Legal futures round-up: January 23, 2017

By Brandon Hastings January 23, 201723 January 2017

Legal futures round-up: January 23, 2017

 

Inspired by the CBA Legal Futures report on Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada, here’s our regular round-up of noteworthy developments, opinions and news in the legal futures space as a means of furthering discussion about our changing legal marketplace.

McCarthy Tétrault LLP has acquired e-discovery law firm Wortzmans in an arrangement that will see Susan Wortzman join the firm as an equity partner. Wortzmans will continue to operate as a separate e-discovery and managed review service for its clients.

Third-party litigation funding, with its increased Canadian prevalence, has once again come under scrutiny for both its potential to increase access to justice, and the potential risks it poses.

McGill’s law school has begun offering a course in indigenous law. The course is part of McGill's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which recommended Canadian law students learn more about Indigenous law and how Indigenous people have interacted with the justice system.

The University of Saskatchewan has closed application for its Nunavut law program. As of January 5, 2017, there were 30 applicants for 25 spots. Students will live in Iqaluit for the 4 years of the program.

In Ontario, a law professor is questioning whether contingency fees are in fact a benefit to clients. The British Columbia personal injury bar works hard to keep the fault-based, contingency-fee system in place, one that generally results in successful plaintiffs, after legal fees and disbursements, receiving approximately a third of their total settlement. Meanwhile, some commentators see certain distinct benefits to no-fault insurance regimes.

Harvard’s A2JLab continues to create some great research, using (gasp) scientific techniques to conduct research into legal and access to justice issues.

Manitoba, like other provinces in Canada, is struggling with the impact of the Jordan decision. Criminal trials must, generally, be heard within 30 months (2.5 years). From an access to justice standpoint, 2.5 years seems like a really long time to deal with the suspense of criminal litigation for anyone who is wrongfully accused – never mind that the right to a timely trial is enshrined in the Charter. What really puts the global access to justice crisis in perspective is that despite these sorts of challenges Canada is ranked as the 12th best country in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index. The Huffington Post puts an even finer point on the issue, stating that 44 per cent of Ukrainians, 25 per centof Tunisians, and 35 per centof Ugandans do nothing when faced with a serious justice problem, and calling for a fundamental change in the world’s justice-ecosystem.

The Law Society of British Columbia has recently discontinued a pilot project that allowed designated paralegals to appear in court. That doesn’t mean the LSBC has given up plans to regulate paralegals; legislating the provision of legal services by non-lawyers is still very much on the plate, says LSBC president Herman Van Ommen. The paralegals-in-court pilot project, which ran from January 2013 until autumn 2015, was part of the LSBC’s “access to justice” initiative. It allowed paralegals to independently make procedural appearances in court, for example, and book dates. However, only three members of B.C.’s 1,300-strong bar sent paralegals to court in their stead. “I think the profession here didn’t know what they could do with paralegals” in court, says Van Ommen.

Ontario has launched “Steps to Justice,” a website that sounds very similar to British Columbia’s CRT Solutions Explorer, and which is designed to be a simple and easy-to-understand resource with a live chat function that helps people find the legal information that they need.

Ontario’s Attorney General recently announced that the province is looking at allowing e-filing of divorces. The larger theme here is that one must wonder how much of the legal innovation that is currently being taken-on by the private sector might one day face competition from free government-provided services. UK-based legal commentators are also heralding 2017 as the year of legal technology.

Fernando Garcia offers his voice on how in-house counsel should imbue their practices with legal technology, Dominic Jarr also advocates for the adoption of technology and discusses his experience working in-house with Dell, while Chris Sorensen discusses University of Toronto professor’s Tax Foresight, and the larger theme of moving towards replacing pieces of traditional law jobs with technology.

Mark Cohen expects a “Yelp for Legal Services” to be an upcoming trend, and points out that in fact General Electric already has something similar for its own in-house use, and notes that competition in the legal industry will increasingly drive law firms and legal service providers to be agile and automated.

David Canton writes on 10 things to watch in Legal Technology in 2017. Among them: CASL, PIPEDA, artificial intelligence, and trademark registration.

CBA National published its list of 2016’s top 10 articles on legal issues, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, a number of those are legal futures related.

Brandon Hastings (www.bhastings.com) is an associate at MacLean Law in Vancouver, British Columbia, a civil roster mediator, a collaborative practitioner, and a director of the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC). Brandon holds a BBA in Entrepreneurial Leadership, has a background in technology, and sits on the CBABC’s court services committee.

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