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Editor's Desk - The winds of change

For some, self-regulation of the legal profession is sacrosanct and should not be tampered with. For as long as Canada has been a country, and even before that, lawyers have been given the responsibility to govern their own profession, in the public’s best interest, of course. 

And in the eyes of many, it has worked well. Law societies across the country have served the “in-and-out” function of admission through bar exams and regulation once in the profession through discipline and the creation of rules to govern practice. The societies’ independence from the state is held up as the most integral aspect of maintaining lawyers’ ability to advocate effectively.

But the reality on the ground for many lawyers, particularly those who have to pay their own dues and don’t work in the bosom of large law firms, is that the law societies require them to pay in the range of $2,000 a year in order to be allowed to practise, but they don’t see value in this annual investment.

Rather than a sense of protection, there are those practitioners who pay up but view the societies and their bloated bureaucracies (the Law Society of Upper Canada has over 400 staff) with a sense of mistrust. And, as our cover story notes, there is often a feeling that the regulators direct a disproportionate amount of their energy towards the margins of the profession.

Feelings — and studies to back them up in places like the United Kingdom — such as these have led to action in many parts of the world with changes occurring in the regulatory structures of Australia, New Zealand, and England and Wales. In France, the president is also pushing for change. The United States has never had a system of self-governance. The in-and-out function falls to the courts.

These changing systems all back up the theory that self-regulation might not be the be-all and end-all of lawyer regulation. In light of what’s happening around the world, never say never to the winds of change blowing across Canada’s regulatory landscape. However, it’s fair to say that any revolutionaries battling the status quo will find themselves fighting an uphill battle.

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After years of running a Law School Survey that ranked faculties of law across Canada by gathering results of a questionnaire sent to alumni, Canadian Lawyer is doing things a bit differently this year. In the old ranking system, there was essentially a hair’s breadth difference in the ranking of the majority of law schools, meaning there was not that much separating the number one and number 10 schools. The old system was no longer providing useful information.

This year, we’ve taken a different tack. We have continued to conduct a survey, but in this case much reduced and also involving law students. We had a resounding 1,200 responses to the survey, which ranked students’ and alumni’s votes on the top three features of their law program. We’re still aiming to improve that as there were insufficient results from a couple of law schools to compile the best features.

In addition to the survey, Canadian Lawyer contacted the deans of each law school to get a picture of what makes each school unique. We also collected information on important factors such as class size, available financial aid, entry requirements, faculty-to-student ratios, and more. We predict this review will continue to assist and encourage those who are looking to join the profession.

In addition, we appreciate any feedback you may have on the survey. Please drop me a line at gcohen@clbmedia.ca with any thoughts you might have.


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