The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Omar Ha-Redeye

Access to justice

Equal justice is an economic issue too

By Omar Ha-Redeye September 17, 2015 17 September 2015

Tonight’s federal political debate, hosted by The Globe & Mail, is anticipated to focus largely on economic issues. All three parties of the major have touted their credentials in their ability to strengthen the economy. In particular, their platforms all seek the support of the “middle class.”

Yet the discussions by all of these parties continue to ignore how life events impact every day Canadians, in particular with their encounters with the legal system. A death in the family, divorce or a significant work or business dispute, can all have an enormous impact on the well being and the finances of average Canadians.

The CBA’s “Reaching Equal Justice Report” estimated in 2013 that 45 per cent of all Canadians will have a problem in the next three years that requires a legal solution. Very few of these people will actually receive the help they need from professional legal services, with three-quarters of all people in Canadian family courts being self-represented.

When these legal issues are not dealt with early on, they often create bigger problems down the road. We know that 22 per cent of people have 85 per cent of the legal issues. Our inaction results in even greater inequality in Canadian society over time.

That’s not to say that lawyers shouldn’t care about the economy at all.

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Who is responsible for innovation ?

By Omar Ha-Redeye September 12, 2015 12 September 2015

Who is responsible for innovation ?

Something interesting happened earlier this year. Ryerson University in Toronto launched a “Legal Innovation Zone.” What’s strange is that Ryerson doesn’t even have a law school.

The zone is one of many Ryerson operates for everything from fashion to urban energy. The legal zone is run by a former attorney-general of Ontario, and has close ties with the legal industry.

Our legal system is deeply flawed and sorely lacking in innovation. We blame external causes for everything that goes wrong in our practice, from delays to rising legal costs.

The tougher task is identifying who is responsible for fixing these problems.

Lawyers are used to changes coming from the top down. Legislatures vote statutory amendments, and law societies

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The upside of chaos

By Omar Ha-Redeye September 8, 2014 8 September 2014

The upside of chaos

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Article

From rainmaking to irrigation

By Omar Ha-Redeye September 10, 2013 10 September 2013

From rainmaking to irrigation

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Blog

Stop hitting the snooze button

By Omar Ha-Redeye August 21, 2013 21 August 2013

This year's Monday keynote speaker was Dr. Arin Reeves, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in sociology who focuses on developing inclusion in organizations. Dr. Reeves spent a considerable amount of time distinguishing diversity from inclusion, as the former simply indicates a quantifiable number of diverse people, whereas inclusiveness speaks more to the type of culture an organization has.

An organization can be incredibly diverse, but not inclusive. Dr. Reeves further defines diversity as more than just gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities or sexual orientation. Secondary features of diversity span from features like personality types, economic status, geographic origin, educational background, political and philosophical views, and communication styles. All of these need to be included when developing features of inclusiveness.

Inclusiveness is the next frontier of diversity, and requires law firms to value the perspectives and contributions of all people and incorporate those views into all aspects of the firm. Because inclusiveness is an active process, which goes beyond simple recruitment, it is impossible for a law firm to claim to be inclusive while lacking diversity.  Several large Canadian firms which I have visited over the years point to their strong and robust diversity policies as a sign of inclusiveness, while concurrently bemoaning their inability to develop diversity within the firm.

Retention of diversity has always been the issue. The focus for Canadian firms is disproportionately placed on recruitment, with little regard for transforming the firm culture to ensure diverse individuals flourish and advance within the firm. There is very little diversity in the senior positions and decision-making roles within a firm, which is largely the effect of these non-inclusive cultures. Paradoxically these law firm cultures are unlikely to transform without diversity in these key positions.

(More after the jump)

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Omar Ha-Redeye practices out of Fleet Street Law in Toronto. He is a Professor at Ryerson University and Centennial College. He sits on the board of directors of the OBA and co-chairs its Young Lawyers Division.

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