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.
First, a glance at what’s happening across the pond. Five years after obtaining its ABS licence, among the first in England, and a difficult start, Co-operative Legal Services is now making real profits.
Signalling a possible trend toward outsourcing in-house legal services, PwC has recently snapped up half of GE’s tax department – including 600 of its lawyers -- as part of a five-year deal to provide tax services to the conglomerate.
Also supporting the trend, international law firm Pinsent Masons has taken a 20 per cent stake in New Law start-up Yuzu.
Thompson Reuters’ review of the last decade of legal services concludes that a buyers’ market emerged during the global financial crisis, and that buyers’ market continues today. This is forcing law firms, increasingly, to look at doing things differently, but a paper from McGill suggests Canadian law firms may by talking a good innovation game, while doing little actual innovation.
Mark Cohen writes on legal education requiring a shift for a new legal marketplace, the need for re-regulation of the legal services industry, and changes in the demand for legal services. Jordan Furlong also covers this latter topic is some detail, also in reaction to the 2017 Report on the State of the Legal Market.
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.
Burford Capital, the world’s largest litigation finance company the world, bought its main rival Gerchen Keller Capital for $US 160 million. The tie-up has commentators calling it a sign that the litigation funding industry is maturing in the U.S.
According to a recent roundtable, summarized in this white paper, commentators expect that litigation funding will become increasingly prevalent in Canada. As a new wave in legal business, and an access to justice initiative, litigation funding (where large pieces of litigation is financed by third parties) litigation funding could help change the liability landscape in Canadian courts. Litigation which attracts funding currently requires a claim of $10 to $15 million.
Why, after 30 years of reports on the access to justice crisis, do we have no real fundamental change?
One answer to this question, posed by Nicole Aylwin, assistant director of the Winkler Institute and adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall, may be that the justice system has evolved similarly to our common law, leaving our justice-delivery mechanisms in a deceptively tangled Gordian Knot.
In the common law tradition, each new set of facts forces the law to grapple with human nature, incrementally refining its rules and in theory moving us closer to an ideal world. The trouble is that evolution is not always as tidy as we would like it to be. Over time, the sum of its almost imperceptibly small changes can mask more serious, fundamental deficiencies.
Brandon Hastings is a lawyer, mediator, collaborative divorce practitioner based in Vancouver. Learn more about him at www.bhastings.com