Balancing the Balance

I love the first couple of weeks after January 1 – it is the time of year you get to see which resolutions are sticking for those who made them.   Many lawyers I know were resolving to have work/life balance for 2019 and finding it hard to keep.

I will not pretend to have mastered work/life balance and will even say anyone who claims they have is a liar.  I do however, have a few suggestions on how to work towards a balance as a lawyer:

1.  Recognize our ethical obligations put our clients first.  This may mean that you have to take on fewer clients in order to achieve balance and it may mean you need to narrow your area of practice so that you are at maximum competency without the need to keep up to date on all areas of law.

2. Use your clerks and assistants.  Many young lawyers want to do all their own typing  and leave their support staff bored and wanting to do work. Lawyers, we are not better at typing, binding and copying than our staff and most Law Clerks are quicker at searching government databases than we are.

3. Create a routine. The only “right” routine is one you will stick to.  I personally now have one where I get up early, work at my home office, workout and then head into the office, discoveries or court.  They key to sticking to my routine?  Having a coffee maker ready to go in my home office.  

4. Recognize you are not always going to be in balance and that is ok.  If you throw in the towel because you didn’t achieve perfection you are undoing all the good steps you took to that high point.  

Cheers to 2019 and continuing to aim for work/life balance!

Inga B. Andriessen JD

Residential Landlords, This One’s For You!

There have been many stories from tenants who claim that their landlords terminated their tenancies, claiming personal use, only to turn around and re-rent it for a much higher rate of rent.

In 2017, the rules around a Landlord’s ability to terminate a tenancy based upon personal use changed, making it a little more difficult to do so, and penalizes a landlord who doesn’t act in good faith.

This was done in an attempt to prevent landlords from evicting tenants paying lower rent amounts, then turning around to re-rent for a much higher amount.

A Landlord can only bring an Application to evict a tenant for personal use for themselves, an immediate family member or an individual who is providing personal care services to you or a family member.

An Affidavit must be sworn by the individual who wants to move into the unit, and it must state that they in good faith require the unit for their own use for at least a year.

Additionally, the Landlord must give the tenant one-months’ rent compensation as a result of the eviction or offer the tenant a comparable unit, if available.

So, what happens if a Landlord doesn’t act in good faith, and re-rents that unit within the year?  They’re looking at a Bad Faith Tenant Application, and they’re facing a fine of up to $25,000.00.

An Application to evict a tenant for personal use is not meant to be used to get rid of a tenant for another other reason.  Act in bad faith, and you can suffer some really stiff penalties.

Lately, I’ve been helping a lot of Residential Landlords properly evict tenants to use the premises for personal use.  If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

Murray Brown, Licensed Paralegal

The Good Lawyer (Part 3)

I know it’s been a few weeks (during which time we’ve eaten all of our Halloween candy and done a lot of black Friday shopping) but here we are again for our third installment of “The Good Lawyer.”

During our previous discussions on what makes for a good lawyer, we discussed communication and resourcefulness.

Today we will be talking about ….are you ready for it?…. RESPONSIVENESS!

This skill is surprisingly one that not enough lawyers exercise. If your lawyer isn’t responding to your emails or calling you back within a couple of days (in the latest), you shouldn’t stand for it. Many people think that unresponsiveness from lawyers is the price you pay for a good busy lawyer, but that’s simply not the case.

A good lawyer is someone who responds to clients, opposing counsel, legal assistants, and anyone else involved in a case in a timely manner. Your lawyer should be listening to you, you have a lot more knowledge about your case than you realize, and they could be missing out on some vital information. So, if you have a question or some information you believe your lawyer should know, reach out and be heard.

Our motto at Andriessen & Associates regarding responsiveness is quite simple really. Unlike a certain Carly Rae Jepsen, if we say “here’s our number” – just call if you need us, no “maybe”!

Stay tuned for Part 4 of our segment on “The Good Lawyer.”

Robin K. Mann, Associate Lawyer

It’s Never a Good Idea to Drag Your Heels

It always surprised me when a debtor would contact our offices after we garnished their wages, or their bank account.  I never understood why they would ignore the claim that we served.  Did they think we were kidding?  We are a law firm, we don’t believe in jokes.  Just kidding, we do, but not when it comes to our clients’ matters.

I’ve written before about not ignoring your lawyer when it comes to corporate record keeping, but what about litigation matters?  It’s definitely not a good idea to do that either.

Our law firm is known to be tough, and once we have the momentum on a matter, we need to keep that up.  When a claim is not defended, we note the defendant in default right away, and proceed as quickly as we can to get Judgment.

When the matter has been defended, the next step in litigation is Discovery and the exchange of Affidavit of Documents.  In litigation matters, a Discovery Plan needs to be agreed to between the parties.  Again, this is something we move quickly on.   We don’t let the other side drag their heels.  We pick realistic dates in which to complete the necessary steps to get the matter to the Pre-Trial Conference.  The Discovery process is a very important process and can take months to complete, which is why we want to get those dates “written in stone” so to speak.  That way, if a party doesn’t comply, we have a basis to make them comply.

When sending those documents for you to review, don’t sit on it.  The quicker we get through this Discovery Process, the quicker we can get to the end of litigation, whether it be a settlement at the Pre-Trial Conference, or Judgment at Trial.

We always have your best interest at heart, and we make sure the other side knows that.

Christine Allan, Law Clerk

Access to Justice – watering down the lawyer relationship is not the answer.

Warning – rant ahead.  Worse, it’s a rant that only lawyers probably care about.  Read on at your own peril.

There are many days, well frankly all of them, that I’m glad I refused to take Family Law in law school so I couldn’t practice it.  I admire my many friends who do practice Family Law.  These lawyers deal with emotional clients in high crisis situations.  It’s a tough area of law.  These days, our Law Society regulator is making it tougher.

Many people in family law situations have decided they would rather spend their money upgrading their car, wardrobe, appearance to find a new “love”, rather than money on a lawyer to deal with dividing their assets and who gets to raise their children.  Priorities people ?

This has resulted in many people trying to be their own lawyer in family law.  This slows down the Courts appearances and leads to a lot of frustration by everyone in the system.

Our Law Society has decided that a new “great way” to resolve this is to have non-lawyers and non-paralegals take a very short course (maybe a weekend) and then they can be a licensed “other” category for providing family law services.

Hey.  Regulator.  How about instead of watering down the quality of legal advice being provided to a person in crisis, we instead address the fact that people are choosing to spend money on things other than lawyers.

In business law, we often encounter people who think they don’t need a lawyer to create a contract, incorporate, terminate an employee, etc.    Those are people who end up paying more to have the issues fixed by lawyers after everything has gone wrong.

Lawyers need to start explaining to their Regulator and the public that we have value.  Stop with the stereotypes that we’re out there to take people’s money and not deliver value.  Remind people that lawyers guide very important life and business choices and that spending money on legal advice early on in a problem will reduce the fees overall.

Obviously, in non-business, low income situations, the lawyers will have to be legal aid funded.  However, it’s time to stop pretending that the family law litigant, driving a BMW, sipping 5 lattes a day and wearing an Armani suit, cannot afford to use a lawyer.

Lawyers are not leeches.  Lawyers are not vultures.  Lawyers provide value.  Lawyers protect rights.  Lawyers should be encouraged to be used

Our Regulator should not water down the requirements for a very important area of law, because it wants to increase “access to justice”.  What this proposal is doing is increasing access to the “idea” of justice.

Come on lawyers – let’s re-market ourselves – we have value to the public.

Inga B. Andriessen, JD

Yes Virginia, You Do need to Prove your Damages

Our firm recently dealt with a Small Claims Court matter where our client was sued for alleged damages, which the amount sought was an amount that was not supported by the other party’s evidence.

Over time, the claim was amended, the amount increased, but was still not supported by the party’s evidence.

The lawyer representing other party wanted to settle the matter, which our client was open to, but the other party wanted to settle for an amount that was higher than what was claimed and expected to do so without providing supporting documentation to substantiate the amount.

The lawyer went as far to say that they did not want to deal with a large paper trail just to end up settling the matter.  The lawyer had to be reminded that if they continued with the litigation, they would be obligated to substantiate the amount of their claim with evidence in Court, and not based upon what their client says their damages are.  Settlements should be no different.

It is never a good idea to take the word of an opposing party who claims their damages are one amount, especially when their evidence supports another.  It is also a red flag when someone does not want to provide evidence to prove their damages, which technically, under the Rules of the Small Claims Court,  should have been provided when they started their lawsuit.

Whenever you start a lawsuit, make sure you can prove the amount you are claiming with real evidence, or you may not get the judgment you want, or a judgment at all, or even a settlement you can live with.

Murray Brown, Licensed Paralegal


Working Both Sides of Business Law – Litigation & Transactions

When I started practicing law over 26 years ago, I was a purely Business Law litigator.  About three years into my career I became tired of litigating on poorly drafted materials, so I began adding “the boring desk work” to my area of practice and have not looked back since.

The benefit of having a lawyer who handles both sides of Business is law is I am stronger in both areas.  When in Court, I know what documents should have been produced in a sale purchase, but are missing, when drafting closing documents on a sale purchase, I know what Courts will look for in enforcing it.

While both litigating and handling transactions makes a Business Lawyer stronger, the same is not true for those practicing “door law” in the GTA in 2018.  “Door law” means whatever the client needs, you will do.  That is dangerous: criminal law, family law, real estate and of course, business law and all very niche areas.   Lawyers in the GTA pick an area and focus on it: if you’re not focused, you’re going to miss something.

As a new lawyer starting out in 2018, it can be intimidating to turn away work, however, it’s important to focus on an area of law and if you do, your practice will grow.

As a client, you need to be sure the law firm you’re retaining can meet your needs and has experience doing the type of work you’re asking them to do.  The added benefit to the client is that a firm that does one type of work will generally charge less as they’ve done this before and are not charging you to learn how to do something.

As I’ve said many times before: I’m Inga B. Andriessen and I’m a Business Lawyer.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Well, except in my “real life” when I’m a scuba diver, skier, hiker, mountain biker, triathlete, runner, kayaker ….  I’m running out of space here.

Inga B. Andriessen JD

What did your lawyer just say?

Do you understand what your lawyer just said?  No?  Can your lawyer explain to you those complicated terms in the contract they just drafted for you?  No?

Well, if you can’t understand your lawyer and your lawyer can’t explain to you what they mean, then I think there is a huge problem.  Maybe the “lawyer talk” is too complicated and maybe only lawyers are the ones who should understand them.  Definitely not:  I think we all deserve to understand.

Our firm believes in understanding what you are signing, and if you can’t understand what we have drafted for you, then we need to fix our drafting policies.

Ever heard of K.I.S.S.”?  I don’t mean that awesome band from the 70’s (oops, how old am I anyways), but the acronym for “Keep It Simple Stupid”.   I remember, especially in college, professors reminding us all the time to K.I.S.S.  I find myself muttering it under my breath when I’m drafting and reviewing just to remind myself.   In our office, the drafting is done so that everyone can understand what it is that is being said.  We strive for plain English in everything that we do.  Of course, there are those legal terms that we just can’t get away from, and those standard terms in contracts that must be there, but for the most part, they should be understood.

So if you have to repeatedly ask your lawyer what it is that is meant by something, maybe they need to re-think their drafting practices.

Christine Allan, Law Clerk


Nothing is More Terrifying Than Being Left in the Lurch

No, we don’t mean the 6 ft 9-inch, awkward, gloomy butler from the Addams Family. We are talking about being left in a financial bind when your commercial tenant, or someone you do business with, decides they no longer intend to keep their part of your business arrangement. Whether it’s defaulting on a lease agreement or failing to pay invoices, you or your business’ ledgers could be left in the red. Terrifying, we know!

Well, from reading last week’s post entitled “When do you need to sue?” you should already know that our firm encourages clients to move quickly. Don’t delay in starting a legal claim for repayment. While we already warned you about the ghoulish two-year limitation deadline you have to bring your claim, there is one more concern to keep in mind when looking for repayment.

A growing trend among corporate tenants is to default on their lease agreement or renege on invoices, declare bankruptcy, and set up a new corporation. Even if the court finds in your favour, the old corporation can show that it now has no assets to pay out – having already moved all its assets into a newly incorporated business. So, while you may be left with a successful court order in your hand, your pockets may be empty. To our firm, this is a scarier scenario than being a resident on Elm Street.

Don’t let this nightmare situation be your realty.

We encourage our clients to act right away, before the other party has a chance to hide their assets and avoid repayment.

We strike while the cauldron’s still hot and so should you!

Robin K. Mann, JD,   Associate Lawyer

When do you need to Sue?

When you are owed money for your services or products, how long do you wait until you sue a customer who doesn’t pay?  Did you know that you only have two years from the date that you are owed your money to do so, and if you don’t, you’re out of luck?

The Limitations Act in Ontario gives parties two years from the date they’re owed money to sue for that money back.  This was done partially so that the Courts would not be bombarded with older claims.  Also, as time passes, people’s memories fade and facts may be forgotten, or even evidence misplaced or lost.

The only time that a debt that is older than two years can be sued on is if the debtor acknowledges the debt or makes a payment.  Then your two-year clock starts again.

So how long should you wait before you sue?  That is ultimately up to you, but you shouldn’t wait long.

At our Firm, our 30-60-90 Sue™ program allows our clients to create easy procedures to help them get paid.  In a nutshell, here’s how it works:

After thirty days an invoice is due, send your customer a friendly reminder that you expect to get paid.

After sixty days, that previous friendly letter should now be a firm one, outlining any accrued interest and that the amount is due immediately.

After ninety days, give them just five days to pay, failing which you will sue them.

Still didn’t get paid?  Sue.

And it didn’t take two years to do it.

You did the work.  Don’t wait two years to get paid because you deserve to get paid now.

Murray Brown, Paralegal