The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Emily Alderson

Legal Futures round-up: March 28, 2016

March 28 2016 28 March 2016

Inspired by the CBA Legal Futures Initiative, which released its comprehensive report, Futures: Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada in August 2014, here’s our biweekly round-up of noteworthy developments, opinions and news in the legal futures space as a means of furthering discussion about our changing legal marketplace.

The big four accounting firms are making inroads into the Canadian legal market. Two EY affiliates merged to create EY Law LLP, which will practice tax, immigration, and business law. The merger marks the first time an accountancy firm is moving into the mainstream business law market in Canada. Meanwhile, Deloitte announced a new lawyer-on-demand business, Deloitte Conduit Law LLP.

Nunavut is planning on another lawyer training program to start in September 2017. A first iteration of the Akitsiraq program was held over ten years ago, creating 11 new lawyers, many of whom still work in the territory. Either the University of Victoria or the University of Ottawa would administer the four-year degree-granting program.

New data from the US Census Bureau shows that, in 2014, full-time female lawyers were paid 77.4 per cent that their male counterparts earned. The pay discrepancy was also present in all other legal occupations, including paralegals, judges and legal support workers. Meanwhile, trends indicate that women will constitute a majority of America’s law students by 2017.

A new report by accounting giant Deloitte in the UK warns of “a growing mismatch between skills being developed and skills required” by the legal market. The report predicts an increase in automation will remove some associate-level positions and that law firm talent scouts will turn their attention to recruiting valuable non-lawyer employees.

In England, law firm Eversheds and BPP University Law School are recruiting eight apprentices for a six-year program that will train the candidates as solicitors. The paid positions will see the apprentices’ work and study for their law degrees part-time.

The Chicago Bar Foundation and the Justice Entrepreneurs Project released a Pricing Toolkit that provides guidance on alternative fee arrangements for lawyers looking to make their services more accessible to low and middle-income clients.

A team of coding specialists from a large UK firm won the Hackney Law Centre’s ‘Coding for Good’ hackathon by building a multilingual access to justice website in just 24 hours. The community-style hackathon saw over 150 people work on tech projects to improve access to justice.

Following the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s recent Innovate conference in London, UK, participants praised the regulator’s flexible approach to alternative business structures as a “huge, positive” move towards improving access to justice.

Osgoode Hall Law School’s paper Obiter Dicta celebrates the CBA’s most recent publication Do Law Differently: Futures for Young Lawyers. Editor Sam Michaels says the guide on alternative careers marks “a huge leap” forward and calls on young lawyers take an active interest in modernizing the profession. Karen Dyck also responded to the guide on Slaw, saying that doing law differently is challenging but is ultimately “about doing [law] better – better for you, better for those you work with and, most of all, better for the consumers of legal services.”

Susan Munro picks up the practical skills debate, building on the CBA Futures March workshop Transforming Legal Education in Canada. Despite agreement that budding lawyers need practical skills, there is no consensus about where candidates should obtain those skills. Even with articling, the transition into unsupervised practice can be difficult. Munro works at Continuing Legal Education British Columbia, an organization that is trying to support new lawyers in their practical skills development.

Steven Levy thinks law schools need to teach students more business skills. Both lawyers who practice business law and those who want to contribute to the ‘business’ of their firm should be versed in basic skills, such as project management, financial analysis, and leadership. 

Meanwhile, Jason Morris says teaching basic tech and business skills in law school could change the entire practice of law for the better. Such skills would make small and solo practice more feasible for younger lawyers, reducing the power imbalance that currently exists between new calls and large law firms. When lawyers have the option of creating their own ideal workplace, firms will have to compete or risk losing their talent.

Law professor Doug Ferguson wants law schools to speak up in the debate on legal education reform. Reacting to this month’s CBA National cover article on teaching law differently, he notes that the CBA has put out recommendations for change in both the Futures and Equal Justice reports, and that the Federation of Law Societies is currently reviewing the competencies students must have upon graduation. He challenges law schools to take a large part in the conversation.

Frank Pasquale reviews Richard and Daniel Susskind’s most recent book The Future of the Professions: How Technology will Transform the Work of Human Experts. Pasquale challenges the book’s dire predictions that many professionals will be replaced with machines, citing results from several other academic studies. He also pushes back against the Susskinds’ assertion that automation is good for access to justice as it makes processes faster and less costly – pointing out that sophisticated artificially intelligence is still mostly the preserve of large corporations.

Speaking at the American Bar Association Tech Show, former ABA president William Hubbard said that technology is key in addressing the access to justice problem. However, he thinks that most lawyers are unaware of the opportunities technology provides to improve the delivery of legal services. As ABA president, Hubbard established the organization’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services.

Blogger Vivia Chen found that millennial law students are not enthused by the notion that they must transform the legal industry. After talking with American law students, she found they are so consumed by their schoolwork and the pressure to find a job that industry transformation wasn’t even on their radar. As one 1L said, “Revolutionize practice?... Our goal isn't so lofty. Honestly, we just want to get a summer job.”

Drew Hasselback writes for the Legal Post that the billable hour is “unkillable”. Billable hours are “built-in incentives for inefficiency” according to a recent court case, yet almost half of corporations still pay their lawyers this way. This many be because large institutional clients aren’t necessarily clamouring for alternative fee arrangements: the in-house legal departments who choose external counsel are often accustomed to billable hours and averse to changing practices if they see no problem with the total bill.

A survey of on-campus interviews at Osgoode Hall Law School found that only 53 per cent of participants received a job offer. Student comments indicate mixed reactions to the recruitment process – although almost all students though it was extremely stressful, some thought that OCIs were a mandatory trial-by-fire. Others called for changes, such as making the process one day longer, or getting law school career offices to move beyond the fixation with big law. Sam Michaels, editor-in-chief of Osgoode’s Obiter Dicta says that data is all part of understanding the bigger existential crisis currently facing the legal profession.

John C. Kleefeld and Katelyn Rattray have published an academic article about writing Wikipedia articles for law school credit – something Rattray did as a JD student in Kleefeld’s class at the University of Saskatchewan. Unlike most term papers, Wikipedia entries cannot be argumentative, but they can play a role in providing free public legal information.

Photo licensed under Creative Commons by Steve A Johnson


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