We live in a world where the only constant is change. The danger for our profession is not that things won’t change, but that they won’t change quickly enough to keep pace with society.
Women in Law:
The Justicia Committee has spent many hours addressing issues that face women lawyers. My eldest daughter is a lawyer and a new mom. I see the challenges facing her and other young lawyers as they try to balance the demands of these two roles. This has caused me to appreciate the urgency of moving the Committee’s findings from a report to a reality.
Unbundling Legal Services:
While unbundling may assist some clients in gaining access to legal services, it is not a substitute for adequately funded legal services. Unbundling should be one part of the larger issue of access to justice. Lawyers providing these services need to do so in a way that enhances their business model without attracting liability.
There are jurisdictional, ethical and practice management challenges inherent in outsourcing that must be addressed.
Technology provides the profession with greater options in the provision of legal services and a new set of ethical issues. How can technology assist lawyers in providing legal services and marketing themselves, and what are the ethical dilemmas that go hand-in-hand with it? Is technological competence necessary to be a competent lawyer?
I am very aware of the increasing desire among young lawyers to achieve a lifestyle balance with an increased focus on family. I am also well aware that lawyers in smaller centres face particular challenges, and that balancing the practice of law as a profession with the business of law is not getting any easier. We ignore these issues at our peril.
While the efforts of lawyers who do pro bono work represent the best tradition of our profession, it is no substitute for a properly funded legal aid system. We must exhort the government to provide the public with access to justice and to fairly compensate lawyers. Self-representation is already an epidemic in family law and is growing in other areas. We need to harness the creativity of our profession and find ways to deliver effective legal services at reasonable rates, including to those who do not qualify for legal aid.
We must expand programs on practice management, technical and business skills, and do so at a reasonable cost. We cannot ignore the increasing importance of the business aspect of practice.
Regulatory procedures should be focused on the minority of lawyers whose behaviour is inappropriate and not on the majority who practise diligently and at a high level. Over-regulation burdens the “good guys”. Law Society fees and LawPRO premiums have a disproportionate impact on sole practitioners and small firms.
Disputes must be resolved quickly. A lawyer cannot have a complaint hanging over his or her head indefinitely. The public interest is not served by drawn-out hearings, and the reputation of the profession suffers. Mortgage fraud cases have become a particular problem.
The “greying effect” in rural Ontario could have a significant impact on those who depend on these lawyers for legal services. These communities must continue to receive the excellent service that they are currently receiving.
The public has entrusted us with self-governance and the profession must continually demonstrate that it is deserving of that trust. Being a good bencher is ultimately about good judgment and common sense. I seek your support for an opportunity to demonstrate that I can bring these qualities to this important work.