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.
The Canadian Forum For Civil Justice makes the point that while legal technology is often assumed to improve access to justice, many existing legal tech projects focus on enhancing existing services, instead of expanding the ways in which justice may be accessed. Similarly, Patricia Hughes of the Law Commission of Ontario wants to make sure that an increased reliance on technology in justice doesn’t serve to further diminish access to justice through an assumption that everyone is conversant with technology.
Ryerson’s articling alternative, the Law Practice Program (LPP), came up for review in October. Though a Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) Committee initially recommended that the LPP be terminated, several commentators questioned that recommendation, including Jordan Furlong, Ian Holloway, and Noel Semple. On October 31, the Professional Development and Competence Committee reversed itself, recommending that the program be extended for another 2 years, and this extension has been granted. The debate has been divisive, to say the least. Detractors complain the program has done little to create more or better-trained lawyers, while proponents call it an innovative and effective tool for training new lawyers outside of the traditional articling paradigm.
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.
The United Kingdom’s Legal Services Board has released a report for legislative reform of the legal services industry in England and Wales. The report, among other things, recommends a shift from various regulators of legal activities to a single regulatory body. Currently, there are six legal activities that are reserved for barristers and solicitors, and regulated by a patchwork of regulators. Neil Rose expatiates on the issue, speaking on frustration with the apparent arbitrariness of these reserved areas.
Meanwhile, Andy Somerville writes on the wisdom of specialization in law firms, exploring whether is it more sensible for partners to develop their management skills, or for firms to hire-in business acumen. Perhaps a mix? Managing lawyers tend to be time-poor, and working on lawyers to develop business acumen can be an expensive proposition. By the same token, however, there is clearly value in having subject-matter expertise in the management-suite.
Closer to home, Jordan Furlong offers six takeaways from Norton Rose’s acquisition of Bull Housser in Vancouver, suggesting that the move adds to Vancouver’s appeal as “a hub between North America and the Asia-Pacific region” and giving it the upper hand over Calgary and Montreal in the contest to be Canada’s Second City to Toronto.
In light of Alberta’s Justice Robin Camp’s hearing, and calls for reform, the federal government is considering a review of the judicial discipline process. In 2014, Justice Camp acquitted a man accused of sexual assault, evidently asking the victim why she couldn’t “just keep her knees together.” The acquittal was overturned and a new trial ordered. There have only been 11 public inquiries since the Canadian Judicial Council was created in 1971. The Department of Justice’s public consultation phase ends this Wednesday.
In a move that will increase access-to-justice for marginalized population, and increase the diversity of Canada’s bar, Nunavut Arctic College is to offer a Juris Doctor in association with the University of Saskatchewan. The program will be offered in Iqualuit, Nunavut by mainly University of Saskatchewan faculty. Classes are slated to begin in September 2017.
An article on the legalfutures.co.uk blog, written by BC-based legal technology giant Clio, provides several steps firms can take to safeguard their data. The bottom-line, obviously perhaps, is that data should be encrypted both wherever it is stored, as well as when it is transmitted.
Thompson Reuters recently published an interview on the contents of the upcoming Legal Executive Institute (LEI) this fall. The LEI gathers leaders from across the legal industry to discuss, debate and offer guidance on the latest trends, challenges and opportunities. The media and information giant has also created a new fellowship with Stanford’s Legal Design Lab.
Renée Pelletier, managing partner at Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, has been appointed to the federal government’s environmental assessment review panel. Ms. Pelletier is a member of the Maliseet First Nation, and will provide an invaluable perspective as the panel reviews how natural resource development projects in Canada are approved.
The British Columbia (BC) Ministry of Justice has promised to review its policies around Legal Aid funding after a woman was involuntarily detained under that province’s Mental Health Act. The patient was only slated to receive a lawyer after an upcoming committal review hearing in August, and the province only committed to providing her a lawyer after she launched an action in the British Columbia Supreme Court. Kate Feeny of the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre makes the point that when someone is detained for mental health issues, the access-to-justice crisis more acutely impacts human rights.
At the CBA’s National Conference, defense lawyer Donald Bayne speaks cogently on video about the need to educate the public about the justice system and Rule of Law. Mr. Bayne makes allusions that education on the justice system is something that should be taught as early as elementary school and draws a parallel between a decline in popular support of the ‘1%,’ and reduced belief in the Rule of Law. Mr. Bayne’s thesis appears to be that education of the public and journalists on why courts are important, and how they achieve fairness, is vital to the continued functioning of our society.
Brandon Hastings is a lawyer, mediator, collaborative divorce practitioner based in Vancouver. Learn more about him at www.bhastings.com