The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Brandon Hastings

Legal futures round-up: January 10, 2017

January 10 2017 10 January 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.

Burford Capital, the world’s largest litigation finance company the world, bought its main rival Gerchen Keller Capital for $US 160 million. The tie-up has commentators calling it a sign that the litigation funding industry is maturing in the U.S.

According to a recent roundtable, summarized in this white paper, commentators expect that litigation funding will become increasingly prevalent in Canada. As a new wave in legal business, and an access to justice initiative, litigation funding (where large pieces of litigation is financed by third parties) litigation funding could help change the liability landscape in Canadian courts. Litigation which attracts funding currently requires a claim of $10 to $15 million.

Tony Young, a Calgary family lawyer, and the University of Calgary are launching an “incubator”, a law firm intended to be leading-edge, scalable, and designed to offer cost-effective family law services to Calgarians through a custom articling program.

Legal tech startup ParDONE, from Ryerson’s Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ), won the Ontario Access to Justice Challenge. ParDONE is a service which helps its customers navigate the often complex process of applying for a Pardon. Perhaps even more noteably, the award was covered in the financial section of a mainstream news outlet.

Denton’s LLP, through its legal tech development company Nextlaw Labs, has announced an investment in Canadian startup Beagle. Beagle, the machine-learning contract-analysis company that won the Canadian Bar Association’s “Pitch” contest this summer.

Mark A. Cohen has two articles on the traditional “partnership” model of law firms, and its eventual decline. He calls the implosion of King & Wood Mallesons, run as a Swiss verein, “a reminder that mega-firms– whose inner workings can differ– are legal networks masquerading as unified firms.”

Over at Law21, Jordan Furlong reminds us that it is a mistake for law firms to believe there is less work to go around. “Corporate clients are actually spending more money; they’re just not spending it on law firms,” he writes. Also, check out his interview by CBA National on what to expect in 2017, namely the rise of the legal ops professional.

Kenneth Grady offers his predictions at SeytLines, or as he puts it “stating the incredibly obvious.” Amusing nevertheless.

McCarthy Tétrault made headlines by making the somewhat unusual move of buying up the e-discovery law firm Wortzmans.

In a recent CBA National article, Sam R. Sasso writes that “...there are relatively few law-focused apps … not because of technical hurdles, or cost, or expertise: it is simply because few lawyers have turned their minds to ideas for apps.” Mr. Sasso suggests three questions to stimulate app-creation among the profession: (1) what area of law are you interested in? (2) what problem do you want to solve?, and (3) “what do you think would be really cool?”

The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in R v. Jordan continues to impact access to justice, and in a recent case involving Adam Picard, strikingly highlights the inability of our justice system to deliver justice for Canadian citizens. Mr. Picard, who was charged with first-degree murder of a fellow inmate, was released from the charges after a 5-year delay in the Alberta courts. Shortly thereafter, Ontario announced that it would be expanding its criminal system to the tune of $25 million annually. Meanwhile, commentators worry that “the [Jordan] ruling may have the unintended consequence of police delaying charges until cases are virtually ready for trial so they do not run the risk of their being tossed for delay – a potential risk to public safety.”

In a move that is sure to bridge cultural divides, and help give a voice to a marginalized population, the University of British Columbia (UVic) has proposed a joint common-law/indigenous law degree - the first of its kind in Canada, and the world.

Meanwhile, the University of Alberta is following the Trust and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action, and is taking steps to recruit more aboriginal law students.

The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) is putting in place measures which would force accountability onto law firms to ensure that they are doing their part to stamp out racism.

British Columbia’s Chief Justice Bauman, who is also regularly involved with access to justice, including A2JBC, gives a window into the workday of a judges, stating that judges often work 60 hour days. The Chief Justice discusses the benefits of summary trial to litigants, and in doing so alludes to the fact that benefits to litigants through certain court processes (eg. summary trials) may have a corollary effect of greatly increasing the court’s workload.

Brandon Hastings ( is an associate at Quay Law Centre in New Westminster, British Columbia, a cofounder of Legal Hackers Vancouver, a civil roster mediator, a collaborative practitioner, and a director of the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC). Brandon holds a BBA in Entrepreneurial Leadership with Distinction, has a background in information systems, codes, and sits on the CBA-BC’s court services committee, and BarTalk editorial board.

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