Canadian Lawyer

September 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 26 of 51

E ven as a busy civil litigator based in central Alberta, Donna Purcell, Q .C. wanted to make sure that she never missed her two daughters' dance perfor- mances at competitions anywhere across North America. As well, her practice required extensive travel as she dealt with cases ranging from employment issues to insurance claims. So, long before the pandemic, Purcell was ready for the new world of a virtual law practice. In July of 2020, after two decades using a hybrid model of remote and in-office practice at a mid-size law firm, she made the big decision to establish "Donna Purcell QC Law." It's a fully cloud-based operation, though it still maintains a "bricks-and- mortar" presence with offices in Edmonton, Calgary, and Red Deer. Right now, her firm has three lawyers, but two more will be coming on board soon — one from Nigeria, one from Pakistan. This is possible, she says, because the Law Society of Alberta provided for abbrevi- ated articles, allowing them to get the accreditation they needed. Along with the needs of a growing family, an unfortunate car accident that kept her away from the office — as well as knowing someone in IT who was able to travel while dealing with clients — made remote work a compelling proposition. "I realized it was a way to work more efficiently, and to have more time for family and give back to the community through volunteer work," she says. Her daughters, now grown up and aspiring to become lawyers (one is going to Harvard), were high-level competitive dancers. Remote working allowed Purcell to go to competi- tions and "allowed me to be a mom." Her early-adopter approach to a virtual office also let Purcell take her practice completely virtual amid the lockdown. "The transition to a fully remote prac- tice because of COVID was seamless — we had no downtime whatsoever, even as the court system virtually shut down," she says. After making sure her own staff were safe, Purcell turned her attention to how other lawyers, and the Alberta legal system in general, could continue providing access to justice. She organized a Canadian Bar Association webinar called "Keeping Small and Solo Firms Going in Uncertain Times." She also became part of a small group working to draft a protocol for remote questioning and organized a seven-episode series of webinars on virtual litigation. A founding director of the Central Alberta Legal Clinic Foundation, which provides pro bono legal services, Purcell organized a talent-show fundraiser that brought in $30,000 for pro bono law. Purcell sees advances in remote practice options as a means of access to justice for many. "If we make the system more effi- cient, and less costly, lawyers can handle more cases, and more people can afford to have a lawyer." Phone: 1-833-377-2529 Email: Website: 4 (soon to be 5) Number of lawyers 5 students + 11 support Number of support staff 1 Number of partners July 2020 When firm was founded DONNA PURCELL QC LAW AT A GLANCE Main areas of personal injury practice: Personal Injury & Accident Law, Employment Law, Civil Litigation, Alternative Dispute Resolu- tion, Business & Real Estate Law, Wills & Estates, Pro bono & Philanthropy 25 DONNA PURCELL, QC Chief Innovation Officer Donna Purcell QC Law

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