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Who is responsible for innovation ?

Something interesting happened earlier this year. Ryerson University in Toronto launched a “Legal Innovation Zone.” What’s strange is that Ryerson doesn’t even have a law school.

eyeglasses and crumpled paper

The zone is one of many Ryerson operates for everything from fashion to urban energy. The legal zone is run by a former attorney-general of Ontario, and has close ties with the legal industry.

Our legal system is deeply flawed and sorely lacking in innovation. We blame external causes for everything that goes wrong in our practice, from delays to rising legal costs.

The tougher task is identifying who is responsible for fixing these problems.

Lawyers are used to changes coming from the top down. Legislatures vote statutory amendments, and law societies amend their by-laws. We follow the rules. Complicating matters, established lawyers have little incentive to innovate. New models may threaten existing revenue streams, even if the system overall benefits. Those newest to the profession may be more motivated to act. Unfortunately they know very little about the practice of law.

On that count, law schools have largely been indifferent to helping new graduates advance in the profession. They are there to teach law, they say,not the business or innovation of law.

In the end, all stakeholders in our justice system will have to co-operate. That includes everyone from the bar, universities, and law societies to the provinces, private entrepreneurs, tech experts and designers.

We need to be open to hearing everyone’s voice on justice issues, even those who haven’t historically sat at the table.  The changes required to make our justice system work better must benefit society and the public interest. Otherwise innovation simply for the sake of novelty benefits no one.

We are all responsible for innovating our justice system. Ryerson just had the bright idea of setting up a space to make it happen.