Canadian Lawyer

May 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 23 of 43

22 BUSINESS STRATEGY TOP 10 ONTARIO BOUTIQUES SPECIAL REPORT COVID-19 AND THE ONTARIO COURT OF APPEAL as the year went on. He, too, says he noticed an uptick in estate and trust work as the pandemic "made more of [us] look inward, and we perhaps had more time to [look into] these things." Winter says her firm saw the health group expand its life and critical illness retainers, in addition to its traditional defence of short- term and long-term disability policies. The estate planning practice saw an increase in the volume of files "in response to the threat of the virus and as a result of clients having more time at home to address their estate planning needs." Family law also saw an uptick in volume as individuals in long-term relationships elected to cohabitate during the shut- downs. In other cases, relationships "did not survive the external stress imposed by the pandemic." Diversity, equality and inclusion top of mind While the pandemic was top of mind at Ontario law firms, there's been increasing emphasis on equality, diversity and inclusion concerns. The Ontario Bar Association and its president, Charlene Theodore, have been providing an array of tools to achieve diversity benchmarks through the associ- ation's Not Another Decade initiative. Theo- dore says it is about "making sure that the headlines we saw about the legal profession in 2020 are different a decade from now." "The OBA is throwing our hat over the wall on ending racial inequality and then providing a road map for going after it," says Theodore. Lawyers have a critical role to play to work together "on the problem of anti- Black racism, on the need for reconciliation with Indigenous people and on equality for people of colour." John Russo at Pallett Valo says his firm is rising to the challenge, with initiatives including firm-wide training to fight uncon- scious bias, setting up a diversity and inclu- sion committee and broadening outreach efforts when it comes to recruiting. Prasad at Minden Gross notes that her firm is also taking on the issue of diversity and inclusion. "We want to make sure that our firm is diverse and inclusive in our hiring practices," she says. "It's also about recognizing what outside factors are there that are affecting our lawyers." Getting a handle on the challenge means looking at issues ranging from gender, disability, race and colour to those surrounding parenthood or other family obligations." This year's Ontario top regional boutique winners also say that, if there is one message to come out of the pandemic, it is the need for empathy. "We need to understand what people are going through and how do we assist them if we can," says Slan. "And we need to appre- ciate our lawyers, our staff, and how they get the job done, even under sometimes challenging conditions." "We want to make sure that our firm is diverse and inclusive in our hiring practices. It's also about recognizing what outside factors are there that are affecting our lawyers." Samantha Prasad, Minden Gross LLP "They certainly didn't teach us how to deal with this stuff in law school. Nobody was really ready, but we all learned to adapt pretty fast." Wayne Egan, WeirFoulds LLP • Hearings. The Court of Appeal will no longer be conducting in-person appeals until further notice. All appeals will be conducted remotely during this time. For July and August 2021, it will only hear appeals on grounds of urgency. • Filings. All documents on any matter must be filed electronically. If hard-copy materials have already been filed, parties must file electronic copies in text-searchable PDF. • Affidavits. If an affidavit of service cannot be commissioned due to COVID-19, the affidavit must still be completed, signed and e-filed, accompanied by an explanation.

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