Mutually beneficial relationships help the legal system work smoothly so lawyers should be patient and candid with upset clients, says Toronto civil and commercial litigator Jonathan Miller.
He says many people have little or no experience with the complex legal system and their point of reference could be based on inaccurate legal television shows that give them unrealistic expectations.
While research has debunked much of the so-called CSI effect — the way exaggerated crime dramas bias jurors — studies suggest they can still influence the public, says Miller, an associate with the Toronto office of Shibley Righton LLP.
"Some people seem to think we can do anything and everything without ever writing a document — or that trials start within a week or two of a first court appearance. It’s not how it’s portrayed on TV, but I think that impacts people’s expectations of their lawyer,” he says.
Best practices in the legal profession come from a wide field with every law society and bar association offering guidelines for management and practice, but a strong thread that runs through it all is the basic idea of building and maintaining relationships, Miller says.
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The case of a driver suing his insurance company for the diminished value of his luxury car following an accident may the first of its kind in Ontario, but it likely won’t be the last, says Toronto litigator Isabelle Eckler.
In the ongoing Renwick v Allstate Insurance Company of Canada, 2016 CanLII 44178 (ON SCSM), the court agreed to consider the plaintiff’s claim against his insurance company for damages related to the reduced worth of his Jaguar following a rear-end collision by another vehicle, according to court documents.
The events unfolded in 2014 when the driver’s Jaguar was rear-ended by a commercial truck driver in the course of his employment. The driver’s own insurer paid for the repairs to his vehicle, but refused the charges for diminished value, so he filed an initial small claims suit against Penske and its driver, both were represented by Eckler, an associate with Shibley Righton LLP.
“In our case, we brought a motion to strike based on the Ontario Insurance Act’s no-fault regime that prohibits an insured individual from suing another driver for damages to his or her automobile. We were successful, but the plaintiff continued to pursue the claim against his own insurance company,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.
Allstate also moved to strike the claim, but the court found that the matter should go to trial where evidence could be presented on whether the insurance policy covered damages from diminished value, Eckler points out.
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It is not unusual for law firms to negotiate split-fee agreements that account for lawyers moving on after they have worked on contingency fee matters, Toronto business lawyer Bill Northcote tells Law Times.
“Some firms have got very elaborate compensation systems that reflect the division of an award,” says Northcote, chair of Shibley Righton LLP’s business law practice group.
“Usually, they’re worked out internally without much public scrutiny.”
However, as Law Times reports, one Toronto litigation and corporate law boutique is suing a former non-equity partner in the firm for $9 million after a dispute over a contingency fee client. The law firm alleges the lawyer breached his contract and fiduciary duty to the firm, claiming he “improperly solicited” some of its clients when he resigned in 2015, including a property development company.
The lawyer denies the claims and is demanding $1.1 million from the firm, alleging it owes him for work he did on the file, says Law Times.
Last year, the law firm also sued the property development company, seeking payment for its success at a 2014 trial. The lawyer won intervener status, asking the court to order any funds received by the firm to be paid into court for his benefit, says the article.
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