When technology helps avert (and avoid) disaster

  • November 27, 2018
  • James Careless

You might roll your eyes at the thought of legal technology as a superhero, doing the work of dozens of lawyers in a single bound, but there have been times when it has literally saved the day.

Here are a few heartening stories of tech delivering big saves for solo/small practitioners.

Tech to the rescue

Omar Ha-Redeye is with Fleet Street Law, a Toronto legal incubator whose lawyers provide business guidance to other lawyers in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Technology has saved my butt many times,” says Ha-Redeye.

A case in point: Ha-Redeye was once unexpectedly served motion materials without notice when he wasn't in the office. In fact, he was out of town.

In the olden days of everything on paper, Omar Ha-Redeye would have been in serious trouble. But thanks to technology, he was able to get a digital copy from opposing counsel.

“I was able to work on this where I was, accessing my virtual files online, and then fax responding materials back to them by digital fax.” said Ha-Redeye. “It was very much a ‘seat of the pants’ situation."

Another time, when Ha-Redeye had to file a motion in person, the court somehow misplaced his firm’s materials. “This happens more often than you would think,” he said.

“The other side really wanted to adjourn the motion so that our materials could be refiled, but that adjournment would clearly benefit their client's interests, not mine,” Ha-Redeye said. “Yet at this particular courthouse there wasn't a local printer or printshop that I'd be able to use in time, since it was already late in the day.”

Fortunately, Ha-Redeye happened to have a mobile printer in his briefcase. “This was a slow printer compared to desktop models, but I was still able to print the key documents like a Draft Order in the court,” he said. “This allowed us to prevent the matter from getting adjourned, and obtaining the relief we needed.”

Beating the document dump

One tactic that firms sometimes employ against opposing counsel is dumping vast amounts of documents on them at the last moment. This allows the firm to honestly tell the judge that it shared all relevant materials as required, while ensuring that the opposition doesn’t have enough time to digest them.

This recently happened to Rein Lomax, solo practitioner at Lomax Law Firm in London, Ont. “I was representing the plaintiff in a wrongful dismissal suit against one of Canada’s Big Five banks, when they did a massive document dump on me prior to a mediation,” said Lomax. “On my own, there was no way that I could go through all of these materials in time to deliver a mediation brief on deadline.”

Fortunately, Lomax knew about Taran Virtual Associates Inc. This is a London, Ont.-based legal outsourcing firm that has “virtual associates” – contract lawyers across Canada, ready to tackle legal work at a moment’s notice.

“Our internet-connected lawyers act as virtual associates for other lawyers; doing research, drafting, discoveries, corporate counsel, and appellate/trial work for other lawyers across the country,” said Stephen Taran, the company’s president. “When Rein contacted us with his problem, we were able to share the documents among our people, and draft a mediation brief for him very quickly.”

“TVA’s brief was so good that I only made to make a few changes for stylistic reasons,” said Lomax. “Much to the surprise of the bank’s lawyer, we got our mediation brief to the mediator before they did. This allowed us to shape the narrative to our advantage, and resulted in a very good result for our client.”

Tornadoes? What tornadoes?

The six tornadoes that ripped through Ottawa’s National Capital Region on Sept. 21, 2018 caused millions of dollars of damage to property, and knocked out power to some areas for days.

Being without electricity even for a day hampered the ability of law firms, big and small, to work. But not Avokka LLP, a small firm of virtual lawyers headquartered in Ottawa. Unlike conventional law firms, Avokka’s team processes, stores, and shares all its work in the cloud. This virtualization of the firm’s legal practice lets Avokka’s people work easily with lawyers in other cities, and serve clients wherever they may be; no matter what might be happening locally.

“Virtualization saved our bacon, allowing us to be productive regardless of widespread disruptions,” said Andrew A. Foti, Avokka’s founder and principal. “Having our key systems in the cloud with hot sites in other Canadian cities, virtualized backup, and individual lawyers on an entirely mobile platform was an eye-opener. Our web server and telephones never went down, and individual professionals were able to access documents and serve clients that were doing business wherever power and Wi-Fi were available, even with rotating random power outages.” 

“Our experience shows it’s relatively easy to have a robust business continuity plan without significant overhead, allowing savings to be passed on to our clients,” he added. In fact, as far as Avokka’s business operations were concerned, it was as if the tornadoes never happened.

James Careless is a frequent contributor to PracticeLink.