Legal Futures round-up: March 14, 2017

By Brandon Hastings Web Only

Legal Futures round-up: March 14, 2017


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.

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.

With pressure coming from all sides, limited-scope retainers are becoming increasingly common, but there are certain steps that lawyers must take to protect themselves before entering into such an agreement.

CBA National has a round-up of commentators weighing in on the need for regulatory change in the legal industry.  One takeaway is that more openness (less protectionism) will drive more competition which will be good for legal consumers and society as a whole. Law societies that do not re-regulate may be hampering their lawyers from engaging in new and more effective ways of delivering services.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s Jordan decision continues to ripple through the legal landscape, and though the consequences of the decision may be unfortunate in many ways, one positive is that, at least in one respect, a close look is being taken at Canada’s court system. Most recently, Federal Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has taken a critical stance on the country’s criminal justice system. There are concerns, however, that Canada’s family courts and the civil justice system, would also benefit from a proper critical assessmnent. One commentator has gone so far as to suggest that civil delays may eventually encroach upon rights under the Charter.

The Law Foundation of Ontario’s Responsive Grants Program is accepting applications from non-profit groups interested in improving access to justice. In other A2J-related news, the CBABC recently released its “Agenda for Justice” — a document aimed at helping improve that province’s justice system. Interestingly, though the A2J crisis is country-wide, headlines appear to be implying that the fact that BC’s justice system is in need of serious overhaul is somehow unique. The CBABC, for its part, is pushing for justice reform to be an election issue.

The National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSLRP) has released a report on self-represented litigants (SLRs). Predictably, SLRs continue to skew to lower income levels. Prince Edward Island’s Supreme Court has launched a legal clinic to help SLRs navigate the courts. Legal Aid Ontario has announced a $26M deficit, and commentators contemplate an increase in SLRs as a result.

Over the course of two days, several participants at the MaRS Discovery District and at the Cyberjustice Laboratory at Université de Montréal gathered for Hackjustice, co-sponsored by the CBA, to code and build tech applications that will improve access to justice. In Toronto, the winner was Pre-resolve for developing a website and mobile app that gives time and dollar estimates on the cost for different resolution options for family matters. In Montreal, the winner was, an app aimed at improving citizens’ participation in policymaking. Specifically, it helps people circulate petitions to elected officials at the municipal level.

Harvard’s A2JLab held its first hackathon in February, and provides an analysis of the need for better access to justice, using a process for starting a minor guardianship case in Massachusetts.

Blakes, Cassels, and Graydon LLP has launched a global legal innovation challenge, looking for the best ideas to innovate in business law, and Blue J Legal is using Machine Learning to predict trial outcomes for tax cases. Commentators think that as machine learning is implemented in law, it will help improve access to justice. Meanwhile, Taylor Wessing in the UK is using innovative, computer-based approaches to associate hiring practices. A report from the Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation warns that if law schools fail to adapt to changes in legal services, they will become outmoded.

British Columbia’s innovative online court, the Civil Resolutions Tribunal, is launching a tool to help litigants navigate small claims, in addition to its current strata-dispute offerings while Pulat Yunusov contemplates how small claims will be streamlined through use of technology.

Matt Maurer’s Slaw post on being rejected for teleconference attendance at a small claims settlement conferences sparked debate in the comments, which touch largely on when and how a lawyer can (or ought to) criticize the court. Another Slaw article on the use of telephones engendered somewhat less debate.

Canadian law schools are increasingly attracting journalists-in-residence, who will help lawyers communicate with the public on important legal matters.

The Law Foundation of Ontario has issued grants to the Winkler Institute at Osgoode Hall Law School and Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone so they can examine how technology and innovation can improve access to justice for young people.

An Ontario Attorney General report (a.k.a. Justice Bonkalo’s final report) provides 21 recommendations, among them, that that paralegals provide services in family law matters, which is something that was tried as a recently-completed pilot in British Columbia. Predictably, this has engendered some debate.

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