Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mobilegeddon: Is Your Law Firm Website Ready to Pass Google’s New Mobile-Friendliness Test?

Some call it Mobilegeddon.

Google began to roll out a mobile-friendliness update last Tuesday, April 21, 2015.  With this latest, major algorithmic change, Google will now be boosting search rankings of mobile-friendly web pages on its mobile search results.

A page is eligible for the “mobile-friendly” label if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:
  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tappedHow will this algorithmic change affect your law firm website’s search results?
Your website’s traffic from search results will begin to be impacted by whether it passes or fails Google’s mobile optimization requirements.  With failure, your site’s search rankings on mobile searches may take a serious hit.

While early indications are that the sky has not yet fallen, and only modest fluctuations in search results are at this point being seen, it’s important to note this update is still in its implementation phase.

The long-term impact of this change may not yet be fully apparent.

Many commentators, including Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog, forecast significant negative consequences for law firm websites that fail the mobile-friendliness test:

Those law firms who don’t act will suffer the consequences of their content being ranked well below mobile friendly content on smart phones – the result will be significant reductions in search traffic.

Google has published a mobile-friendliness test tool that allows you to easily check whether your website pages are mobile-compliant. Note that this test applies to each individual page, rather than entire websites.

If your key pages don’t pass the test, this might be a really good time to be in contact with a web developer about updating your site.

(Cross Posted at Slaw)
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation Cracks Down on Plenty of Fish

Global News recently reported that popular free-dating site Plenty of Fish (POF) paid $48,000.00 for violating Canada's anti-spam legislation that came in to effect on July 1, 2014.

The violations happened within a 4 month window between July 1 and October 8, 2014. POF is accused by the CRTC of sending emails to users with:
"an unsubscribe mechanism that was not clearly and prominently set out, and which could not be readily performed, as required by the legislation." 
Just a reminder to businesses that you must receive explicit consent, not implied consent, to send a user or client an email.

Read more here.
- Rachel Spence, Law Clerk

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You've Been Served - On Facebook

In a March 27, 2015 decision in Baidoo v Blood-Dzraku, 2015 NY Slip Op 25096, New York County Supreme Court Judge Mathew Cooper permitted substituted service of a divorce summons via Facebook: 

As recently as ten years ago, it was considered a cutting edge development in civil practice for a court to allow the service of a summons by email. Since then, email has all but replaced ordinary mail as a means of written communication. And while the legislature has yet to make email a statutorily authorized method for the service of process, courts are now routinely permitting it as a form of alternative service. 
The past decade has also seen the advent and ascendency of social media, with websites such as Facebook and Twitter occupying a central place in the lives of so many people. Thus, it would appear that the next frontier in the developing law of the service of process over the internet is the use of social media sites as forums through which a summons can be delivered. In this matrimonial action, the issue before the court, by way of plaintiff-wife's ex parte application, is whether she may serve defendant-husband with the divorce summons solely by sending it through Facebook by private message to his account.
While there has been much buzz in the press about this New York ruling, from a Canadian perspective, substituted service by Facebook is by no means a new development.

In fact, such service has been ordered by Canadian courts, at least occasionally, since 2009.

As discussed in a 2009 post on this blog, Alberta Court Allows Substituted Service By Facebook, in Knott v. Sutherland, [2009] A.J. No. 1539 (Alta. Q.B)., Master Breitkreuz permitted substituted service upon one of the multiple defendants in an action by sending notice of the action to the Facebook profile of that defendant.

In the British Columbia case of Bryne v. Howard, [2010] FMCAFAM 509 (Fed. Mag. Ct.), service of a child support application via Facebook and other electronic means, was permitted.

As well, in the unreported 2014 Ontario Superior Court Justice case of  Juzytsch v. Terlecki, Madame Justice Susan Healy also permitted substituted service of a Statement of Claim via Facebook.

As was noted in the 2013 ruling of the B.C. Supreme Court in Burke v. Doe, a defamation case involving former former Toronto Maple Leaf General Manager Brian Burke, Canadian courts have also permitted substituted service via message boards and Twitter. 

In permitting service via personal message on a message board in the Burke case, Master MacNaughton held:
[21] In my view, it is reasonably likely, or probable, that notice of the proceedings will come to the attention of the Message Board Defendants by the proposed method. Mr. Brandt’s affidavit establishes that, according to their profiles on the message boards, the Message Board Defendants regularly log into the very accounts on which they posted the allegedly defamatory statements and use message boards and the Internet as a regular means of communication. They will be notified that they have received a personal message upon logging into their account in an online forum in which they have chosen to participate. 
[22] In all these circumstances, I order that Mr. Burke may serve the notice of civil claim, filed April 26, 2012, on the Message Board Defendants by sending them a private message to the internet message board accounts maintained by them in the form attached to the notice of application. I required the form of the message to be amended to include the name and contact information of the lawyer at Heenan Blaikie from whom the Message Board Defendants may obtain the notice of civil claim and a copy of this order. In addition, I ordered that a similar notice be published in one edition of a national Canadian newspaper.
We would expect this trend of substituted service by social media to continue and develop as new modes of communication are adopted for more frequent use in the mainstream. 

- Garry J. Wise and Kenneth R. Bandeira, Toronto

140 Law - Leading Legal Headlines

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- Rachel Spence, Law Clerk

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Getting Your Legal Writing Right

I remember the time that a favourite client of mine gave me a schooling in the art of legal writing – and proofreading.

A retired lawyer (and the consummate gentleman), he had retained me to draft revisions to a fairly complex Last Will and Testament.

He was a bit of a stickler. And I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to have worked with him. Because even though my content was fine, he still had lots to say about the way my draft was set up.
Here, in a nutshell, is what I learned from him.

Precision and consistency in style, capitalization and formatting can be at least as important as content in the creation of legal documentation that meets the standards of our profession.

In other words:

  • Consistent Capitals, Please: If you are capitalizing Executor in one paragraph, you need to capitalize that word everywhere in the document. This holds true in pleadings as well. If Respondent reappears in your document, be consistent in whether you capitalize it;
  • Don’t mix and match your semicolons and periods: If you are working on a list, use semicolons throughout, except for the last paragraph of your list, which should end with a period;
  • Don’t mess with gender: “His/her” is probably never appropriate in a legal document, and certainly is not appropriate when dealing with a single person. Take the time to verify that your gender descriptions fit your document – especially when you are working from templates and precedents;
  • Paragraph numbering: To avoid errors in paragraph numbering, especially when editing, always use automatic formatting for paragraphs and lists;
  • Proofread once, twice and then proofread again. The same goes for spell checking – this should be done after every revision;
  • Use section titles:  These will make your document easier to read. Once again, consistency matters. If you are using titles, decide whether you will be underlining them, using bold font, or both, and stick to that same selection throughout your document;
  • Revisit your draft. Where possible, after you have finished your document, put it away for a few hours or a day before sending it out. Come back to it later to do a final check. You could be surprised at the number of obvious errors – in content and style – you may find when you have fresh eyes available.
Yes, it really does matter that you get it right.

As a lawyer, you are among other things, a professional writer. Your work product is your calling card, and it will go a long way, particularly when you’re starting out, toward establishing how your clients and colleagues assess you.

(As well, your supervising lawyer will probably not appreciate being called upon repeatedly to edit sloppiness, spelling mistakes, typos, formatting errors, and grammatical problems you could have found yourself in your draft).

So that’s a wrap on this week’s tip:  Take the time to get your writing right. It will make a difference.

Because it will demonstrate that you care.

(Cross-posted at SlawTips)
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In Discussion with Mitch Kowalski, 2015 LSUC Bencher Candidate

I had a good sit-down today with Mitch Kowalski, 2015 LSUC Bencher candidate, who discusses current issues facing the Law Society of Upper Canada, including governance, ABS, articling, professional discipline and the future of paralegals.

It's well worth the watch - and sorry for the intermittent audio distortion.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Monday, April 13, 2015

140 Law - Legal Headlines for the week of April 6, 2015

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- Rachel Spence, Law Clerk

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Monday, April 06, 2015

10 Years of Wise Law Blog

My calendar tells me that yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the commencement of Wise Law Blog

3,284 posts later, here we still are.

There is so much I could say about the enormous impact blogging has had on our firm - and on the vital role Canada's law blogs continue to play in providing accessible legal information and crucial analysis to the public and the profession.

But in the interest of keeping this post short and personal, for now, let me simply say thank you. 

Thank you to our readers. Thank you to the many good friends I've made in the Toronto law blogging community. Thank you to the members of the media and the Clawbie powers-that-be who have been so kind to us over the years.

And of course, a special thank you to all of our Wise Law lawyers, staff and alumni who have contributed their insights through their many posts over this last 10 years.

My, how quickly the time has passed. May our next decade of blogging be at least as much fun as our first.

And happy blogversary to us!
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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140 Law - Legal Headlines for Week of March 30th

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- Rachel Spence, Law Clerk & Office Manager
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Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Working Stay-Cation

I shoulda been in Jamaica, this week.

For a variety of scheduling reasons, mostly my significant other’s, that didn’t work out as planned. Which is not the end of the world, particularly with temperatures hitting 15 degrees in Toronto today.

(It’s 28 in Runaway Bay, Jamaica though, as we speak).

But today’s tip is not about the thermometer. Rather it’s about the “stay-cation.”

My week was booked off for vacation and I decided to keep it that way. The order of events for the week, I prognosticated, would be:

1. Catch up with my emails.

2. Relax.

Four days later, I am still working on item number 1.

Now, my tips partner, David Bilinsky, has written previously about the quest for inbox zero, and I continue to pursue that elusive goal, with most of the week now behind us.

I am not complaining. Rather, my insight is that it might not be such a bad idea to book a week off here and there, as a matter of course, just to catch up.

A week with no meetings, no telephone discussions. No administritivia. No mediations, discoveries, or court attendances.

Just a week to address all those matters that have needed attention or otherwise have fallen between the cracks.

Give it some thought.

All I can say is that at the end of this stay-cation, with Easter and Passover holidays arriving, inbox zero is looking like a distinct possibility.

And that adds up to happy clients and happy lawyers.

(And happy insurers too, I should probably add).

So today’s tip: Consider booking the working stay-cation to deal with your backlog and to catch up on all that unfinished business. It works.

A good holiday to all.

(Cross-Posted at Slaw Tips)
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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