I am committed to responsible and proportionate regulation that governs the profession in the public interest. Our obligation is to ensure the public has access to competent lawyers. But the public also needs affordable legal services. My policy priorities for the upcoming term are:
The last issue on licensing is whether to increase the rigour of the current licensing exams. I am in favour. Clear thinking, good communication and problem solving are essential skills for all lawyers today. We should test for them in a fair and transparent manner. Post licensing, I favour the continued development of resources and services that will support lawyers in delivering competent, efficient and cost-effective legal service to an increasingly diverse public.
The Law Society has a role to play in facilitating and encouraging the use of technology in practice. In the next four years, we need to assist our members to incorporate new technologies into their client service. We need to look at best practices around the world and throughout the profession, consider changes that may be required to the Rules of Professional Conduct and develop practical CPD programs. We need to think about how and if to regulate technological delivery of legal services directly to the public.
In my view, fostering innovation is a critical component of addressing access to justice. Lawyers are only one cog in this much bigger wheel. We already support pro bono initiatives, offer pro bono services, accept limited retainers and take other steps to assist clients of limited means. The Law Society can help. It needs to encourage lawyers to use technology to deliver legal services that are more cost effective for clients but still consistent with our professional obligations and position of trust. The Law Society should develop resources that will assist lawyers in using technology in their practices without each lawyer having to reinvent the wheel. We will also need to provide clear guidance on ethical issues that may result. We must also continue to support and advocate for increased legal aid for citizens who do not have the resources to retain lawyers. The Law Society can help to maximize the value of local libraries and develop resources that assist those in smaller firms to effectively and efficiently provide access to justice for the public.
What are we waiting for? Our own “Me Too” moment that brings shame on the profession? We know that harassment and discrimination are wrong and that everyone is entitled to a respectful work environment. We know that we must create a level playing field for the fair hiring and promotion of all students and lawyers. We need to continue to track sexual harassment and all forms of discrimination and focus on preventing it. As lawyers, we should be proud to lead on these issues and support the implementation of the Recommendations of the Challenges Facing Racialized Lawyers Working Group.
I have been involved in the Justicia program and in the decision to extend the Recommendations of the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees Working Group to all equality-seeking groups. It is important that we support the continued implementation of the Recommendations and give the changes that are being implemented a chance to work. It’s also time to take another look at the statistics on women in practice, their success, and their career trajectories. At present only 9% compared to 25% of men are partners in firms and 12% compared to 5% for men are retired or not working. We need to know why.
Regulation must recognize the challenges of practice and not be oppressive. It must support the mandate of the Law Society and the diversity of the bar. I will support practical and reasonable initiatives that (i) ensure competent and honest lawyers in a diverse and honourable profession and (ii) foster innovation and facilitate access to justice.
If you share my concerns, if you want a bencher who will respond, vote Barb Murchie.