Inspired by the CBA Legal Futures report on Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada, here’s our biweekly round-up of noteworthy developments, opinions and news in the legal futures space as a means of furthering discussion about our changing legal marketplace.
On September 20, 2016, Thompson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute, and Toronto’s MaRS LegalX incubator held a forum on Emerging Legal Technology. The program included speakers and panelists from within and around the legal and technology industries. A central theme to the event was the need for law firms to focus on mastering data analytics.
Mark Cohen has an item in which he explains that profit-per-partner “is the seminal metric of law firms” but that PPP is a poor measure of more important standards, namely results, client satisfaction and cost.
Pulat Punusov joins a chorus of voices which believe lawyer’s jobs will be automated and streamlined, leaving lawyers to do “value added” work while the more monotonous processes will be automated. In his well-articulated article, he analogizes automation of legal processes to self-driving cars, and blockchain.
Automation, much like that being adopted in the legal industry, is also being used by governments and policy enforcement branches. On September 27, 2016, the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) held a panel on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in anti-money laundering. The panel discussed that automating processes, if done well, would work excellently - however, a poorly implemented system, or one which is able to be abused, could do a lot to accelerate and proliferate damage. Automation in the legal industry faces a very similar risk/reward profile.
In Europe, Derek Fitzpatrick of Clio recommends that, in light of an October 2015 decision, that even though the UK is leaving the European Union (EU), EU data continue to be stored in the European Economic Area in order to accord with the UK’s Data Protection Act.
Stanford’s CodeX recently published an article in which Ronald Vogl, executive director of the Stanford Program in Law, Science and Technology (LST), announces an index of legal technology companies. Think of it sort of like crunchbase on steroids for legal tech.
A new issue of Thompson Reuters’ Forum magazine addresses continuous innovation. It focuses on cloud computing and security, as well as the implications of the Panama Papers revelations for law firms. One article, “The Panama Papers: How to keep your firm out of the headlines,” aims at helping law firms avoid scandals, though there is little reflection about the complicity of lawyers in wrongdoing.
While law firms struggle to safeguard their data, so do private citizens. Ottawa has recently been criticized for failing to protect Canadian’s data privacy under new criminal and terrorism-related legislation, while German What’sapp users are in need of protection from Facebook, Inc.’s scrutiny.
Reacting to the MLT-Aikins tie-up, Jordan Furlong shares his views on how succession challenges might be behind law-firm consolidation.
A former St. John’s Newfoundland Mayor Andy Wells is up in arms over an amendment to a freedom of information bylaw, which reduces the transparency of that city’s use of public funds. Mr. Wells says that the council has “accidentally” broken the existing, pro-transparency bylaw on a number of occasions, and in the wake of the change has called the city council “a bunch of con artists.”
The Law Society of Upper Canada’s (LSUC’s) Law Practice Program (LPP) is up for review. A debate will be put forward in a November meeting. An LSUC committee has already recommended that the program be terminated due largely to the stigma attached to the program as being “second-tier.” Noel Semple struggles to understand the move, particular as there is little evidence that the LPP is second-tier: “A regulator ending the LPP because it’s perceived as second tier to articling is like a regulator banning Chevrolets because they are perceived as second tier to Cadillacs,” he writes.
Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP is now the official law firm to advise entrepreneurs in Toronto’s Imagination Catalyst - a business accelerator at Toronto’s OCAD University.
Thompson Reuters has released a white paper detailing a technological intervention it was contracted to create in Pennsylvania, aimed at creating access to justice through an online system for mental-health related litigation by better connecting the courts and mental-health providers. “Technology and an open line of communication between the courts and DBHIDS have enabled mental health providers to step away from what has been historically done and develop novel intervention methods, such as an intercept model,“ said Sandy Vasko, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. The new system is reminiscent of a recent British Columbia case involving a woman who was involuntarily detained under that province’s Mental Health Act.
Graduates of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University in Thunder bay were called to the bar on September 23, 2016. These graduates are the first of the law school, which itself is the first new law school in Ontario in over 40 years.
On September 22, 2016, the Law Society of Upper Canada’s ‘Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group’ released a report proposing 13 recommendations to address systemic racism in the legal professions. The report is open for public comment until November 16, 2016.
Adam Dodek writes on moves being made to reform the process by which judges are disciplined. There is an obvious tension between judicial independence, on the one hand, and need to manage behaviour, on the other. Mr. Dodek’s article ends with the line “The public should actually be involved in a process whose raison d’être is to promote public confidence in our judges and in the administration of justice,” which gives an idea of where he stands on the issue. The Canadian Bar Association has provided 16 recommendations, aimed at “protecting the independence of the judiciary and ensuring that justice is not only done, but seen to be done.” Among them, lay people and independent counsel should be involved in the process. The federal government’s process for disciplining crown attorneys is receiving a similarly critical eye, and for somewhat analogous reasons.
Offering insight into the evolution of the legal philosophy, Graham Sharp advocates for the unbundling of legal services, arguing that access-to-justice is a fundamental component of upholding the rule of law, and that lawyers have a fundamental role to play in ensuring that justice is accessible.
In legal-business news from across the pond, a UK survey on consumer behaviour in legal services finds that the most important factors in buying-decisions in the legal realm are (1) firm reputation, and (2) price (in that order). Chris Marston, who reports on the report, also makes the point that the cost of attaining a new client is somewhere over six times that of retaining an existing one.
Thompson Reuters reports show a decreased demand for litigation hours in the United States and Australia in 2016. In the US, the number of cases remains relatively steady while demand in some firms rose by almost 10 per cent and fell by 10 per cent in others. In Australia, demand has decreased more modestly - by approximately 2 per cent.
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.
Brandon Hastings is a lawyer, mediator, collaborative divorce practitioner based in Vancouver. Learn more about him at www.bhastings.com