August 2016
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Sometimes you just can’t fix stupid. I’ll double down on that statement and say all the time you cannot fix a fraudster.

Recently, our firm was contacted by an individual who was convicted of fraud while he was a Chartered Accountant and expelled from membership as a CA because of that fraud. This individual attempted to represent a company in a litigation. Wow. I guess committing fraud as a CA wasn’t enough, the individual needed to try to practice law without a licence.

Leaving aside the fraud, an accountant cannot represent a party to a lawsuit in Ontario. The only professionals who can represent parties are:

1. licensed paralegals, in Small Claims Court and other specific areas;
2. licensed lawyers, who can represent clients in all areas of Law.

An individual (not a company) can represent themselves in all areas of Law in Ontario. However, if a corporation is sued, it must obtain permission from the Court to represent itself and this is not always granted, particularly if the individual seeking to represent the corporation is unprofessional in dealings with the Court and/or the other side.

I recently read a statement, though cannot remember where, that said “if you think professionals are expensive, wait until you hire an amateur.” This is very true in litigation where paralegals and lawyers know the process and know how to handle speak to issues before the Court and Tribunals. An amateur will not and that can get very expensive in terms of judgments and cost orders that could be awarded against you.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

On September 8, 2016 Ontario Employers must comply with the changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act that address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

The changes are not difficult to comply with, they essentially involve ensuring your current workplace policies address sexual harassment, have a plan to investigate incidents and complaints of workplace harassment, inform the parties to any such complaint of the results of the investigation and what action is taken and, if applicable, involve the Joint Health and Safety Committee in developing written programs and procedures.

The big take way from the changes are: put it in writing. Do not have verbal policies. Do not only communicate the results of investigations in a conversation. Put it in writing.

While the Ontario Government, in their TV campaign introducing these change in the Spring of 2016 appears to believe that sexual harassment is always a man harassing a woman, that is not in fact the case and employers must be prepared for same sex harassment, transgender harassment and women sexually harassing men.

If you’re not certain your workplace policies comply with the changes required by September 8, 2016, reach out to a Business Law lawyer to have them review what you are currently using. It is less expensive to pay a lawyer to prepare proper policies than it is to respond to a complaint.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

It’s that time of year – students are getting ready to start Law School, Law Practice Program (LPP) Candidates are getting ready for their first in person week. It’s time to Law. (I know, Law is not a verb, but really, it should be.)

If you’re about to enter law school, the best thing you can do is get organized. This isn’t undergrad: your game is about to be stepped up and your organizational skills need to do likewise.

If you’re about to enter the LPP and can afford it: sell your Mac and get a PC laptop. Most law specific computer programs are not Mac friendly: you’ll thank me for this when you’re not up all night during the Real Estate part of the LPP. Really. You’re welcome in advance.

For all those about to Law, check your egos: you’ll learn more if you do. You’re not about to be “better than everyone else” because you have a law degree: it’s just your education, it’s not who you are.

Finally, for all about to law, invest in at least one black suit. Spend as much as you can afford to get the best quality. This will help a lot as you will be wearing it for many assessments and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Good luck. Have fun & welcome to Law !

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

First impressions: you never get a chance to make a new first impression.

A couple of older teenagers I know recently decided to go to a Toronto restaurant for Summerlicious. The restaurant was Fred’s Not Here. When they met the host, they were asked if they were there for Summerlicious. When they enthusiastically said yes, they were escorted past the empty patio, past the empty upstairs and deep within the bowels of the basement. Not a great start.

The portions were crazy small, the steak was not done properly, though the server didn’t return to check on it, so it was kind of a moot point. The patrons were drinking cola (being under aged and all) and the server never asked if they would like their drink refilled. The teenagers tipped properly (no doubt to the shock of the server who didn’t earn it) after their meal and left.

They will never go back again. They will tell their friends never to go there. Fred’s Not Here will not get a second chance with these patrons, who are just at the start of their earning and spending years. What a shame and certainly, the opposite effect that Summerlicious was initially created for.

I’m often surprised that new clients to our firm express they were treated in a similar manner to the situation above, when they were trying to find a Business Law Firm to handle their matters. Stories of people being spoken down to, laughed and or simply not heard are too common.

At our Business Law Firm, we enjoy working with start ups, sole proprietors and business people who just have the start of an idea. We work with our clients and do not talk down to them.

First impressions matter: we like to make a good one.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

Do you SnapChat? Does your company? Do you have any idea what I’m talking about?

You should.

As a business law firm, one of our beliefs is that you must continue to evolve. This doesn’t mean you need to use every new social media platform that is created, but you should understand it and understand how your clients and/or employees are using it.

SnapChat started off as a sexting Ap for teenagers. That would be a very bad use in a work environment.

It has now evolved into a platform that lets people and companies tell “stories” and turn their faces into dogs with tongues hanging out. The last part is o.k. at work, if your co-worker doesn’t object to being turned into a dog’s face; however, doing that without their permission could lead to allegations of bullying and a toxic work environment.

The above two paragraphs are examples of why you can’t ignore new social media if you are an employer. Your obligations to protect your employees from harassment and discrimination don’t end because you don’t understand technology.

Our firm Snaps occasionally. Our Snap Chat name is AndriessenLaw . Feel free to become friends with us if you’re interested in behind the scenes photos of the firm – last week our paralegal, Murray Brown’s guppy tank was featured. We did not turn any guppies into dogs.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

A few weeks ago the City of Toronto floated an idea (which has become common in many circles) that 50% of all of its Board Members must be women.

I am a woman. I am a lawyer. I sit on Boards. I do not like that idea at all.

The reason I don’t like the idea is that it immediately devalues the abilities and accomplishments of women who are appointed to Boards. Many will perceive them as being appointed due to their gender, not due to their abilities. I don’t like being reduced to a gender: if all I have to do to be on a Board is be a woman, then why did I bother with undergraduate studies and a Law Degree?

Women should be appointed to Boards because they are good at what they do. If they want to be on Boards, they should lobby for those positions the same way men do.

Don’t sit back waiting to be asked – let Boards know you want on. Let them know how qualified you are. Be appointed because of your accomplishments: it is much more satisfying.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

As a Business Firm, we frequently represent employers in Wrongful Dismissal law suits and we also help them implement policies to avoid those law suits. One of the issues that often comes up is failing to put discipline issues in writing.

For some reason, many employers think that talking to employees about behaviour issues is more likely to create a change in those behaviours. My sense is they feel it is a “friendlier” approach. Of course, when those behaviours are not corrected and the employer fires an employee for what they believe is “cause” that usually is not the case. In employment litigation, if it is not in writing, it generally doesn’t count.

Writing can be as simple as an email to an employee letting them know that you’ve noticed they’ve been late a lot, ask what you can do to help them get to work on time and then tell them if it doesn’t improve, you’ll have to consider further discipline. This is more likely to get the attention of the employee to improve the behaviour than a friendly, “oh, slept through your alarm again” comment made verbally.

Ultimately, putting coaching in writing can both help your employees take their work performance seriously and has the added impact of providing the employer with evidence required to terminate for cause, if necessary.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

It’s summertime and that means it’s time to think about hiring Law Students for 2017. Wait, that’s not what summertime means?

For law firms, this is the time of year that students apply, interview and are hired for their mandatory work experience after they have completed their law degree. Traditionally, this has been a 10 month work placement called Articling. The law firm is responsible for teaching the Ethics Component of licensing to its’ Articling Students and providing meaningful work for the student.

This obligation has become more and more onerous over the years and as a result, many law firms stopped hiring Articling Students. As a result the Law Practice Program (LPP) was created as an alternative and it’s fantastic.

The students undergo a four month “virtual” work experience where they are not only taught the Ethics Component of licensing, they are responsible for files in a variety of areas of law and are taught the business end of how to run a law firm. After these four months the students have a mandatory four month work term.

Law firms used to Articling Students who are prepared to learn, but not prepared to “work” will find it refreshing to hire LPP candidates who know how to docket, write a reporting letter and tackle meaningful research. They’ll also find it cost effective to have a four month term, rather than ten month term of employment; it’s a win win situation.

So. It’s summertime, what are you waiting for? Go to http://www.lpp.ryerson.ca/?page_id=288 and put your firm’s name down to hire an LPP candidate.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

You don’t have to use a lawyer to buy a business. Lately our firm has seen many creative alternatives to using a lawyer to buy a business. Some of these include using a Realtor or selling on your own.

The Realtor situation, which we have seen more than a few times over the years is frustrating to watch. The Realtors inevitably use their pre-printed Commercial Real Estate forms. They then handwrite things they think are important, get initials and proudly hand the form to the client to finally take to a lawyer. The best case situation is that both the vendor and purchaser are represented by good business lawyers who agree to “start over” on the agreement and a meaningful document is created.

Realtors don’t know the ins and outs of business law the way lawyers do. They don’t know the tax implications of the transactions, they don’t understand the liabilities that can travel with a business. They are not the right advisor to sell your business.

Better still is the person who decides to sell their business on their own. Lately we sue those people and the people they sell to (who also don’t use lawyers) a lot. We generally get them on the violation of the Bulk Sales Act in Ontario. This has the effect of making the purchaser re-pay what they paid the vendor to the benefit of all creditors. Yes. You read that correctly. Feel like literally paying the purchase price twice? Go ahead, be your own lawyer.

Another “fun” situation is the family that decides to “sell” the business from one member to another for no money. The motivation there is generally to avoid creditors and often means transferring the business from one spouse who doesn’t own the family home to another who does. This makes the family home open to seizure by business creditors. On behalf of those creditors: thank-you for making it easy to recover their judgment.

Selling a business is important. Use a lawyer.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca

It’s almost July. The kids are or are almost out of school. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been out of school for way too many years to remember, there is still something about July and August that says “vacation”.

No. We’re not shutting down the firm for the summer, but most of us will take a break for at least a week to recharge and that is important. I remember being a student and working in jobs where people chose to take vacation pay but not vacation time. Those people didn’t seem very happy.

If you don’t take time away from work, it is easy to be ground into the routine and start the downward spiral of hating your job.

Even if you can’t take a full week off, I find taking a long weekend off and enjoying one of our Provincial Parks can leave me just as refreshed as if I’d been away for longer. There is something about being in nature that just lets you relax. Of course, that could be the BC native in me coming out, maybe being in a bustling city is just as relaxing for Toronto natives.

The point is, take time to not work so that you can enjoy getting back to work.

Inga B. Andriessen JD
iandriessen@andriessen.ca