Canadian Lawyer

May 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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24 FEATURE Within the pandemic, he says, there is an opportunity to modernize the profession. "If necessity is truly the mother of inven- tion, I think what I'm hearing through the practice and through our firm and otherwise is that the practice of law will never be the same," Cooper says. "We are finally updating systems that just didn't seem to have had the desire or the initiative to modernize. "It's modernizing a profession [that] takes far too much pride in doing things like their grandmothers and grandfathers did. And that's true not just at big firms but also small firms," he says. Tara Vasdani's passion for remote work was conceived when she watched an Economist documentary about "digital nomads," people who travel around the world while working remotely. She became fascinated by the legal implications of the novel workplace relation- ship and has been a remote-work advocate ever since, helping organizations around the world understand and transition to remote work. She says that, while the big four banks, for example, have adopted remote infrastruc- ture, law firms seem less enthusiastic. "Lawyers are a little bit different, where the industry is used to client-facing products and services. And it's very, very archaic in that face time and physical mentorship and things like that are still extremely entrenched in the practice," she says. This is a problem, Vasdani says, because consumers are more focused on efficiency than detail. Raised on the instant gratifi- cation of modern technology, they want answers now, she says. Slow adaptation of the remote-work capabil- ity that's being more quickly adopted in other industries also has cybersecurity implications, says Vasdani. Going remote reactively rather than proactively means lawyers and staff don't have a ready-made infrastructure and are using their personal devices. "But setting up remote-work infrastruc- ture should be the last thing that needs to be on the radar right now. That should have been done a long time ago and I'm pretty dis- "Our practice in the North has always been 80-per-cent remote," he says. "We do almost all of our applications by telephone in Nunavut and almost the same amount in the Northwest Territories. We're used to dealing with staff and clients remotely. "Our client base for par tic ularly Edmonton, Sherwood Park and Yellowknife office is mostly people far away often who we rarely lay eyes on other than on Skype or Zoom and FaceTime," he says. When COVID-19 hit and Canada went home, Cooper says, his firm was around six months away from full remote capability, using a cloud service. The firm's corporate minute books are available through a secure platform it is integrating with its cloud system along with its real estate files. Cooper and his colleagues are "waiting with bated breath" for the registries to accept electronic signatures. ing to remote-work for a small-to-medium- sized firm without an inhouse IT department, it's important to contract out to a company that specializes in law. "There's lots of very competent IT people out there on their own or even in large com- panies who do not have a sufficient apprecia- tion for the practice of law," Cooper says. "The notion of jack of all trades is very dangerous. And for cybersecurity, you have to be work- ing with a firm or a person, at least, that has a particular expertise in the practice of law." Cooper Regel is a member of Masuch Law and focuses on Indigenous law, corporate and commercial litigation, administrative and tri- bunal law, residential school and abuse claims. The firm is active in Northern Canada, and Cooper notes that in serving remote commu- nities, the transition away from face-to-face was less relevant north of 60. COVER STORY

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