Vote or lose your Voice

On Monday, October 25, 2010 all Ontarians who are 18 and older have the right to vote in Municipal Elections.

Our blogs generally touch on business law issues as that is the nature of the firm, but every now and then there are issues we feel strongly about that go beyond business law and this is one of them.

If you are eligible to vote, vote.

There is a lot of apathy among voters these days as seen in the incredibly low voter turnout rates.

 Many have a multitude of reasons for not voting, ranging from lack of interest, lack of knowledge, lack of time. In this blog I offer you, if not a multitude, then a few, good reasons for voting in municipal elections.

1. Municipal officials make decisions that effect the little details in your life that you probably find important – for eg. How often your garbage is picked up, where you can park and when your sidewalks will be cleared of snow.

 2. Municipal officials set the property tax rate – even if you rent, this impacts you as rents increase when taxes increase.

3. If you are not on the voters list, you can still vote by bringing a piece of i.d. with you to the poling station – it doesn’t take long.

4. We are fortunate to live in a democracy where everyone has a voice. If you don’t vote, your voice is not heard and that makes democracy less effective as the voice of few is heard, not the voice of many.

 Next month we will celebrate Remembrance Day and reflect on the lives lost in defence of freedom of our way of life. Failing to vote when you have the right to do so makes those lives lost, lives lost in vain.

Inga B. Andriessen, J.D.


Shots of shooting

Ann A. Hatsios - Sharp Shooter
Ann A. Hatsios - Sharp Shooter


Inga B. Andriessen & her favourite assault rifle.
Paul H. Voorn - happy to take down the target
Paul H. Voorn - happy to take down the target
Scott R. Young - Zombie Killer
Scott R. Young - Zombie Killer
Christine Allan - more than just an awesome Law Clerk!
Christol McLean - happy shooter!
Christol McLean - happy shooter!

Our Firm is on Target for 2010

This week we held our firm’s annual Fun Day.  Each year we pick something interesting to do that can be worked into a competition and everyone tries hard to make sure Paul Voorn’s name does not end up on the victory plaque again .

This year we chose target shooting.  Real guns.  Real bullets.  Real fun.

Most of us had never shot a gun before – we shoot off our mouths a lot and find those to be effective weapons on their own.    It appeared that the we would be competing on a level playing field and once we were informed of the type of weapons we would be shooting, we settled in on a Colt 45 as the weapon for competition.

We “warmed up on a Glock 9mm and my personal favourite, the Glock 9mm Carbon Assault Rifle with laser scope (every woman needs a favourite weapon ).  We moved on to the Glock 40, Smith & Wesson 40 and finally the Colt 45 and shotgun (which Christine and Ann both managed to jam beyond repair).

The Colt 45 contest came down to a show down between two litigators: Ann Hatsios & Paul Voorn.  The Range Official deemed Ann to be the victor and we are all keeping a bit of an extra distance from her now.

Photos will follow soon.  The challenge we face now is how do we top this next year ?

Inga B. Andriessen,  J.D.

The Joy of Mentoring

Within the past few weeks I have had the joy of hearing how two of our former Articling Students have come to realize their “dream positions” and I have been asked to reflect on my personal career path that lead to my life as a Business Trial Lawyer.

I was interviewed by a Grade 10 Student last week regarding my career and the success I have enjoyed through it.  This was a great opportunity to reflect on where I saw myself at that age and where I am today.

As I told my interviewer, I was unusual.  When I was 16 I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.  I envisioned myself driving a Porsche 911, wearing designer suits & taking the world by storm.  As I look back on those goals I am pleased to note that two out of three isn’t bad – sadly,  I recognized at an early age that  a Porsche 911 is not necessarily the most practical vehicle for someone living in Southern Ontario.

Both former Articling Students I heard from were also focused on their goals at a young age.

The first is a criminal lawyer now – she has her own firm & is expanding into two locations doing exactly what she loves: defending those accused of offences.   She knew early on she was meant to represent people and she was right – so happy to see her  doing well.

The second former student is now an entertainment law lawyer.  When this student came to our firm, she had a very focused career path – she was with us to gain litigation experience.  Upon the conclusion of her articles she went “in house” to work for a corporation gaining drafting and business experience.  Now she is in a great position in the field she always wanted to practice and happier than ever.

As a Business Trial Lawyer much of what I do is, as I put it “get paid to pick a fight”.  Therefore, it is nice to balance out the “dark side” with the positive mentoring aspect that being a lawyer with 17 years experience brings.

Regardless of what your career is I hope that you have as much satisfaction in it as I and the two students I have mentioned above do. 

Inga B. Andriessen, J.D.

Follow Through

In this blog entry, I will tell you one simple rule that is guaranteed to reduce all of your legal fees, increase your protection from liability and ensure that your affairs are in order.  Actually, I already have in the title of this entry – follow through.

If you have been reading this blog for the past few months (Hi Mom!), you will have garnered all sorts of tidbits about what lawyers do and how we do it.  You will understand many of the areas where we can help you do what you do better and you will have some idea of how bad things can get when they get bad.

But the one thing that we can’t do in a lot of cases is finalize the work that we have done.  That part is on you.  I suspect that many people feel that once they have gone to the effort of making that appointment with their lawyer and giving authorization to draft a document or to act on their behalf in some capacity, they can breathe a sign of relief.

In reality, the value of what we do often doesn’t materialize until the job is done.

For example, I usually give my estate clients my standard legal advice after they leave my office, having just delivered their Will instructions – don’t die until we get this signed!  While there is an attempt at levity there, there is also a very serious point – the work that you pay for isn’t doing anyone any good until it’s done.

Unfortunately life gets in the way.  Between that first visit with the lawyer and finalizing the work, things happen.  You may put off an e-mail asking for your instructions until later or you may leave a finished document in your desk drawer, to be signed at some convenient time that never seems to come.

Whatever the reason, if you have retained counsel to review your business processes and make recommendations, but don’t act on them, you have wasted your money.  If you have retained counsel to draft a business agreement or to address a compliance issue, and haven’t signed off on the agreement, you have wasted your money.

But most importantly, delays in finalizing legal work mean that you are not protected, or that the problem that you brought to us, remains unsolved.  This is the biggest issue and the one that can ultimately lead to the greatest cost.

If you have legal work in progress that is all but finished, please follow up on it and do what it takes to finalize it.  You’ll be lucky if you never know how much that might save you.

Scott R. Young

Everything I need to know, I learned from the movies (except for the actual Law School stuff)

It’s almost autumn, when a young girl’s fancy turns to movies. Maybe it’s the changing leaves, resplendent in the colours of a Woody Allen set. Or the start of another school year, which brings to mind The Breakfast Club, Rushmore and, erm, Animal House. Most likely it’s the deluge of press, the throngs of cinephiles and the parade of stars descending on our city to mark another Toronto International Film Festival.

 The conflict and complexity of legal disputes means that each film festival brings no shortage of courtroom dramas and “based on true story” accounts of what lawyers do. It seems wholly appropriate, then, that we use the 2010 Toronto Film Festival as an opportunity to present my top picks for instructive law movies. A film primer to litigation, if you will.

 To Kill a Mockingbird (1962): Gregory Peck’s turn as Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer in the segregated US South, is a personified example of the epitome of a lawyer. Ethical, upstanding and unafraid to defend his client with unwavering conviction, Atticus Finch champions the rights of a black man accused of raping a white woman. This, despite the disapproval, contempt and threats of his townsmen. This is the passion that lawyers strive to bring to their files and why, at our firm, we work so closely with our clients—sometimes doing what is unusual or unpopular—to do what is right and just in the circumstances.

 Legally Blonde (2001): Harvard Law School gets a dash of high-heeled pink-clad common sense when sorority girl Elle Woods drives up in Barbie’s dream convertible. Elle Woods epitomizes the reality that legal smarts and courtroom skill are not reserved for people who are, as the movie tells us, “ugly and boring”. She exemplifies the fact that the face of legal practice has changed and that the image of the old gray besuited lawyer is an outdated archetype of legal competence. In other words, we are a pretty bunch with the brains and brawn to do right by our clients. Even if our cases hinge on the chemical composition of a perm.

 Adam’s Rib (1949): The inimitable pairing of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as husband-and-wife lawyers acting for the defence and the prosecution of a wife accused of shooting her husband. Through the course of trial, the accused is perceived as a mad woman, a feminist hero, a victim of her husband’s drunken temper and a fool. Adam’s Rib underlines the impact that the impression made by a client can have on the court and on the outcome of a trial. The words and behaviour of a client are critical components in court strategy. It’s why we work so closely with clients before court appearances. After all, a new hat is unlikely to get you far in business litigation.

 Erin Brockovich (2000): Erin Brockovich is a well-endowed saucily-dressed legal assistant railing against an energy company that, having polluted the groundwater of a California town, launches a campaign of deception to outrun the limitations period. Local judges hearing the motions brought by the company are disgusted by what they describe is an attack against their neighbours, buoying the underdog Erin Brockovich to success and showing us that there are variables in the courtroom for which even the best lawyer cannot prepare. While we can anticipate bias, experience teaches us the importance of flexibility to adapt our litigation strategy to a certain judge, sitting on a specific date, and having a particular kind of day.

 For me, these movies serve as a handbook for navigating the experience of bringing unique cases with unique characters to a satisfying legal conclusion. On any day and in any circumstances, I am Atticus Finch, Elle Woods, or Erin Brockovich. It is this understanding of the human condition and application of common sense that generate results for our clients as we bring their legal disputes to “the end.” For my part at least, done, naturally, while high-heeled and pink-clad.

Ann A. Hatsios, J.D. , Litigator

Dead People and What to Do With their Stuff

Lately we’ve had a lot of inquiries from clients about preparing their wills. This seems to happen when the weather turns cold: much like squirrels gathering nuts for winter, people organize their affairs for when they pass away. However, many people, carrying through the above analogy, would starve in winter if they were squirrels, because they make inquiries and then they don’t follow through.

If you are reading this and believe I’m writing about you: I am.

So often we soft step around issues of death and use language that can make people feel like they can wait before drafting a will.

Reality check people: everyone is going to die. No one controls when they die. In the spirit of speaking frankly, what follows is a list of consequences and (to end on a positive note) a way to avoid those consequences.


When you die without a Will, your assets are distributed according to the Law of the Province of Ontario will: even if you don’t have a Will, the government has one for you.

• The Government’s Rules require that your beneficiaries make an application to the court to appoint a trustee to oversee the distribution of your estate – the average application costs about $3,000.

• If you own a house when you die without a Will and you don’t own that house as a Joint Tenant with your spouse (if you have one) Legal fees associated with transferring a residence when there is no Will or no right of survivorship are approximately $2,000 on top of the application costs.

• You don’t decide who will be the guardian of your children

• You don’t control the age your beneficiaries are before they receive assets.

• You don’t ensure there is funding for your children while they are in school.

You add a burden to those you leave behind– they cannot simply grieve your death, they have to deal with the mess you left behind.


• We prepare simple Wills for $400 per person. This includes the Will, and powers of attorney for property and for personal care. You decide who takes care of your assets and makes decisions about your health care should you ever become incapacitated.

• We ensure your wishes are clearly stated and legally binding.

• Wills save your beneficiaries thousands of dollars in legal expenses.

• We can draft Wills to address specific circumstances; for example, Wills may include trusts provisions for special needs children that provide for their welfare, while ensuring their entitlement to provincial and federal funding.

• For business owners, Wills provide certainty as to the succession of their business. Wills can be assets specific, so as to avoid probate taxes where possible. A Will is part of any business plan – it ensures your business continues after you are gone.

Sensitive Information

Earlier this week the press treated us to the intimate details of the life of a Manitoba judge and her lawyer husband.  As reports go, a few years ago, the husband took some private pictures of his wife and then, during a period of depression, posted them on the internet.  When the story broke, the judge stepped down from the bench, fearing the scandal would interfere with her ability to administer her duties.


As details continue to emerge, it seems that the release of the pictures was through no fault of the judge; it’s also hard to lay blame on the husband, given the questions of mental health that have been raised.  And it’s clear that the release of the pictures could not directly interfere with the judge’s ability to do her job.  But in the law, as in business, credibility is everything.  The damage has been done.


I will save the never-pose-for-a-picture-you-wouldn’t-want-the-world-to-see speech for my nieces and nephews and my kids, and instead use this as a lesson in the value of protecting your sensitive information.  Here are my simple rules for dealing with sensitive information:


  1. Only write down (record, photograph or otherwise resolve to a permanent medium) information that must be written down.
  2. Only digitize (create an electronic document) information that absolutely must be digitized.
  3. Only share information that must be shared.
  4. Only share with those you trust – and even then, follow Ronald Reagan’s maxim “trust, but verify.”
  5. When sharing, if you can control the shared copies, do so.
  6. Have rules about what the people who you share information with can and cannot do with that information.  Put those rules in writing.  Make sure everyone understands them, agrees to them and records their agreement.  Make sure that there are penalties for the improper use of the information.
  7.  Understand how you and those you share information with collect, transmit, use and store the information.  Understand the vulnerabilities associated with e-mail, the internet, as well as physical threats to tangible documents, including fire, flood and theft.
  8.  When information is no longer needed in a particular format, destroy it in that format.  Destroy all copies of it that can be destroyed.  Verify that all shared copies of the information have been destroyed.


The improper disclosure of sensitive information can have serious ramifications for your business or your personal life.  And the increasing ease with which information is distributed makes improper, accidental or malicious disclosure all the more likely with each new copy made and each new technological innovation.  Make sure that you do as much as you can to protect your sensitive information.  Get into these good habits and you’ll never need to call us to deal with the blowout of an unintended breach.

 Scott R. Young

Generally in Defence of our Civil Court System

The Court System in Canada is in the news this week,  in particular the allegation that judges are appointed in Quebec in an unethical manner.  I don’t practice in Quebec, so I have no opinion on that story, well, not one I’m putting in a Blog in any event.

The Civil Court system in Ontario (and I am only speaking to the Civil side, not family, not Criminal, not anything else: I’m sticking to what I know and deal with every day)  is often spoken of as “broken” and in need of fixing.  Perhaps in some aspects, but overall I disagree.

I am able to get my clients in front of a Judge as quickly as I would like.  Yes, there are certain jurisdictions in Ontario where it takes a long time, but the simple solution to that is not to start a Civil Action in those jurisdictions.

The Judges who hear my matters are thoroughly prepared and listen to both sides before making decisions.

Parties that are not represented by counsel are treated fairly and with respect, but not over indulged – it is the right balance.

I am able to enforce my Judgments relatively quickly, but then we hit a snag.  While I can garnish money from employers  and bank accounts quickly, thus leading to the money being taken from the debtors and paid to the Sheriff’s office, it is at this point the system comes crashing down.

The Sheriff  is supposed to pay out the garnishment funds after 30 days.  In many regions it is taking at least four months.  This is not fair to the Judgment Debtor nor to the owner of the Judgment who wants to get paid.

Staffing is the reason that is being given for the delay and I have no reason to believe otherwise.  The population has grown, but our Justice System’s enforcement department has shrunk: it’s not right.

That being said, I rank our Civil System as one of the best for many reasons & I hope that we can improve the areas where it needs some work.

Inga B. Andriessen, Sr. Lawyer

Watch What You Say

A recent Court of Appeal decision has reminded me of the sage teachings of my Father; if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut your big fat mouth…or something to that effect.


In Black v. Breeden, the Court held that Conrad Black is free to pursue a libel action on Ontario against the directors and officers of Hollinger International Inc. who allegedly accused him of, among other things, running a corporate kleptocracy.


Specifically the case deals with a jurisdictional issue, but more broadly, the case deals with defamation and the extent to which courts are willing to go to allow plaintiffs to address it. In the Black case, the defendants posted the allegedly defamatory comments online. The question before the courts was where was the harm that followed the defamation was done – where the comments were posted, or where they were likely to be read.


The defense arguments were myriad. Among them one that went along the lines that if the comments were read in Ontario, but about Black’s control of an American company, then there really wasn’t much of a connection to Ontario and there wasn’t going to be any significant harm to his reputation in Ontario. The court neither bought that argument, nor rented it.


Another argument was that Black was forum shopping, and preferred Ontario’s stricter libel laws. This too, fell flat; the Court held that is was fair to hold the defendants liable for their actions and their words, wherever those words fell.


Whatever the outcome of the eventual trial, the lessons from this ruling are clear, and well in keeping with the line of jurisprudence in this province. Courts are more than willing to answer jurisdictional questions in the affirmative, where the internet is involved and where real connections to Ontario can be found. Courts are seemingly less concerned with what the best or most appropriate jurisdiction might be in these matters – if there is a connection to Ontario, then the plaintiff has a right to bring their action here.


To paraphrase a popular internet saying: In Ontario, defamations r serious bizness.


Although it should not need restating at this point, I’m going to say it anyway. Don’t say things about people that are likely to damage their reputation unless 1) you know without a shadow of a doubt that those things are true, 2) you are willing and able to endure costly litigation to defend your comments and 3) those things really need to be said. Wherever, whenever and however defamation occurs in Ontario, there is probably going to be a pretty smooth path to a trial for damages on the matter.


If you are a director or officer of a corporation and you are involved in acrimonious proceedings, let your lawyer do the talking. One of the things you pay us for is to translate your emotion and passion into rational enunciations of your legal position. We are, generally speaking, pretty good at that. And if that’s too complicated to remember, just harken back to my father’s simple rule of thumb.


Scott R. Young