A few weeks ago the Bank of Canada raised its key lending rate for the first time in seven years by a quarter-percentage-point. Although a move like this signals a growing confidence in the Canadian economy, not everybody shares this excitement.

For lenders, it can make the business of lending a bit more enticing, but for borrowers, an interest rate increase is not news that makes you want to call home. With concerns that this increase could ultimately hurt consumers who are already stretched too thin, it is a good reminder for lenders and creditors to secure their loans to protect themselves against borrowers who are unable to pay off all or part of their debt.

In Ontario, the Personal Property Security Act (PPSA) is a statutory regime that governs the taking of and enforcement of security in the property of a borrower. If you are a lender, by registering with the Personal Property Security Registration (PPSR) system, it will help you secure your loan interests and help establish priorities between you and other lenders with competing interests in the same debtor property, to protect you in the event the borrower does not pay.

We always recommend our clients who are lenders to secure their interests using the PPSR system rather than risk being an unsecured lender with no protection to secure repayment of their loan. Please feel free to connect with us if you would like to learn more about this regime or if you would like help in becoming a secured creditor.

Michelle Eames, LL.B, LL.M.
Business Lawyer
meames@andriessen.ca

When I decided to go British Columbia for law school, I was met with excitement and congratulated for starting a new chapter in life. When I decided to article and work in BC, I was met with skepticism. Not because there is anything wrong with BC (I do prefer the city to the mountains but they both have their benefits) but because the requirements for the eventual transition back to practice in Ontario for most individuals were murky at best.

Prior to practicing in BC, I did research to ensure that my eventual transition home would be as smooth as possible and through the National Mobility Agreement, it was.

The National Mobility Agreement allows for lawyers from reciprocating jurisdictions to apply for permanent transfer to another province or territory.

In Ontario, lawyers from reciprocating jurisdictions who are in good standing and entitled to practice in their home jurisdiction may apply to be licensed in Ontario. These requirements may vary province to province but generally follow a similar outline.
An applicant must complete the application, read the required materials and then go through the licensing process. While waiting to be licensed a lawyer may practice in Ontario if they are licensed in their home jurisdiction, are in good standing, have liability insurance and receive a temporary permit to practice.

So, while the process of law school, articles, and working may seem daunting, transferring your license is not. So, if the opportunity to explore Canada through your legal profession presents itself, jump on it; even if it’s just to realize that mountains aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Harman S. Toor JD
htoor@andriessen.ca

There is a lot written these days about failure to innovate in business being an invitation to the end of that business. There is a lot of truth in that, but that is not what this Blog is about. This Blog is about Business Law and in particular, Business Litigation. There are many things that are done because we’ve always done them that way and that is not a great reason for us to keep doing them.

I suppose there is a danger this Blog could quickly turn into a Rant. I seem to get more positive comments about my Rants, rather than the “informative” Blogs, so maybe I’ll just let it veer in that direction …. with that in mind, here are some things that need to change:

1. When lawyers, who have been on the file since the law suit started, meet at discovery, pre-trial, etc., there is no need to exchange business cards. All of our information is on the court documents. We’ve usually been in contact for months at that point. Your business card is not identification and it is not needed. When you give it to me in that situation, while I’ll take it, it’s going to be recycled pretty quickly.

2. Assignment Court. This is a step in a lawsuit that needs to be eliminated across the entire province. For non-lawyers, let me explain with this is: it is a day your lawyer goes to Court, must wear Robes (so you cannot send a student, who bills at a lower rate) and agrees with the other lawyer on a date for trial. Thankfully, many jurisdictions in Ontario have procedures in place that let lawyers try to agree on dates ahead of time and avoid Assignment Court, however, many don’t and it’s time to get rid of this expensive step completely.

3. Telling everyone to completely turn cell phones off in Court is not necessary. The reporting equipment has improved. We can leave phones on (on silent mode) while Court is in session. This particularly matters on a “Motions Court” day when a lawyer can be in the Court Room for four to five hours simply waiting to be heard. Let lawyers be productive when there is no reason to stop them from doing so.

4. Having a trial date that is “the week of” needs to end until the R. v. Jordan backup is resolved. That was really technical wasn’t it? Let me explain. R. v. Jordan is a Supreme Court of Canada decision that requires criminal charges to have a trial within two years (I think, I’m not a criminal lawyer, so I could be wrong). This has put a priority on criminal cases being heard. This means that one day civil matters, which are put on a the list to be heard during a specific week are often not heard, because the criminal cases take priority. I recently had one case adjourned for the second time (first from December, now from June) because it was on a list with criminal cases.
This backup is caused in large part because new Judges are not being appointed and we need them desperately.

I’ve got more, but then I’d have to write a Blog about Blogs that are Rants and just go on forever and make the writer sound like an old lady yelling at kids to get off her lawn. So I’ll stop now. You’re welcome.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

I’m not intending to trample any American pride by posting this ode to Canada but honestly, our country is awesome.

As a Business Law firm, we are able to point out when we disagree with the government and no one tramples our right to do this.

As advocates for our clients, we are able to argue before the courts in an environment where we know the judiciary is not corrupt.

As a firm made up of people from many ethnic backgrounds, religions and sexual orientations, we are able to get along and be ourselves without fear of persecution.

As an individual who enjoys wide open spaces, our parks, rivers and lakes are the best place to unwind we could ever ask for.

Oh Canada. You’re awesome !

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

Seven years ago, I decided I didn’t like the way I have traditionally answered the question: “What do you do?”    My answer to that point had been “I”m a corporate/commercial lawyer”.  

If you were not a lawyer, this response generally led to blank stares and for those brave enough, the follow up question “what is that?”

So, seven years ago I decided to lead with my strength, which is taking complicated issues and making them simple. As a result, I branded our firm Business Lawyers and there have been a lot fewer blank stares.

Corporate/Commercial Law is a technical definition.  It is a Law School definition and one that we boring lawyer types understand – but it does not embrace the energy of what we really do: we’re business lawyers.

Our firm is now made up of Business Litigators and Business Transaction lawyers. I personally litigate about 70% of the time. Harman Toor, will be joining us July 4, 2017 as a litigator and we are really excited to have him start. Murray Brown, our paralegal handles Small Claims matters for our business clients in an efficient and flat fee manner.

As a Business Transaction lawyer, Michelle Eames of our firm advises businesses on all aspects of their work – from start up to wind up and the fun parts in between, including contracts, commercial leasing and corporate wills. For 30% of my time, I handle contracts, leases and Trademark registrations – the building up stuff, instead of the tearing down stuff of litigation .

Everyone in our firm is business focused and excited to work with companies to help them achieve the goals they have set out for themselves. So, looking for a Business Law firm? Look no further, because we’re right here.

Inga B. Andriessen, JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

I hope you were not expecting travel tips when you clicked on the link to this Blog. While I do have some (Curacao for scuba diving, Sun Peaks for downhill skiing) that is not what I want to talk about today. Today we’re talking about how employers handle vacations for their employees.

In Ontario, after working for one year, an employee may take two weeks vacation. In theory, the 4% per paycheque is growing in an account with the employer and when the employee takes that vacation, the 4% fund has the money drawn from it to cover the pay during that time. In reality, many employers allow an employee to continue working and simply pay out the 4%, either each pay cheque or as a lump sum at the end of the year.

Paying employees their money instead of requiring them to take time off is a bad idea. It’s bad for the employee as they do not get a break from work, which can lead to illness, stress and/or boredom. All of the latter items do not lead to productivity for the employer, which is why it is also a bad idea for the employer.

All employers should require that vacation be taken as such and should have rules in place as to how many weeks in advance the vacation must be requested. A smart employer will also have written rules regarding whose requests get priority – trust me, you don’t want to have to “come up” with a reason why Sally gets the vacation time instead of Jane.

Now. For all the talk above about employees, let’s talk about the employers.

Hey, you! The backbone of the Canadian economy. The people who put personal assets on the line to fund the business. The people who stay up at night worrying about the employees: you need a vacation too. A real one. One where you put on a do not disturb bouncer and do not deal with the office.

The business thrives when employers and employees are engaged and motivated to work. We all need to take vacations, so let’s get to it !

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

On June 7, 2017 the Canadian Government wisely delayed the right of private prosecution under CASL. This was set to come into force on July 1, 2017 and would have allowed private law suits to enforce violations of the anti-spam laws.

The press release from the Canadian Government contains the following, promising wording:

“Canadians deserve an effective law that protects them from spam and other electronic threats that lead to harassment, identity theft and fraud. At the same time, Canadian businesses, charities and non-profit groups should not have to bear the burden of unnecessary red tape and costs to comply with the legislation.”

CASL does not accomplish the goal that it set out to accomplish. CASL is not protecting anyone from Crypto Viruses (Ransomware) and cyber criminals are not going to respect any laws – that is why they are called criminals.

CASL certainly should never have been considered a way for “victims” to make a living suing CASL violators.

With the Government pressing pause on one aspect of CASL for now and reviewing it completely at the same time, this is a good opportunity for business to let its voice be heard. Write your MP, tell them what you want changed.

Let’s get rid of the personal liability aspect of CASL. This is our time to change the legislation.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

In Ontario, some significant changes are being proposed to the Employment Standards Act – the important words is “proposed” in that sentence, there is time for Employers to chime in with their thoughts. Our firm does not represent Employees in Employment Law issues, so our focus is solely on the Employer’s end of things.

The summary of the report, in my opinion, reads very much that Employers are evil and need to be reigned in by a more robust Ministry of Labour.

The reality is that we currently live in an age of Employment Law where the scale is already weighted very heavily in favour of the Employee. If an Employee is terminated without cause and without a contract limiting the amount of Notice of Termination they are entitled to, the Courts are consistently awarding at least one month for each year worked. That’s a lot of Notice for an Employer to pay out if they’re already downsizing for financial reasons.

Think the workplace is not weighted in favour of an Employee? Try navigating the challenge of terminating an Employee who claims to have a disability: have you accommodated them to the point of undue hardship? No, well, then you’re going to pay a lot.

Ensuring that Employees are not discriminated against and given fair Notice of Termination is already the law in Ontario.

Some of the new proposals include requiring Employers to pay for doctor’s notes if they require them. Really? Wow. That’s lovely and butts up nicely against the duty to accommodate disabilities which require Doctor’s input.

I recognize there are some bad apple Employers out there, but most of the Employers are looking to create a team of people who work with them to create a successful business. Let’s not punish the good apples for the bad behaviour of the bad apples.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

One of the things our firm is great at is helping businesses get paid. By the time we’re involved, it’s usually a litigation matter, however, we like to encourage businesses to take steps to protect themselves before it lands on our desks. This is why we created 30-60-90 Sue® – it’s our program to help you accelerate the collection of your receivables.

Without giving away all of our secrets, I’m happy to highlight a few ways you can do your part to get paid:

1. Get it in writing. If you’re selling a good or service over time, use a contract. If you’re selling something on the spot, provide a receipt.

2. If you are giving terms of payment, follow up immediately the day after those terms expire to see where your payment is.

3. Accept Visa, Direct Deposit and e-transfer: these methods are the path of least resistance for many and help get you paid faster.

4. Sue, particularly if you have a group of customers who know each other and talk to each other. Suing one customer will quickly bring the rest of your receivables into line.

We’re here to help you get paid: reach out if you need more info. Much of what we do collection wise is on a flat fee basis, so you know what your cost is before you take steps.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

Last week I enjoyed the privilege of Judging a High School Mock Trial tournament. I have been doing this for many years and it is a lot of fun. I don’t get paid for it (hence the volunteering part of this Blog post) and as a result I don’t get to bill for the time I’m volunteering and I’m fine with that.

What I’m not fine with is being attacked by a teacher coach, who is presumably being paid to be at the event, particularly when the teacher is upset about constructive criticism given to a team member who ran afoul of the tournament rules.

I’m sure that teacher is not going to read today’s Blog, but other teachers may and all I’m asking is that you appreciate the time that is being given up for the event to take place. You may not like the result. You may not like the feedback, but realize it’s a Mock Trial. There will be a winner and a loser. That is not the Judge’s fault.

No good deed goes unpunished. I’m thinking of adopting that as my new personal mantra.

Regardless, I’ll keep volunteering, because ultimately, it’s about sharing my passion and enthusiasm for the law with students and no cranky teacher is going to take that away.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca