Legal Feeds Blog
Congratulations to all the participants who have been instrumental in helping Canada raise mo' than any other country in the world — for the second year in a row — during the Movember campaing for prostate cancer research and men's mental health.
This year’s intake of students in McGill’s faculty of law formed a team under the leadership of Tim Apedaile. The team, referred to as “Mo’tion to Dismiss” is comprised of 36 members, some of whom are pictured here.
The Canucks brigade from the University of Ottawa law school were motivated to grow some mos. Photo: Tim Tam.
These gentlemen law students from the University of Ottawa show us how to mo. Photo: Tim Tam.
The University of Manitoba’s Robson Hall had a team of 13 law students growing mos this year.
Second-year JD student at the University of Manitoba’s Robson Hall Michael Cashion is one of the top law student fundraisers in Canada.
First-year Windsor University law student Jason Sitt was crowned King of Movember at his school. Photo: Evan Bawks
Windsor Law student Mike Maher now has a bristly upper lip to go with his full head of hair. Photo: Evan Bawks
Mo bros and sistas at the University of Windsor sport their “moustaches” in support of Movember. Photo: Evan Bawks
Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy LLP’s Mo Bros were split between its Kelowna and Vancouver offices. The Kelowna team sent along their photo but unfortunately the Vancouver bros were more camera shy.
The crew from Norton Rose Canada’s Calgary office ham it up for Movember.
McMillan LLP lawyers from across the country joined in to the facial hair-growing frenzy. Here's the Calgary section of the McStaches.
Alexandre Forest was the lone McStache at McMillan LLP's Montreal outpost.
There seems to be a theme going on with McMIllan's Ottawa McStaches.
The Toronto office McStaches seem to be pretty casual about the whole affair.
McMillan's Vancouver office with some serious Mos on their members of team McStaches.
Wagner is the son of Claude Wagner, a Quebec lawyer, prosecutor, judge, cabinet minister, federal Conservative leadership candidate, senator, who gave him much inspiration. He paid tribute to his father at yesterday's cermony.
“His generosity and noble spirit always inspired me to follow in his steps. He will always be my hero,” Wagner said at the formal gathering at the Supreme Court.
Wagner, 55, was elevated to the top court from Quebec Court of Appeal. He replaces Justice Marie Deschamps who retired in August.
As well check out the photo gallery of the students from law schools across the country who also participated. It'll be posted tomorrow.
Calgary’s Burnet Duckworth & Palmer LLP articling students Andrew Kuzma (left) and Brandon Holden (right) did it up right.
The BLG "Mo Bros" show theirs off!
The "Cassels Brock and Stachewell" team featuring (l to r) top: Geoff Breen, Ardy Mohajer, bottom: John McGowan, Lorne Silver, Chris Horkins and Patrick MacDonald.
The dapper team from Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s Montreal office.
London, Ont.'s Harrison Pensa lawyers show off their moustachioed selves.
Alex Shalashniy of the Regina firm Kanuka Thuringer LLP’s very bold mo.
Our colleague Tim Wilbur, Lexpert Magazine managing editor, sports one for the team.
The team from Mason Bennett Johncox in Whitby, Ont.
Celebrating their ’staches (l to r) are: Ryan Gelbart, Ben Bloom, David Ullmann, Andrew Zinman, Brad Good, Mark Freake and Edward Asmar of Toronto firm Minden Gross LLP.
A sterling mo effort from the team at Norton Rose Canada’s Toronto office. Photo: V. Summerfield.
The Honourable Justice Jamie W. S. Saunders Award is presented in Halifax annually to a Mo Bro or a Mo Sista or a team for their passion for and commitment to Movember. Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Justice Jamie W.S. Saunders presented this year’s to Rebecca L. Hiltz LeBlanc, a partner at Boyne Clarke LLP, and her husband Mitch Hiltz LeBlanc.
Sporting their ’staches at the Movember wrap up event held at the Halifax Law Courts on Nov. 29 are Nova Scotia Court of Appeal justices Peter M.S. Bryson, Pierre L. Muise, David P.S. Farrar, and Jamie W.S. Saunders, and Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Patrick J. Murray.
The Aird & Berlis LLP in Toronto team took their sexy moustaches up a notch, doing it Gangnam Style.
The very smiley bros from Oslers show off a solid set of mos.
Winnipeg law firm Pitblado’s team: Michael Puchniak, Seth Nerman, and Mark Wallace.
Daniel Strickland of Siskinds LLP in London gets a donation from Western University’s law dean Iain Scott.
Jean-Marc Leclerc of Sotos LLP sports his self-described “creepy” moustache.
The proud members of the Thornton Grout Finnigan LLP: (l to r): Kim Ferreira, Danny Nunes, Mark Donald, Kyle Plunkett, and Bob Thornton.
The MoTorys LLP team display their ’staches.
Ian Binnie was elevated to Companion of the Order of Canada for his enduring contributions to law in Canada. One of the few lawyers appointed directly from the bar to the Supreme Court, he served there with wisdom for 14 years. His public service, also included four years as associate deputy minister of Justice and as a constitutional expert, he has demonstrated an abiding concern for issues affecting Canada’s Aboriginal peoples and was instrumental in developing the country’s jurisprudence in this area. He continues to make important contributions to the law and Canadian society.
John Richard, who served as the chief justice of the Federal Court of Appeal for more than a decade, guiding the institution through a period of reorganization and improving access to justice, was elevated as an Officer of the Order of Canada. His personal commitment to society is also evident in his service with various institutions and charitable organizations, including Carleton University, Reach Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Receiving her Member of the Order of Canada medal, Aaju Peter is an ardent defender of the rights of Canada’s northern Indigenous people. An Inuk clothing designer, lawyer and activist who lives in Iqualuit, she is committed to preserving Inuit culture and language. Travelling internationally, she has raised global awareness of the challenges confronting Canada’s most northern inhabitants. She also speaks about issues related to sustainability and resources, and their impact on the traditional way of life.
Also a new Member, Saskatoon lawyer Henry Kloppenburg’s generosity reflects his passion for his community. He is a collector of Canadian and Native art, much of which he has donated for public display. From scholarships and art donations to the establishment of the Kloppenburg Wildlife Refuge, his contributions have enriched the educational and cultural landscape of his province. He has also provided leadership to many organizations, including the University of Saskatchewan’s Biomedical Ethics Committee, the Kidney Foundation of Canada (Saskatchewan), the Mendel Art Gallery and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra.
Photos: Sgt Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall © 2012 Office of the Secretary to the Governor General of Canada
Former Supreme Court of Canada justice Ian Binnie with Governor General David Johnston.
Former chief justice of the Federal Court of Appeal John Richard with Governor General David Johnston.
Nunavut lawyer Aaju Peter after her investiture as a Member of the Order of Canada with Governor General David Johnson.
Saskatoon lawyer Henry Kloppenburg after receiving his Order of Canada medal from Governor General David Johnson.
The Law Society’s governing body today approved a three-year pilot project that will allow lawyer licensing candidates to either article or complete a Law Practice Program, starting in the 2014-15 licensing year.
The pilot project will measure competence through a fair process which provides access to the profession and fosters access to justice, while protecting the public.
The new licensing pilot will be extended for up to an additional two years if there is sufficient evidence to properly evaluate the pilot after three years.
Convocation also approved an appropriate member contribution to help defray costs of the pilot project. The amount of the contribution will be recommended by the Law Society’s Professional Development and Competence Committee to Convocation.
The program reflects the views of the majority of the Articling Task Force and was developed following extensive consultation with the profession and other stakeholders throughout 2012.
“Convocation had a robust discussion and agreed that this is the best path to follow, recognizing the complexity of the issue and that there is no one tried and tested solution,” Law Society Treasurer Thomas G. Conway said.
“This project addresses the reality of the articling placement shortage and that the articling requirement should not be a barrier to licensing to eligible, competent candidates.”
Under the pilot project, candidates may either complete the traditional 10-month articling term, with enhanced documentation, or an approximately four-month long LPP, which will also include an additional four-month co-operative work placement.
The Law Society will outsource the LPP and the establishment of the work placements will be the responsibility of the third-party provider.
The Law Society will oversee the assessments of defined learning outcomes necessary for entry-level practice for all candidates.
The debate over creating this new two-tiered articling system went on for many hours this morning and was watched online by over 1,000 people about 500 people. The Twitterverse was also all over it with a variety of people live tweeting and debating the debate. For a time, the hashtag #articling was the top trending topic in Canada.
No matter what the outcome, interest in the future of articling is great and the profession and law students probably had more input and open discussion about this issue than any before at the LSUC.
However, there was a tremendous amount of displeasure on two from law students who were following the debate on Twitter: no student voices were heard during the debate itself and the outcome. Here’s a sampling of what they had to say:
@sweetcement: What a bad decision LSUC. Thank you for potentially creating a generation of under-qualified, indebted, unpaid lawyers. #articling
University of Ottawa’s @KatarinaGermani: disappointing decision by LSUC on the #articling crisis to move to a two-tier system, disregarding huge issues with access to the profession
@tomreidwilson in Toronto: Saddened by how little attention was paid to student voices in the recent #articling decision.
@JamesDBowie in Ottawa: LL.B’s like me who feel strongly about #articling still have the choice. I want to article, and I plan to.
@ErinDand: Sad that the #articling crisis has been ‘solved’ by a bandaid solution creating a 2tier system. LPP wont help the fact of too many lawyers
Ottawa’s @MichDoody: Well LSUC, we put an important decision in your hands... you just let down a lot of people.
@HopelessJD: my final thought is how screwed my future is by this decision
University of Toronto’s @Ella_Henry: Unpaid co-ops + higher fees is the opposite of helping students graduating w/ 100,000+ in debt
Some lawyers were behind the decision:
@dougferguson9, the director of Community Legal Services at Western Law: Congratulations to the benchers @LawsocietyLSUC for moving forward with change after a thorough debate.
@Joel_Welch: Thanks to the #36 #LUSC #Benchers who voted for changes to the licensing reqs. It gives many candidates a fighting chance.
Many were not:
@dforce66: I think our profession just made a huge mistake, but I guess only time will tell... #articling 36-20
Criminal lawyer @RHDefence: The proper solution to the articling crisis is known to everyone. The idea of a two tier licencing process is a sham
Ottawa’s @GalldinRoberts: #LSUC, hard to show young lawyers there is value to their work when we’re telling them to work for free #articling
@wiselaw: Wrong outcome, but cudos to the LSUC for the open process and live streaming of this important debate
@renattaaustin: LPP is now with us as an alternative to #articling. The ball is now in the law schools’ court to move to the Carnegie Model.
We’ll have more analysis and insight into the debate and its impact on Law Times and Canadian Lawyer 4Students next week.
|The first phase of B.C.’s Justicia Project will focus on national and large regional firms. (Photo: Liv Clark)|
B.C.’s program has two phases: one is directed at national law firms with offices in B.C. that are already participants in Justicia in Ontario and Alberta, as well as large regional firms who may be interested in the project. Phase two will be directed at all other B.C. firms.
Shayne Strukoff, managing partner of Gowlings’ Vancouver office, and Gowlings’ associate Helena Plecko volunteered to drive the initiative on behalf of the LSBC. Other members of the B.C. Justicia working group are Lisa Vogt, chairwoman of McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s national diversity committee, and Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP Vancouver managing partner Bill Maclagan.
“We encourage law firms of all sizes to lend their support to this important project,” says Plecko. “We hope it will pave the way for systemic change in the legal profession that will address the realities women in private practice are facing.”
Today, Gowlings is hosting a managing partners summit to introduce the first phase of the project. Participating law firms will commit to achieving goals in four areas:
• tracking gender demographics;
• reviewing/introducing flexible work arrangements and parental leave policies;
• adopting initiatives to foster women’s networking and business development; and
• promoting leadership skills for women.
This latest Justicia project comes on the heels of the first-ever national survey of women’s initiatives in law firms from the U.S.-based NAWL Foundation, the research and charitable arm of the National Association of Women Lawyers. It found that despite a prevalence of women’s initiatives in law firms, many don’t have sufficient funding or articulated goals to make them successful.
The survey shows firms are not devoting enough resources to women’s initiatives, despite the positive effect they can have on law firms’ business. Although 97 per cent of large U.S. firms sponsor a women’s initiative, only 42 per cent report their women’s initiative is part of the firm’s strategic plan. Eighty per cent identify an objective for their women’s initiative, but it is unclear whether objectives are written and linked to specific goals, such as retention or advancement. And while a little more than half of firms sponsor firm-wide meetings of women partners, only 29 per cent of firms consider such events to be effective.
“These statistics confirm what women, particularly in large firms, already know, which is that women are not receiving the kind of support that translates into equity partnerships and true leadership positions,” American Bar Association President Laurel Bellows said in response to the report.
The survey also looked at how women’s initiatives can move to the next phase. Its recommendations included having fewer “soft” programs, such as networking functions, and more programs that target the factors that directly affect advancement in firms. The survey also found that women’s initiatives require more funding: The typical law firm spends far less on its women’s initiatives than on the salary of one first-year associate.
While focused on American firms, the NAWL Foundation report has some good analysis of what firms are and can be doing in order to make their initiatives more valuable and actually work to keep women in private practice. It would be worthwhile for everyone involved in the Justicia projects around the country to read it.
- Combination to go live in June 2013
|The combination with Fulbright & Jaworski completes a big part of the puzzle for Norton Rose, says John Coleman.|
“This has certainly been an import piece of the puzzle,” John Coleman, managing partner of Norton Rose in Canada, told Legal Feeds this morning. “The U.S. is a key market for around the world but particularly for the Canadian market. It completes us on a north-south basis.”
The firm is focusing on growing its operations with “boots on the ground” and not using referrals as a long-term strategy said Coleman. He noted the firm’s focus on six main industries in all of its mergers has meant there are also limited conflicts. “Remarkably this is not a combination rife with many conflicts.”
Since the former Ogilvy Renault announced its merger plans with Norton Rose in November 2010, the question of an American partner has been on everyone’s lips. Coleman noted it had a number of American suitors but Fulbright & Jaworski was the best fit culturally and in terms of strategic business growth.
“They complement and reinforce in Canada and around the world” Norton Rose’s primary industry focuses, says Coleman. “[Fulbright] matches all the things we need and want.”
Coleman particularly points to the U.S. firm’s expertise in energy, which dovetails with the strong energy practice of the former Calgary-based Macleod Dixon, which officially joined Norton Rose in January 2012 at the same time as a marriage with South African firm Deneys Reitz.
“This will consolidate our position as a global energy powerhouse,” said Bill Tuer, a Calgary-based member of Norton Rose Group’s executive committee and former managing partner of Macleod Dixon.
In addition to energy, the firm will be strong in the areas of litigation and dispute resolution; corporate; intellectual property; and banking and finance. Intellectual property, pharmaceuticals and life sciences (including healthcare) will also be key, said Coleman. Tapping into a growing market, the firm will be establishing a global regulatory and investigations practice.
Fulbright’s chairman elect Kenneth L. Stewart commented: “This is a smart combination of two groups whose geographic presence, capabilities and client service cultures are strongly complementary. The combined organization will provide the experience, insight and service our clients need everywhere they do business around the world.”
Coleman said the firm will continue to operate using the verein structure and operating under a global executive committee.
According to The Lawyer, the firms’ combined revenues will come to roughly $1.9B (£1.2B), with Norton Rose turning over $1.32M in 2011-12, according to The Lawyer UK 200 2012, while Fulbright’s 2011 income was roughly $580M.
Martyr will continue as CEO of Norton Rose Fulbright. Stewart will continue as U.S. managing partner of Fulbright and take a senior position on Norton Rose Fulbright’s global executive committee. Canadian Norman Steinberg is the global chairman of the firm.
|The three-way merger puts FMC 'into key markets that interest our clients,' says CEO Chris Pinnington.|
The firms are recommending the deal to their partners on Nov. 13. Subject to the vote, the combination will become effective in the first quarter of 2013.
The new firm will be known as Dentons but will incorporate the legacy firms’ brands for an intermediate period. After that the FMC name will name will disappear. Pinnington says the brand is “impactful and has a long legacy.” He adds the firms share similar firm cultures and values.
With 550 lawyers and legal professionals across six offices in Canada, FMC is already one of the nation’s largest law firms. It will also be the first law firm merger that gives a Canadian firm a substantial presence in the United States.
“This is about the globalizing economy,” says Pinnington. “By expanding our geographic reach, we will be able to work with our clients as they continue to expand their businesses overseas.”
Energy, mining, and infrastructure — all areas Pinnington calls FMC’s “pillars” — are central to the global economy, he says. The move, he adds, “puts us into key markets that interest our clients.”
SNR Denton, a 1,200-lawyer firm, has more than 60 locations worldwide, including in Britain, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific, and Africa. It was formed when American firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP and Britain’s Denton Wilde Sapte LLP merged in 2010.
Salans has more than 750 lawyers who serve clients in 17 countries and specialize in sectors such as the automotive, telecommunications, and financial industries.
The three firms are building a new one together, says Pinnington, who emphasizes that FMC is not “being acquired or taken over.” The amalgamation would follow a structure that doesn’t combine the firms’ finances.
FMC has offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary. Canada’s sixth-largest firm will take three of the 14 seats on the new firm’s global board.
“The combination is the most significant law firm combination not born out of the merger of a UK and US firm and the only combination involving firms with significant operations in Europe, Canada, the UK and the US,” says a statement from the firms.
Strategic planning for the merger began two years ago. A thorough consultation process followed, says Pinnington.
The new firm will be structured as a Swiss Verein with four separate limited liability partnerships and led by a global board and leadership team including:
- Elliott Portnoy, global chief executive officer, currently SNR Denton's global chief executive officer
- Joe Andrew, global chairman, currently SNR Denton's global chair
- Francois Chateau, global vice chairman, currently Salans' global board chairman
- Bill Jenkins, global vice chairman, currently FMC's national partnership board presiding member
- Chris Pinnington, Canada chief executive officer, currently FMC's chief executive officer
- Matthew Jones, U.K., Middle East, and Africa chief executive officer, currently SNR Denton's EMEA chief executive officer
- Dariusz Oleszczuk, Europe chief executive officer, currently Salans' global managing partner
- Peter Wolfson, U.S. chief executive officer, currently SNR Denton's U.S. chief executive officer
- Jana Cohen Barbe, currently SNR Denton's financial institutions and funds sector co-chairwoman
- Michael Barr, currently SNR Denton's U.S. senior partner
- Neil Cuthbert, currently SNR Denton's Middle East senior partner
- Mike Kaplan, currently managing partner of FMC's Toronto office
- Martin Kitchen, currently SNR Denton's U.K. senior partner
- Evan Lazar, currently Salans' global real estate co-chairman
Update: Nov 28, 2012: The partners of Salans, FMC and SNR Denton voted to combine to create Dentons. The new firm will launch in the first quarter of 2013. For more information, visit dentonscombination.com.
The debate was held Thursday night in Vancouver at the Pan Pacific Centre with more than 100 lawyers and supporters gathering to hear the learned thoughts on the pressing issue of maintaining the HST in British Columbia. No one was deterred that the issue had already been decided in a provincial referendum that will see a throwback to the separate PST and GST system reintroduced on April 1, 2013.
On the pro side (fighting to keep the HST, a lost cause as mentioned above) were Canadian Lawyer columnist and franchise lawyer Tony Wilson of Boughton Law Corp. and University of British Columbia law student Chris Thompson. Thompson had become somewhat of a local celeb on the HST scene prior to the referendum with his pro-HST YouTube video FightFightHST - A Letter to Bill Vander Zalm.
Against were Michael Bain, of Hamilton Howell Bain & Gould, and Greg Allen of Hunter Litigation Chambers.
The official judges for the debate were B.C. law deans Mary Anne Bobinski from UBC and Donna Greschner of the University of Victoria. "I was ready in case there was some thoughtfulness needed," remarked Bobinski. She was not called upon for that at any point in the evening.
The annual event raises money for the BCLI and was hosted by CBC Radio One’s Rick Cluff.
Photos: Gail J. Cohen
(l to r) Andrew Braun, Caleb Yong, Dave O'Mahony, and Alex Chiang of TD, the platinum sponsor of this year's Great Debate, enjoy a cocktail before dinner.
(l to r) Gwendoline Allison and Kirsty Foy, who just days ago launched their new law firm Foy Allison, attend the evening festivities.
Getting ready for the big debate are Kisa Macdonald, of Hammerberg Altman Beaton and Maglio, and Scott MacKenzie of Boughton Law Corp., another sponsor of the event.
Supporting their team. University of British Columbia law student Brett Woodside is flanked by Denice Thompson, the mother of debater Chris Thompson, and Anna Lucarino, debater Thompson's girlfriend.
(l to r) Richard Avis, president and CEO of Aussie Pet Mobile Canada, debater Tony Wilson, and CLE BC's CEO Ron Friesen.
First up for the side arguing to keep the HST was University of British Columbia law student and tax law geek Chris Thompson.
Making leading remarks for the con side was Greg Allen of Hunter Litigation Chambers. "The HST is not for me!"
Appearing for the pro-HST team in his fifth and final Great Debate was Tony Wilson of Boughton Law Corp. He hammed it up for the crowd.
Michael Bain, of Hamilton Howell Bain & Gould, had some help to share a few choice thoughts on the anti-HST side.
Being lawyers, there were, of course, objections. The dummy got ejected.
B.C. law school deans Donna Greschner of the University of Victoria, left, and Mary Anne Bobinski were the official arbiters of the debate. Both found eloquent ways to recuse themselves and leave the decision up to the "people."
Gasps from the crowd when the electronic insta-vote showed a close call between the pro sides. "It's just like B.C. politics," commented moderator Rick Cluff, a local CBC morning show host.
At the end of the day, a good debate was had by all.
Pro-HST debaters Tony Wilson and Chris Thompson celebrate their victory with a massive trophy that will bear their names in perpetuity.
- Three reports on problems in B.C. offer myriad ways for Bond to improve the system.
All three were conducted in response to B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond’s request for advice on reforming the criminal justice system earlier this year.
Geoffrey Cowper, senior counsel at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, was appointed chairman of the B.C. Justice Reform Initiative. His 277-page report calls for systemic change within the justice system. It also includes a review of B.C.’s charge assessment process by Gary McCuaig, Alberta’s former chief prosecutor.
Cowper calls out a “culture of delay” that continues to plague the criminal justice system and create backlogs in the courts.
“The culture of delay in the court system is resistant to change because there are several benefits to those working within the system that are gained from delay and no accepted means of enforcing timeliness as a priority. To change this culture we must fundamentally change the incentives that apply to the parties and provide the right tools to the right participants to make timeliness a necessity and not an option,” he writes.
Cowper does admit there has been some reduction in that backlog recently, but cases are still not being resolved in a timely manner. He calls for the appointment of five new judges to help with the backlogs.
“We have to move to measures that happen in respect of days and weeks of time, not months and years of time,” he said.
While Bond said: “We agree with Mr. Cowper that the criminal justice system moves too slowly. This report shows that the issue of timeliness in the justice system is critical for all justice partners - and for the public. British Columbia, like other jurisdictions, has a crime rate that is dropping, while experiencing increasing delays in cases,” the province made no commitments.
She said her department will be digesting the three reports and come out with its own report in the fall to address Cowper’s recommendations.
Cowper proposes a number of wide-ranging reforms including a province-wide crime reduction plan, measures to resolve criminal cases earlier and reduce the number of delays and backlogged cases and a major overhaul of how prosecutors handle files.
A significant recommendation Cowper’s makes is to establish a new Criminal Justice and Public Safety Council within the Justice ministry. It would be responsible for development of an overall strategy for the criminal justice system, one that ensures effective collaboration among the various stakeholders.
“Previous efforts to reform criminal case process have been disappointing. In my view their failures occurred for primarily two reasons: the failure to successfully collaborate with other justice participants in framing the reform, and the failure to ensure that needed changes would work across the system. There are many worthwhile proposals which will be reviewed and recommended, but success will depend greatly on effective collaboration in the detailed planning and introduction of new reforms,” says his report.
The Legal Services Society made a number of recommendations in its report. Mark Benton, LSS executive director, said in a release that the reforms are aimed at reducing costs and reallocating the savings to legal aid.
“Our experience has taught us that a small investment in legal aid can result in savings in other areas of the justice system,” he said. “We believe our proposals will help people resolve their legal problems faster and when that happens they are less likely to experience legal problems in the future which is an additional benefit not just to the justice system, but to society as a whole.”
Jamie Maclaren, a Vancouver lawyer and executive director of the Access Pro Bono Society of British Columbia, says although he agrees with the LSS’ recommendations, they don’t go nearly far enough to increase the incentive for private lawyers to take on legal aid cases.
“The most striking aspect of the report to me was the description of how our legal aid tariff rate has declined by 27 per cent since 1991, and how the number of practising lawyers taking legal aid referrals has nearly halved in the past decade,” said Maclaren.
“No matter how much we reform our family law and criminal justice systems — and heaven knows they need substantial reform — the government can’t expect LSS to switch from a staff lawyer service model to a private lawyer service model without substantially incentivizing the private bar to take on legal aid files.”
The LSS made recommendations in five main areas, including family law reforms, expanded criminal duty counsel, video and tele-bail, non-lawyer service providers, and problem-solving courts.
Under family law reforms, the LSS proposed that there be more duty counsel and community-based advice services to increase the availability of family law services; provide assistance for housing and debt problems; and expand mediation referrals.
For the criminal law system, the LSS suggested that rather than have lawyers accept assignments on an ad hoc basis, specific lawyers should be assigned to the same court on an ongoing basis.
The LSS also recommended that the justice system make greater use of video and tele-bail to cut down on transportation costs. It referred to the Burnaby Justice Centre that provides 24-7 access to judges for bail hearings via video link and telephone.
In terms of non-lawyer service providers, the report emphasizes the need for legal information outreach workers and aboriginal community legal workers to help people navigate the justice system.
Maclaren said non-lawyer service providers need to start providing legal aid.
“Many of the lawyers that are currently taking on legal aid files are treating the files as pseudo-pro bono work. To some extent, legal aid has become another form of charitable service rather than a robust system for ensuring that the rights of marginalized people are respected according to the rule of law,” he said.
Finally, the LSS suggested creating problem-solving courts such as drug courts, mental-health courts, domestic violence courts, and First Nations courts, which already exist in some provinces and territories.
Maclaren says he doesn’t expect these changes to happen overnight. “It will take much greater reforms to the justice system as a whole to make a noticeable difference in access to justice by way of legal aid, absent new funding,” he says.
The chief justices of all three levels of the B.C. courts yesterday said they had received all three of the reports and will consider further comment once they’ve had a chance to review them.
Bruce LeRose, president of the Law Society of British Columbia, provided the following statement to Legal Feeds: “The law society will study the report but notes on an initial review that Mr. Cowper has made a number of recommendations to address how he believes the justice system could be better managed and to identify the institutional elements he considers necessary for the system as a whole to succeed. His recommendations call on all justice system stakeholders to work together to address concerns raised during his consultations. The law society remains engaged in this important process and looks forward to working with everyone involved to improve public outcomes and maintain a sound justice system.”
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Gail J. Cohen