A lawyer’s “eruption of irritation” at a letter from a paralegal working for opposing counsel who cited case law was not a matter for the Law Society of British Columbia, a hearing panel decided, but it is a shining example of an issue the legal profession will have to work through if it wants to flourish in the future.
As one participant in a CBA Futures Initiative Twitterchat last summer said, lawyers have to stop thinking they’re the smartest people in the room – they have to accept that other people have worthwhile skills and capabilities that can help them serve their clients’ interests.
In the first of our recent series of Omar Ha Redeye interviews, the man from Fleet Street Law talks to us about the CBA's recommendation that law societies allow for alternative business structures for lawyers.
Starting in January, companies failing to exhibit gender equality on their boards and in their C-suites are going to have to start explaining their actions – or inaction – if they want to trade publicly on the TSX.
It should be interesting to watch: to date the spokespeople for most companies challenged on the topic simply say “there are no qualified female candidates” and leave it there – and the general public can mutter and point all it wants, it has no recourse, no power to compel diversity.
The Ontario Securities Commission, on the other hand, does have a certain measure of power, and it is this body which is requiring companies not just to explain away their lack of diversity, but the steps they’re taking to ameliorate the situation in the appointment of new board members and executives.
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.
Following this summer’s release of the CBA’s final report on the future of the legal profession and the Law society of Ontario’s release of a discussion paper, we’re gathering opinions about the introduction of alternative business structures. On of the big questions being debated now is whether liberalizing the legal industry and enabling non-lawyer ownership will likely improve access to justice by making legal services more affordable. Below is a roundup of opinion on the issue, but first a couple of quick caveats: First, nobody is suggesting that liberalization and innovation will magically remedy the access to justice crisis that we are experiencing in Canada. The second is that, so far, I have come across very little opinion, one way or the other, that is based on empirical evidence – most of it is still based on inference. But we’re hoping to change that. If any readers out there have seen any evidence that ABS is having a measurable impact on access to justice, please write to us.
We’ll start with Nick Robinson who, remarking on the emergence of ABS in different countries, explores how non-lawyer ownership is likely to take shape around the world:
The impact of non-lawyer ownership will likely vary by jurisdiction. Countries with larger capital and legal services’ markets will tend to see more and a greater variety of types of non-lawyer ownership, while jurisdictions with smaller markets may see little such actual ownership. Jurisdictions with regulation that makes the adoption of non-lawyer ownership more bureaucratic will deter such ownership, while a jurisdiction’s other professional rules, such as restrictions on advertising or referral fee bans, may also encourage or discourage it. Within a jurisdiction, the legal sector and the type of ownership at issue can be expected to have a significant effect on the scale and impact of non-lawyer ownership. Some sectors of the legal services market, like personal injury, will likely be much more attractive to non-lawyer owners than others because of their perceived profitability or ability to be standardized or scaled. Finally, a legal services firm owned by consumer owners or worker owners is likely to respond to a different set of incentives and have a different set of potential conflicts of interest than a firm owned by investor owners or owners that also offer other services in the market.