage. It’s like a third party. Look at your wedding photos. Look at any memories you’ve made. And believe in those memories, they will pull you back together."

Although it may seem trite, it was a beautifully written book that reminded me to make sure that I spend the time with my parents and family now, instead of trying to wait for another day, which may never come.

I highly recommend this story to anyone looking for a “reality check”.

Have a great weekend! All the best – Suzana.

15 Mar

Mitch Albom’s For One More Day

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Recently, I had an opportunity to relax a bit and actually do some fun, as opposed to work-related, reading. I read an amazing book by Mitch Albom, who is the author of international best sellers, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" and "Tuesdays with Morrie". Mr. Albom wrote another book called "For One More Day". 

"For One More Day" is the story of a relationship that is important to many of us as parents – that being the relationship between a mother and a son. It explores the intriguing question, "What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one?"

In the book, Charley Bonato does just that, at a very important stage in his life. Charley was essentially raised alone by his mother and, many years later, as a broken man, he decides to take his own life. After a failed attempt to do just that, he ends up spending "just one more day" with his mother.

As the author notes, the story is about a family and, as there is a ghost involved, it could be called a "ghost story"; every family, however, is a ghost story and the dead sit at your table long after they have gone. It’s the sharing of tales of those we’ve lost that helps us keep from really losing them.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you a bit more about this remarkable piece of work.

Till then, all the best – Suzana.

05 Feb

The Super Bowl of Advertising

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Like many North Americans, I invested a large part of my Sunday evening taking in Super Bowl XLI. While I enjoyed watching the game, as usual, the off-field circus surrounding the event proved just as fascinating as the big game itself.

This year I was particularly struck by how Super Bowl advertisements have merged traditional and non-traditional forms of advertising. With the rise of Internet videos, blogs, and online file sharing, some have suggested that the medium of television may be obsolescent technology. Well, in my opinion, Super Bowl advertisements are but one more example that this is not the case.

Super Bowl advertisements demonstrate the extent to which television and the Internet can function symbiotically. Snickers’ new advertisement is an excellent example. In the weeks before the Super Bowl, Snickers posted four versions of a commercial on their website.  Visitors were offered the chance to view the commercials and vote online for their top choice, which then ran as a Super Bowl commercial. I’ll avoid the obvious pun about how it can be satisfying to choose your own commercial.

The massive interest in Super Bowl ads is also reflected in the online content dedicated to Super Bowl ads. Thanks to CBS Sports Line, new ads were posted online quarter-by-quarter, as if they were highlights. Those ads that don’t make the CBS highlight list will be posted on AOL, iFilm , Google Video , and YouTube where they can be replayed ad infinitum. Not to mention the many other blogs out there that will be devoting content to reviewing the best ads of the night.

I guess we are not in the last quarter of television after all.

Jason Allan


31 Jan

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Software: Friend or Foe?

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The cover story of the October/November 2006 issue of National, the magazine published by the Canadian Bar Association, dealt with the interesting topic of artificial intelligence (AI) software and its effect on the legal profession. I was quite surprised to learn that some global corporate law firms are selling legal opinions created by the use of expert cyberspace systems. Apparently, a client answers a series of interactive computerized questions designed to collect relevant facts, and presto! A legal opinion is produced.

The article notes that many courts and legal aid organizations are also relying on the intelligent preparation of forms and court documents to expand access to justice.

The article notes that Australia is leading the way in lawyer automation, while in Canada, it is still in its infancy.

Is AI software leading to the eventual automation of the legal profession? Will lawyers become irreplaceable? According to the article, the answer is no. Many intelligent software programs are designed to assist lawyers in giving advice to clients. In addition, by using such programs, lawyers free up more time to engage in analytical thinking and focus on creative legal solutions. Machines, thankfully, cannot reproduce such human abilities. Especially with complex matters, human lawyers will be needed and valued for their judgment and expertise.

In the estates and trust area, we have seen do-it-yourself Will and power of attorney kits. There are also electronic versions of such kits, replete with brief explanations of the law and instructions on how to execute the prepared documents. Perhaps do-it-yourself trust documents are not far behind. However, while such kits may be cost-effective in the short term, the resulting legal documents may lead to costly problems of interpretation and litigation in the long run. In Ontario, having a Will or Trust prepared by a lawyer is still relatively reasonably priced. In my view, paying extra to retain a human lawyer who will employ a personal touch and reasoned judgement, instead of using a do-it-yourself kit, automated or otherwise, is well worth the cost. Some things just don’t come in a box…or AI software.

Have a great day!

Bianca La Neve

29 Jan

E-Discovery: Do you know your metadata from your active data?

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Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure mandate that in civil litigation, one must disclose electronic data (see the definition of “document” and “electronic” in Rule 1.03). However, there is very little guidance in the Rules or the case law about exactly how to disclose electronic data.

In today’s technology age, where the majority of our communications are via e-mail and not paper documents, electronic or e-discovery has become increasingly important. We’ve seen the importance of e-discovery in complex commercial litigation. Yet, it can be important and useful even in the context of less complex lawsuits, such as wrongful dismissal claims where e-mails can help form an employer’s case against an ex-employee.

It seems that many in the legal profession are unfamiliar with their clients’ obligations to preserve and produce electronic documents, and with the technology available to retrieve, search and produce such documents. In response to this deficiency, the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) recently released their Guidelines for the Discovery of Electronic Documents. The Guidelines address the preservation, retrieval, exchange and production of documents from electronic sources in electronic form. The Guidelines also explain important terminology relevant to e-discovery. For example, “metadata” is electronic information recorded about a particular document, such as its format and how, when and by whom it was created, saved or modified. “Active data” is data that is currently used in day-to-day operations.

Is e-discovery relevant to estate litigation? I believe that, with time, it will become more relevant. More and more people are keeping electronic records of all kinds of information, from financial transactions to diary-type entries concerning family relationships. For example, I learned of a situation in which a beneficiary believed that a testator had kept detailed electronic records during her lifetime of cash loans made to family members. The family members denied the existence of the loans and the electronic evidence of such loans appeared to have been deleted. Efforts were made to recover the deleted information.

E-discovery can form the basis of successful litigation, including Will challenges. The OBA’s e-discovery guidelines can help all lawyers cope with this new way to litigate.

Have a great day!
Bianca La Neve

18 Dec

Law Blogs: An Update – PART I

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We thought it might be a good idea to follow up on the recent trends in legal blogging. One interesting blog is posted fairly regularly by Doug Jasinski , who writes an insightful blog about lawyers generally.

In his recent December 4, 2006 blog, Doug touches on the ever-important life balance that lawyers must maintain. He takes us to a recent study done by a group called Catalyst , who wrote a report: Beyond Reasonable Doubt: Lawyers State Their Case on Job Flexibility. The study involved 1400 lawyers and there were some helpful tips on what it means as a lawyer to have “flexible work hours”. Obviously, the use of technology plays an important role in allowing a fuller balance between family and work for many lawyers. We encourage you to take a look at this study.

All the best, Suzana and Ian.

11 Dec

Organizing your Family with New Technology

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On a recent Marketing Monger podcast of November 22, the host of the show, Eric, spoke with the owners of a start-up company called Famundo. This is a company that has designed a computer software program expressly for the use of families and community organizations.

This interesting company has created organizational software that is much more than simply another “appointments calendar” program.

During the podcast, Eric pressed his guests on this issue and we were told about all of the different additional add-on features of what is a program designed to help busy families to better organize their world.



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