Access to justice is a problem we all recognize but can’t seem to adequately resolve. It is tempting, but wrong, to place the burden of ATJ disproportionately on lawyers (who already give generously by donating much time at no, or little cost, to their clients). Nor should the LSO be pressured into simplistic solutions by, for example, expanding the scope of paralegal practice into areas where they may not be truly competent, or which crowds out competent counsel, especially in smaller population centres, where the services are otherwise provided. The LSO should partner with other willing justice sector participants to (a) ensure stable funding for ProBono Ontario; (b) foster simple, intuitive, and on-line civil procedures (especially in family law); (c) allow for competent unbundling of legal services; and (d) encourage Legal Aid Ontario to streamline its vetting and bureaucratic processes to ensure a greater percentage of their funding sources are applied to legal services.
We should look in more depth into how tech can support human solutions for A2J. Less talk; more action.
Can’t talk about A2J without talking sustainable Legal Aid. I have previously advocated for FOLA with LAO and hope to continue to do so. With that, I understand ProBono Ontario is facing funding threats and intend on looking more into the issue, and how it could be expanded to more jurisdictions around the province.
Access to Justice requires competent professionals providing service. More is not better. Lawyers need to be provided with the opportunity to practice well and the LSO has a duty to ensure that the justice accessed is useful and competently provided. A “race to the bottom” as is sometimes seen in the USA to flood the field with lawyers, or even paralegals, does not provide access to real justice. The duty of the LSO is to help lawyers to make their services more affordable through initiatives like better allowing unbundled services, being a loud voice in ensuring a well funded legal aid system and leveraging our County and District Law Libraries to help lawyers provide well researched opinions at a better cost.
In my role as an elected Bencher over the past 6 years, I have been Chair or Vice Chair of the Access to Justice Committee. Access to Justice is very important to me. In fact paralegals define “Access to Justice”, in offering legal services to the people of Ontario in courts and Tribunals that are most commonly needed.
Every decision the LSO makes and every policy it issues ought to support access to justice.
We must continue to make Justice and the Court available to everyone.
In order to improve access to justice the LSO needs to ensure Pro Bono Ontario’s sustained and ongoing funding. As a bencher I will propose and support a motion that will see $25 of each member’s dues contributed towards PBO’s annual Budget.
Access to justice is a critically important issue in Ontario. Ontario just launched the one judge model as a pilot project, and I was pleased to be on Chief Justice Strathy’s committee that considered bringing this pilot project to Ontario. The goal is to reduce the time it takes to get a case to trial by removing the vast majority of interlocutory motions. Support for Pro Bono Law Ontario should continue, along with support for enhanced services through Legal Aid.
The Law Society does some remarkable things to promote access to justice in Ontario. It advocates for enhanced Legal Aid and provides funds for a multiplicity of projects, and programs through the Law Foundation. It mandates liability insurance for the benefit of clients and provides compensation for losses caused by unscrupulous licensees. The Law Society cannot however, undertake the entire burden of providing access to Justice. Working with partners, sharing the burden and coming up with creative solutions is the only way forward. It is the cultivation of those partnerships which enhances access to justice.
Access to justice is enhanced when diversity/inclusion is improved and the cost of a legal education is reduced. Access to justice is linked to diversity and inclusion. As the province increasingly becomes more diverse, clients expect diversity to be reflected in their legal service providers. Also, access to justice is linked to the cost of a legal education. We need to acknowledge the burden on law students who are forced to work in corporate law or other areas in order to reduce their law school debt. The financial burden on law students need to be reduced if they decide to practice in areas of law which are under-represented and under-funded. I will advocate for a debt reduction/loan reduction program for lawyers who commit to practice in under-serviced areas or poverty law areas for a number of years.
We need to re-imagine the Law Foundation’s role and how it can work with Pro Bono Ontario in the best interests of the public.
LSO should consider diverting a portion of its resources to Pro Bono Law. It should consider providing credits to recently graduated lawyers who undertake to work for community legal clinics, racialized legal groups, and other underrepresented interests. It should open up a dialogue with government and universities aimed at ensuring that skyrocketing tuition costs do not become a barrier to access to justice
The current LSO budget provides $50,000 in support to Pro Bono Ontario (a rental rebate for the 393 University centre). This despite the 29,000 Ontarians served by PBO last year. This program needs support and the LSO must see support of pro bono initiatives as a central part of the LSO mandate.
The scope of a Paralegal must be broadened. It is a less expensive way for the average person to afford some type of legal representation. By increasing the monetary limit of Small Claims Court and introducing aspects of Family Law, more Ontarians can have some for of legal representation. Limited scope retainers and their increased use would allow for legal professionals to step in when they are needed at a reduced cost to the client.
Access to justice is about facilitating access to legal professionals. Aside from the price of legal services, access to justice includes ensuring that the makeup of the profession reflects the diversity of the clients and communities we serve.
Law schools have made moderate progress in diversifying student cohorts, but the skyrocketing cost of a legal education threatens to undo this headway. Additionally, excessive tuition fees affect the public’s access to legal services. New lawyers are increasingly unable to consider work at affordable rates, or practice in areas that directly serve middle or lower-income clients. Changes to the licensing process have more than doubled in cost for new graduates over the last decade.
The LSO needs to take urgent action to promote access to justice, otherwise the profession will become increasingly irrelevant to the average Ontarian.
Access to justice and access to legal services are fundamental social determinants of citizen health, inclusion and engagement. According to the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, one in three people will experience at least one legal problem in a given three-year period; few will have the resources to solve them; members of poor and vulnerable groups are particularly prone to legal problems and the problems people have often multiply. Improving access to justice must be a top priority for the LSO.
Having served on The Action Group – Access to Justice (“TAG”) of the Law Society of Ontario, I appreciate the complexities underlying the issue. Our approach must be informed by: (1) an understanding of the intricate web of causes, such as historic patterns of overt and systemic discrimination and systemic inefficiencies that cost money and time; (2) input, advice and insight from community groups, grassroots legal organizations, and legal aid clinics that are at the forefront of serving at-risk communities and (3) a willingness on the part of the profession to embrace new ideas, technologies and efficiencies.
This is a vitally important area. [comments on profile page]
I believe that there are always opportunities for the LSO to enhance access to justice.
Three specific measures I believe the LSO can implement to enhance access to justice are as follows:
i. provide more language options for viewing the LSO website, beyond English and French;
ii. create an option in the Lawyer and Paralegal Directory to search lawyers and paralegals by the languages they speak and write. This would provide the public with a more efficient way to identify legal counsel that can assist them in their preferred language and would acknowledge the diversity of Ontario’s population; and
iii. provide recommendations to modernize and digitize the Legal Aid application process to avoid unnecessary processing and Court delays in determining whether applicants qualify for legal aid.
The most important issues facing the profession and, therefore, the LSO are Access, Access and Access. Ordinary people and small and even medium sized businesses often cannot afford the justice they need and deserve. A big reason is the cost of becoming and being a lawyer. Why does it cost ten times as much for bar membership in Ontario than in N.Y. State? Why have the expenditures of the LSO nearly doubled in the last five years? Why are there not more pro bono clinics and facilities to provide access to justice and to help train new lawyers? What will the LSO do to restore adequate legal aid? What will the LSO do to bring Ontario and Canada into the internet age through free or minimal cost-recovery based fees for access to all public court documents and not just reported decisions. Such a system has existed in the USA since 2001.
I co-chaired a review of access to justice in French in Ontario. It concluded that French-speaking litigants pay more and wait longer for justice. We made recommendations to correct this.
That experience showed me that the Law Society has a role to play in facilitating and promoting solutions to the challenge of delivering affordable legal services to the public. Professional standards must be clear and promote, not stifle innovative new legal technologies and other means of delivering legal information and services to the public in an affordable manner. Practice must catch up with the existing regulatory framework so that the delivery of unbundled legal services becomes a reality for clients.
J`ai co-présidé une étude sur l`accès à la justice en français en Ontario. Nous avons conclu que les justiciables francophones paient plus et attendent plus longtemps pour la justice. Nous avons fait des recommandations pour corriger cela.
Cette expérience m`a montré que le Barreau a un rôle pour faciliter et promouvoir des solutions au défi de livrer des services juridiques abordables au public. Les normes professionnelles doivent promouvoir, et non entraver les nouvelles technologies et autres moyens de livrer des renseignements et services juridiques au public. La pratique doit se rendre en harmonie avec le cadre réglementaire pour rendre le dégroupage des services juridiques une réalité.
Without access to Justice the Rule of Law becomes meaningless. The LSO alone cannot provide better access to Justice through regulation but it can bring its collective experience and knowledge together with other groups/government to improve public access.
Access to justice is easy to trumpet because its so vague. Just about everything gets thrown under this umbrella. We must be cautious and listen to proposals to increase ‘access to justice’ with attentive skepticism and a critical eye.
I am concerned that the cost of legal services has soared far beyond anything an individual client can afford. Having been both a lawyer and a client, I can attest to the fact that it is not only an emotionally draining experience to be a client in a lawsuit, it is also prohibitively costly. Concerns about accessibility to legal services are particularly pressing for segments of the population that have been historically oppressed. We need to find ways to make legal services more accessible, particularly in areas of law where the issues involve human rights, custody and child support, criminal charges and the like. We need to ensure that Pro Bono Ontario continues to be properly funded as it provides the public with invaluable services that would not otherwise be available to a huge segment of society. We also need to ensure that Legal Aid is properly funded particularly in light of the recently announced cuts. It is our job as lawyers and Benchers to do whatever we can to remove barriers to legal services, barriers to obtaining a legal education, and barriers to career success so that in the end, we properly reflect the public we seek to represent. As Hillel said, “if not now, when”.
The Law Society, as a regulator, has finite resources, so its approach to access to justice should be effective and within its statutory mandate. I support the Call for Comment on the Access to Justice Approach, and look forward to expanding the LSO’s work in (i) facilitating access to legal services, (ii) providing accurate and clear legal information for the public, (iii) supporting an accessible, fair and effective justice system, and (iv) providing assistance to external organizations. I support provision of legal services through registered civil society organizations, such as charities and not-for-profit organizations.
It is time for the Law Society to take a leadership role on the crisis in legal aid, by partnering with Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Foundation of Ontario, Pro Bono Law Ontario and others to address the access to justice needs of Ontarians.
I am a strong proponent of Access to Justice (A2J) and remain engage in community-level social justice initiatives through my work with various social justice organizations locally, nationally and internationally.
I believe in incremental increases to the scope of practice for paralegals, provided we can have appropriate oversight over their training and credentialing.
Invoke a new Rules Committee to streamline the judicial process and update the terminology for the 21st Century.
Equitable acces to justice is clearly within the mandate of the LSO and is one of the more difficult challenge. As president of the AJEFO I participated in a number of initiative to improve access to justice for francophones, including the Ottawa Court house pilot project and the opening of the Ontario Legal Information Center. I hope to bring this experience and insight to the LSO.
Access to justice takes many forms, and addresses many target constituencies. I have in the past volunteered extensively at PBO’s Law Help clinics, and am a supporter of the general model offered by these operations. As someone who practises in private law, my personal focus has centred (and as a Bencher would continue to have much focus) on design and delivery legal education, as I believe that an informed bar is essential to furthering the effective and efficient delivery of legal services (a key underpinning of access to justice).
Reduce reliance on the adversarial model; encourage collaborative/ADR models which leave the solution to a given justiciable problem in the hands of the parties. Encourage government to fund Legal Aid properly. Stable Pro Bono funding.
The solution is NOT asking lawyers to do more work for free. There are critical system failures in the courts and in the traditional delivery of legal services that need to be addressed if we hope to change the course of this socio-legal crisis.
I believe effective representation requires 3 things, namely, a competent representative, who can devote an appropriate amount of time to a matter, and employment of appropriate financial resources in that matter (i.e. costs of litigation, expert reports etc.). Currently, I believe our system requires too much of the latter two, so believe that the LSO should start there. There are also a number of Rules of Civil Procedure that make our system much less efficient than necessary (i.e. Discovery Rules, which encourage objections and motions practice, Rule 48.04, which delays the time until a pre-trial conference and/or trial, delaying the resolution of many matters).
There is a correlation between the massive student debt load that many new lawyers are saddled with and their ability to practise in areas that directly affect Ontarians. The Law Society could assist by reducing or eliminating licensing fees for new calls, and providing financial support or incentives for law students and recent calls who commit to working in underserviced areas of Ontario.
The Law Society can also look at how legal services can be more efficaciously utilized. For example, the Law Society can work directly with community stakeholders to address how Ontarians can access the legal system in a less expensive manner. By speaking to the experts on the ground the Law Society can direct resources and efforts to ensure that any needless regulatory hurdles are removed and allow Ontarians to access justice in a more timely manner.
The Law Society can also look to providing additional resources to solo and small firms who provide legal services to the majority of Ontarians. By making it easier and less burdensome for lawyers to start their own practises and by encouraging collaboration with paralegals the Law Society can increase the pool of available licensees who can then in turn assist Ontarians. By providing the necessary tools, forms, and notices to solo and small firms, the Law Society can ensure that Ontarians have access to affordable and effective legal services.
Finally, the Law Society can invest in technological innovation so the legal system becomes more accessible and less expensive for Ontarians. This may result in less actual interface with lawyers. However, the role of the Law Society is to determine what is best for the public interest as opposed to the interest of the profession.
I have written many articles on my website as to some of the major contributing causes to access to justice. Suffice to say it cannot be dealt with adequately in 200 words. However, I can say this: ATJ is not about lawyers. Lawyers are already generous with their time in ways most people are not. Every lawyer I know gives far more to their communities than what is expected of them. ATJ is a problem related to the Courts.
Simply put, the Courts have passed the buck to lawyers to try and solve and spend our way out of while at the same time ever-increasing the complexity of rules, procedures, case law, and expectations of us.
If we truly want ATJ, Courts need to look in the mirror and ask themselves “What would this look like if it were easy?”
Allow paralegals to become Notaries; At the very least maintain the status quo with summary offences but ideally, designate Ontario’s paralegals under s.802.1 of the Criminal Code as permitting representation on all summary offences. Expanding eligible Legal Aid offences to include provincial offences where incarceration is likely.
This critical issue has many components, and includes a number of challenges that won’t be easy to fix. Indeed, in order to begin to address the issue, we must first understand some of the key underlying challenges, including: diversity and inclusion, the pathway to becoming a lawyer, issues facing solo and small firms, issues facing solicitors, licensing fees, CPD fees, the parental leave program, the future of legal aid, the future of pro bono services, and the economic stability of the law society. I believe that to move forward, collectively, we as a profession will have to sit down and have the hard conversations needed to set the right priorities and take the well-founded decisions which need to be made in the fast-changing landscape of our legal profession.
Access to Justice is the legal profession’s biggest challenge. The Law Society is a key stakeholder in trying to address access to justice. The Law Society must take on a greater advocacy role and push back on governments who roll-back much needed funding of critical services like Pro Bono Ontario – Law Help Centre. The Law Society must step in if necessary, but in a way that does not add additional burdens on our members who can bear it the least.
Too many people have been trying to wrestle with legal problems without lawyers’ assistance. An unwise step in attempted response has been the recent move toward replacing lawyers with paralegals in further aspects of family law work. High operating costs have also apparently led to some law firms’ being tempted to send parts of their corporate/commercial work “offshore.” Cost issues have also contributed mightily to some lawyers’ ruminating about abandoning articling as a required step to bar admission. Replacing lawyers with paralegals in further aspects of family law, sending legal work offshore, abandoning articling? There must be ways for us to attack the problem of the costs of providing legal services in Ontario, without our having to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I would add that until we solve this excessive costs problem, young lawyers who lack family or other financial backup when they are trying to start out, will continue to find it very hard to make it through.
Public confidence in us will be undermined unless we improve access to justice. To me, access to justice means affordable legal services, a robust legal aid system, and a professional culture that supports pro bono work. It means addressing the barriers to public interest careers caused by the high cost of legal education, and supporting sole practitioners and small firms because of their important role in delivering access to justice. Access to justice also means ensuring that the profession’s growing diversity benefits the clients and communities that we serve. A diverse, inclusive profession that addresses barriers faced by equity-seeking groups, including racialized, Indigenous, LGBTQ2S, differently abled, and women lawyers, is a stronger profession that is best able to serve our clients and communities. To address it LSO could:
1. Reduce fees paid by those who serve low income Ontarians
2. Find ways to address the debt burden carried by new lawyers so if they start their own practices, they can charge lower fees.
3. Advocate to the government to increase the legal aid budget.
4. Work with law schools to expand their clinic programs.
5 Become a strong voice for improved court processes, simplification of court forms, and alternate dispute resolution.
6. Support Pro Bono Canada.
7. Continue working to address barriers to equity seeking groups.
The LSO is the singular most immediate barrier to access to justice in Ontario. Rather than ring-fencing the profession to uphold monopolistic conditions, the LSO ought to regulate the profession simply to ensure competency among those entering and practicing. Any initiative outside that basic requirement represents a barrier to access to justice.
– stop trying to regulate law schools;
– reduce licensing requirements to competency measures, including removing the broken Articling requirement;
– reduce the cost of the licensing process;
– reduce annual dues and reporting requirements;
– reduce the operations of the LSO to measuring and ensuring competence;
– rein in the LSO’s eye-popping $142M budget, and $8M deficit
As noted above, access to justice starts by having a competent profession. It also depends on the Law Society removing economic barriers to the practice of law, which often drive up the cost of services. The Law Society also needs to start encouraging lawyers to see themselves as public servants, with a privileged position having a licence to practice law, and less as “stakeholders” and businesses. Yes, law is a business, but at its heart, law involves serving the interests of justice, which by its nature entails public service.
I will continue to do my best to represent the interests of the mainstream of the profession, especially those lawyers at small firms whose needs are often overlooked.
I fully support improving access to justice.
The Law Society should be extremely concerned with the totally unacceptable lack of access to justice prevailing in this country. Our system of justice is premised upon the blatant fiction that people can pursue their rights through the courts. But most people cannot begin to afford to retain a lawyer for litigation cases. Consequently, too many people are obliged to abandon their rights altogether or to struggle to represent themselves. That renders our system of justice a dysfunctional failure. The Law Society and Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) must urgently seek ways of addressing this unacceptable situation. Would it help to substantially increase the funding and the coverage of Ontario Legal Aid? Very probably yes; which means that LAO and the Law Society should vigorously advocate those changes.
The Bar has an obligation to the surrounding community to help find solutions to this grave problem. While pro bono work by all members may help provide a remedy, the Law Society can assist by determining a system of awards for participating lawyers, such as an honorarium in the form of a reduction of annual fees.
We need to stop toying with simplistic notions like mandating pro bono service as a panacea for access to justice. Our challenges in this area are systemic ones linked with opaque court processes and antiquated models for service delivery. In order to improve access to justice, we need to explore ideas that will make unserved legal needs more economically viable for licensees and legal innovators to address.
Expansion of ProBono Ontario with secure Government funding; more legal aid certificates for use with private bar; improvements to unbundling of legal services; LSO sponsored community public education, especially for self reps (take the $900,000 from the advertising program “Our Society is Your Society);
Access to justice in this region depends principally on the continued strength and morale of the local bar. Create too many regulatory obligations (which currently require small-town/small-firm lawyers to dedicate far too many hours to regulatory compliance (quare: whether the Know Your Client regulations are equally well-tailored for all types of practice)) and work life balance will be affected. Ultimately, the viability of practice in more remote communities may suffer an inexorable decline.
A number of my former students were shocked by the call and examination fees that the LSO levies: this too must be considered as an access to justice issue. If young lawyers, burdened by debts incurred by entities regulated by the LSO–and, increasingly, by the LSO itself–simply cannot afford to practice in certain areas or certain communities, then these fees should be considered a barrier to justice. Which they are.
I am firmly committed to continuing and advancing the work we have done to date on improving access to justice in the public interest. More particularly, we need to continue the work coming from the recommendations of Justice Bonkalo, including exploring the scope of practice for paralegals in family law, promoting the unbundling of legal services, recognizing the role to be played by trusted intermediaries in the court system, and better defining the distinction between legal services and legal information.
I support stable and long-term funding for PBO through the Law Foundation. I also support the expansion of Community Legal Clinics as a effective and cost-efficient means of providing high-quality legal services to under-serviced communities. I would not be a lawyer were it not for South Ottawa Community Services. I joined the SOCLS Board as an under-graduate student through a (now defunct) government program to teach young people the skills necessary to sit on non-profit boards and ended up Chairing SOCLS in my final year of Law School. I saw first-hand what salaried lawyers and Community Legal Workers can do to provide access to justice!
The LSO needs to start helping and supporting its membership. In my mind, supporting sole proprietors and small firm lawyers is an access to justice issue. Lawyers in these practices are on the frontlines of rendering services to the public and face unique challenges – lack of support for taking parental leave; isolation from other lawyers who can provide precedents, guidance or a listening ear; financial pressures to keep their practices afloat due to non-payment by Legal Aid, continuously increasing licensing fees, clients who skip out on paying their legal bills because “lawyers make a lot of money”; safety and security concerns when disgruntled clients or opposing parties decide to take their frustrations out on you. The LSO needs to recognize that investing in initiatives that help its membership is investing in access to justice because it keeps us in business and providing services to the public. Actionable steps I would like to propose include:
a. Expand the Parental Leave Assistance Program to support the retention of women within this profession
b. Subsidized group insurance for disability, health and dental
c. Fund our local law libraries and law associations
Improving access to justice requires simplification the law and simplification of the administration of justice, which is fair but unaffordable for ordinary people. It also requires innovation in the ways that legal information and legal services can be provided, whether by lawyers, non-lawyers and or by the use of technology. Allowing new ways of providing legal services in areas of unserved legal needs should be the LSO priority given its mandate.
Pro bono helps but it’s not the answer. The justice system is cumbersome. It needs to change. Until the government invests in technology that simplies the system and makes justice accessible, we are limited in what we can do. The LSO can encourage lawyers to use technology to deliver services faster and cheaper and can support lawyers who are prepared to make that transition. Once the Technology Task Force reports, we need to discuss how we can most effectively facilitate change.
My first priority would be to address the need to clarify the LSO’s role to facilitate Access to Justice, which is a pressing issue in the public interest. While the core function and duty of the LSO is the regulation and governance of the profession, it must do so in consideration of other goals such as facilitating access to justice, and advancing the cause of justice as stated in the Law Society Act:
Principles to be applied by the Society
4.2 In carrying out its functions, duties and powers under this Act, the Society shall have regard to the following principles:
1. The Society has a duty to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law.
2. The Society has a duty to act so as to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario.
3. The Society has a duty to protect the public interest.
4. The Society has a duty to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.
5. Standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct for licensees and restrictions on who may provide particular legal services should be proportionate to the significance of the regulatory objectives sought to be realized. 2006, c. 21, Sched. C, s. 7.
I think that there are a number of things that the LSO can do to facilitate enhanced access to justice. These include (not an exhaustive list of course):
• Positioning and supporting TAG (the Access to Justice Group) to be a access to justice hub for organizations across Ontario to connect, share ideas and research, model best practices and further dialogue across justice stakeholders.
• Collaborating with the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO) on access to justice initiatives.
• Taking a strong leading role on discussions relating to legal aid and pro bono initiatives and needs.
• Working with the Law Federation of Canada on facilitating broad based initiatives to improve A2J, particularly for vulnerable and marginalized communities, and to also advance work on reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
• Canvassing whether licensees wish to support A2J projects directly through their licensing fees.
• Facilitating continued strong knowledge and strategies to address new technologies in the legal context at the LSO and at the Federation of Law Societies. As noted earlier, this is important because the emergence of crypto currencies has the potential of significantly impacting the source of funds for the Law Foundation of Ontario (which provides critical support to access to justice funding).
• I am open to exploring and discussing other ideas as Access to Justice is an issue that is deeply important to me (which is why I have sat as a Trustee on the Law Foundation of Ontario for the past 2 years).
Family Law needs answers; simplified rules, unified family court, paralegals providing legal services
Enhancing Legal Aid via the private Bar.
A statutory mandate that requires continued emphasis, attention and effort. It is not just the responsibility of lawyers but is also that of government and the administrative, civil, criminal and family law justice systems. Ongoing collaboration with A2J stakeholders and adapting technology to streamline and simplify court and tribunal procedures and processes must continue. Continued and sustained advocacy is needed for adequate and stable government funding of Legal Aid Ontario, more effective provision of legal aid certificates and clinic services, and enhanced sustained support for ProBono Ontario.
Access to justice has many different contributing factors and resulting consequences. One detrimental issue is the sky-high cost of getting a law degree, which appears to be increasing. If this trend continues, the amount of people from the Northwest Region who can afford to go to law school is going to be limited. That means fewer local licensees are going to be practicing in our region.
The expansion of paralegal scope is NOT the solution. Too many litigants are unable to afford a lawyer and I have seen first hand the challenges that unrepresented litigants face in the justice system. The LSO must continue engaging with all levels of government for better legal aid funding and by working with the courts to develop procedures which specifically address the needs of self-represented litigants. LSO must strongly support the legal aid certificate system.
Access to justice is a basic principle of the rule of law. In the absence of access to justice, people are unable to have their voice heard, exercise their rights, challenge discrimination or hold decision-makers accountable”: United Nations. While the LSO can facilitate access to justice through the implementation of the LSO’s Legal Aid Working Group recommendations, by supporting the expansion of the Unified Family Court province-wide and other initiatives, access to justice is not an issue that the LSO can solve alone – it needs to work, in a coordinated manner, with the judiciary, legal organizations, people, agencies and others to address this complex issue. The LSO has a current call out for comments seeking input on the LSO’s current approach to access to justice. As many people and organizations as possible need to complete the call for comments to ensure that the LSO’s approach to access to justice is as comprehensive as possible.
With the Law Society back in the access to justice space, it is my position that we need to be an advocate and a leader in bringing together Legal Aid Ontario and other gatekeepers. I have the following four objectives going forward: (1) bring LAO to the table to negotiate; (2) promote the control over who is selected to act as Law Society’s Director of Legal Aid and provide them with our mandate together with a requirement that they report back to Committee so that we can measure their performance; (3) require Law Foundation appointees to engage in discussions with LAO to promote efficiencies within their organization and to remind them that the most successful form of service delivery is through the lawyer-of-choice certificate model; and (4) encourage the high degree of quality of service provided by duty counsel.
All of us need to work together (LSO, paralegals, lawyers,) and fight to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our society get access to justice.
My campaign is focused on creating greater access to justice by virtue of reducing barriers for students entering law school and becoming
licensed, but to do so with a particular emphasis on experiential learning that has a clear social connection or link. My approach envisions the LSO as helping to promote a concept of justice in the public interest that is built from the ground up through experiential learning that is incentivized to allow for abridged licensing. In this sense, an approach of “transgressive” lawyering (i.e. not just meeting legal needs but challenging the structures that create those legal needs) would be fostered through legal education and encouraged by the LSO in a model that is not a pro bono adjunct to other forms of law practice, but rather is an end in itself. We need to approach to the practice of law principally as a service rather than as a business. Within the capitalist economy, we cannot discount the power of business, but we can build communities of strength that resist social and structural oppression and use the leverage of the LSO to make such practice areas more viable.