Being mindful means to pay attention – not just to stop and smell the roses but to be aware of the roses, their intricacies of their form and scent and the effect their presence has on their environment. How would you extend that analogy to the practice of law?
Last year around this time, the CBA Legal Futures Initiative issued its report (Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada) calling for a new legal order. The report suggests that we find new models for legal education, that we reflect on our practice in order to innovate, and that lawyers take an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving – what would it mean to make these changes in a mindful way?
Can we – should we – foster mindfulness in law school along with analytic reasoning?
Join our next Twitterchat, hosted by Jeena Cho, a practicing bankruptcy lawyer from San Francisco, author of the new ABA publication The Anxious Lawyer, and fervent believer in lawyers being able to tame the mind. She was just named one of the Fastcase 50 for encouraging lawyers to “step back and breathe.” How can meditation allow us to be better lawyers in the future? Tune into #CBAFutureschat on Tuesday, August 11th at 12pm ET to find out.
The idea that any of our law societies could sanction ABS – business structures that permit fee-sharing, multi-disciplinary practice, and ownership, management and investment by persons other than lawyers – has prompted vociferous debate about whether the legal profession should change. Benchers, legal ethicists, personal injury lawyers, and academics dominate the debate, with some arguing that if there’s no prospect of benefit to the public, we shouldn’t adopt ABS, versus others who argue that if the access to justice crisis continues, we shouldn’t maintain the status quo.
Often lost in the debate are the perspectives of those who stand to gain (or lose) the most from these reforms: clients, and new and young lawyers. On December 30, the Law Students’ Society of Ontario left a late gift under the Christmas tree (or threw a lump of coal down the chimney, as you prefer) by delivering a ringing endorsement of ABS in Ontario.
The LSSO believes that a form of ABS is “integral to the future of relevant, accessible, and responsive legal services in Ontario.” The barometer for change, they say, must be the public interest and access to justice mandates of our governing bodies. In their submissions (available here), the LSSO urges LSUC to consider that “any assessment of a fundamental reshaping of the legal services landscape ought to be looking for opportunities to narrow the gap between rights afforded and rights that can be exercised affordably.” In their view, the legal profession will not survive - in any form - if it fails to meet the terms of its social contract with the public.
The Law Students’ Society of Ontario speaks for students at all seven Ontario law schools – Lakehead, Windsor, Western, Osgoode Hall, Toronto, Queen’s, and Ottawa. Acknowledging that their perspective is made up of those who are just embarking on their legal careers, the LSSO says:
“We urge the Law Society to give due weight to the perspective of this constituency. Aspiring and young lawyers are a group whose practices and career trajectories will experience enduring impacts from any fundamental reforms to the delivery of legal services. Our generation in the wider population will live the consequences of regulatory inaction.”
The LSSO’s submissions have prompted the response of “so people who have never practiced law want a liberalized ABS regime.” A response that is disappointingly predictable, and dishonest to boot. The debate needs to move beyond a measurement of people’s qualifications. Instead, the debate needs to be about next generations of the legal profession, and their ability to meet the needs of the public.
LSSO concludes their submissions by telling us that “a profession that is unwilling to consider proposals for business model modernization, to venture outside of its consultancy model, to enact innovation-positive policy, and to question its bricks, mortar, and mahogany from time to time will eventually lose its distinction.” Which leads to the question: what is the future for new and young lawyers in Canada? And why should they care about Alternative Business Structures? Most importantly, how can they take up more room in this debate? Join us on January 21 between noon and 1pm for a #cbafutureschat, hosted by the LSSO’s Douglas Judson, on why ABS matters to prospective lawyers.
Here at the CBA Legal Futures Initiative, we’ve sought to demonstrate to the Canadian legal profession that great opportunities await those who embrace change; opportunities to put clients at the centre of our work, to better serve Canadians, to provide new kinds of services, to open up new models of legal service delivery, to work in conjunction with others, and most importantly, to creatively re-imagine what it means to “be a lawyer” in the future.
We launched our flagship report, Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada, in August of this year. Contained within the report are various Innovation-in-Action inserts, with frank interviews from lawyers across Canada about the advantages of innovation. We want you to see that change is happening – and that it’s a good thing. Despite this, when people read our report, we sometimes still hear: “How does this apply to my practice?”
(By Amir Tajkarimi)
In September, at the Opening of the Courts, a very similar speech was given by the Chief Justices of Quebec and Ontario to their respective audiences. Unknowingly in tune, the highest ranking provincial judges of both provinces deplored the heavy, inaccessible and saturated court system.
Chief Justices Nicole Duval Hesler, François Rolland and Élizabeth Corte pleaded for the augmentation of judicial staff. But more importantly, they came to the conclusion that despite the current efforts to use staff more efficiently, the court system can simply not satisfy the increasingly high demand. Thus, as per Justice Rolland, “[n]ous n’avons plus le choix (...)” (transl: we have no other choice): as a legal community, we have to change our methods and innovate. He underlined that this means moving away from legal formalism and the procedural jousting to which society is a stranger.
Ten days later, the Honourable George R. Strathy, Chief Justice of Ontario, raised concerns about the “cost, complexity and time it takes to complete legal proceedings.” He encouraged the Courts to consider simplifying, streamlining and making their practice more user-friendly. And Justice Strathy personally committed to reviewing the Court of Appeal's practices with a view to meeting these goals.
The issues described above raise an increasingly popular tangent: the digitization of justice.
We tend to think of access to justice as an issue for the people sitting on the other side of the lawyer’s desk – or more often, the people who can’t afford to get in the office to begin with.
But unpack the idea of access a bit – it’s not just about having financial access to lawyers or other legal assistance as needed, it’s also about having lawyers available at all in the geographical areas and the fields of practice where you need them.
And in this sense, skyrocketing law school tuition rates are a serious access to justice issue, raised and discussed at length in the most recent #CBAFutureschat, hosted by Sameer Zubari, a 3L at UQAM, and Ayoub Ansari, 2L at Lakehead University’s newly named Bora Laskin Faculty of Law.