The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Fred Headon

Blog

We need to talk

By Fred Headon January 23, 2014 23 January 2014

It’s no secret that I am honoured to be the first in-house counsel to serve as CBA president. I was motivated to run because I knew I could bring an in-house perspective to the work of the organization and because I am convinced CBA offers a unique opportunity for the private bar and corporate counsel to learn from one another.

In many ways, we’re two sides of the same coin: lawyers and lawyer-clients. In-house counsel wear the hats of both lawyer and client, giving us a different perspective on how services are delivered. We also have first-hand knowledge of the uncertainty surrounding legal business models and what  clients expect of our profession going forward — a valuable perspective to share during the CBA’s ongoing Legal Futures Initiative.

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Join the conversation

By Fred Headon November 18, 2013 18 November 2013

How do you get people interested in the future?

It’s not easy. Many of us are too focused on getting the work done to spend much time or energy on thinking about what lies ahead and how to work differently.

But that’s changing.

The CBA Legal Futures Initiative is starting to connect in a big way with members of the profession eager to learn more about clients’ perspectives, new business models and ideas on issues ranging from the objectives of legal education to how legal services can be changed to improve access to justice.

In October, the Futures Initiative (cbafutures.org), in partnership with Slaw and Law is Cool, created a nationwide conversation with a series of four TwitterChats hosted by Omar Ha-Redeye of Fleet Street Law. For half an hour every Tuesday from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

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A functioning justice system

By Fred Headon September 25, 2013 25 September 2013

The rule of law is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society, and a functioning justice system is crucial to the rule of law.

But can a justice system be said to be truly functioning if a large portion of a country’s citizens find it, in the words of some Canadians, “arbitrary,” “hard to navigate,” and “only for the rich”?

Lack of access is a chronic problem that hits hardest at the poorest sectors of our society. Studies show that legal problems tend to cluster and multiply. Unresolved legal problems are linked to problems in other areas, and have a domino-like effect on health, social welfare and economic well-being.

As the CBA’s Envisioning Equal Justice Initiative has shown us, while lack of access has its biggest impact on the neediest, that’s not where it ends: the working poor and middle class are increasingly priced out of the system; people in rural areas may not be able to find a lawyer, as new calls head for the cities; and there is a general lack of knowledge about what can be expected from the justice system.

The work being done by the CBA’s Legal Futures Initiative may encourage the creation of more affordable legal services, but that’s just one piece of a complicated puzzle.

The CBA needs to take leadership on this issue by bringing together all of the groups with a stake in the issue: governments at all levels; social advocates; legal and para-legal professionals — representatives of any group that would benefit from a better-funded and better-managed justice system.

As the Futures work has shown, lawyers need to tap their inner stores of creativity to find ways to put clients back at the centre of the legal system. The answer is not all about money; it’s also about marshalling social and political will to deal with a problem that compromises our ability to deliver a fair, predictable and just legal system.

I hope you will join me in bringing that message to law societies, governments, courts and tribunals across this country.

Comments can be sent to cbapres@cba.org

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We’re listening

By Fred Headon June 12, 2013 12 June 2013

With today’s release of The Future of Legal Services in Canada: Trends and Issues, the Canadian Bar Association sets the stage for consultations with stakeholders to discuss their hopes, concerns and expectations about the future of the legal profession.

We want to hear from legal and non-legal professionals, clients and students about what the future of the legal profession looks like to you – is it difficult to envision? Do you have novel ideas to share? Is the future of the profession on your radar?

The consultations, which begin next week, will serve several purposes – first of all, they will let us know whether the original research commissioned by the CBA accurately reflects the experiences of people working in the profession. And then it will help us tailor our response to the needs of the 37,000 lawyers for whom the CBA speaks, as well as to the needs the legal profession as a whole and the public it serves.

In the end, we want to provide insight, support regulatory change, and offer training and support that will help the profession better play its crucial role in a democratic society by being relevant, vibrant and confident.

Many of the thought leaders we consulted in our research phase urged the profession to think of the challenges posed by a weak economy or rapidly evolving technology as opportunities instead of obstacles.

Be the change you want to see in the world, could be an apt motto for Futures, perhaps a more appropriate one would be “Lead the change, or be forced to follow.” Change is happening. It may not be happening everywhere at once, and it may not affect everyone to the same degree, but to ignore it could very well be folly.

There are opportunities to be had – new revenue streams, new ways of doing business, new business ventures with new sources of funding. For example, having non-legal professionals (or computer programs) taking care of routine legal work can free lawyers’ time to concentrate on the complexities of law for which they’ve been uniquely trained. Providing predictable costs for legal services or unbundling services, our research suggests, may open whole new markets – markets full of clients who avoid calling on lawyers today.

That’s part of the discussion we want to have. Our consultations will invite dialogue about business innovations, legal education, and new ethical and regulatory frontiers in order to start shaping a fresh vision of the future of the legal profession. “…though we need to be as fully cognizant as possible of the dangers that beset the practice of law,” Slaw.ca founder Simon Fodden writes in his background paper for the Futures initiative, “we ought not to be driven forward by fear of loss but rather drawn into the future by the lure of a greatly improved role for lawyers.”

If the profession wishes to prosper, he adds, it will have to draw on its creative resources.

“Despite the nostrum that necessity is the mother of invention, fear makes a lousy seedbed for creativity.” Visit the new Futures website and join the conversation when it begins next week.

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Reduce, reuse, recycle

By Fred Headon June 3, 2013 3 June 2013

The definition of environmentally friendly is mutable depending on the environment in question. In a law firm, being friendly means providing an environment where both legal professionals and consumers of services can thrive. The three Rs of environmental friendliness can be readily applied here as well. In a paper prepared for CBA’s Legal Futures Initiative, futures expert Richard Susskind identifies a number of issues requiring attention, including market conditions. He says the current conditions, where clients are increasingly less willing to pay top-dollar for services, set up a more-for-less challenge for legal practitioners, who are having to find internal efficiencies and/or different ways of delivering services. This is where reduce, reuse and recycle come in: Reduce: Commoditizing – for example, identifying legal services that are routine, even repetitive and are good candidates to be performed for a flat fee. These can meet clients’ demands for predictable and likely reduced costs, especially when some of those actions don’t need to be performed by lawyers. Forget high-end and low-end designations – all legal work has some components that can be commoditized, says Susskind. Reuse: Clients want an experienced provider who doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel, says Susskind. “A law firm that builds up its own body of templates or standard form documents can often use this as a source of competitive advantage without this work product being reduced to a mere commodity.” Recycle: As anyone living in a municipality that takes its three Rs seriously can tell you, recycling creates new jobs, even new kinds of industries. There are firms whose business model is based on selling standardized forms online – the work is done once and sold many times. How are you practising the three Rs? Join the conversation. #cbafutures

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Fred Headon is a past President of the Canadian Bar Association and chair of the CBA Legal Futures Initiative. / Fred Headon est le président sortant de l'Association du Barreau canadien et préside le Projet de l'ABC Avenirs en droit.

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