New Perspectives for the Canadian Bar Association
by Frank Kraemer
The Canadian legal profession is in the midst of profound, accelerating change. In response, the CBA Futures Committee was formed to examine the challenges facing lawyers and the legal profession, and to make recommendations about the kind of organization the CBA should be in 2015 and what it would need to offer lawyers and the legal profession in order to be relevant and vibrant. I have had the pleasure of serving on this Committee for the last two years.
In this column and the next, I propose to outline the work of the Futures Committee as well as a number of the important recommendations emerging from the report delivered to CBA National Council at its meeting in Vancouver in August, 2005.
In preparing its report the Committee undertook a wide range of research and consultation including a literature review, consultation with CBA members across Canada and an Ipsos-Reid survey. During this part of its work, particularly relating to the literature review, the Committee was struck by the dearth of available information about lawyers and the legal profession.
The Committee examined a broad spectrum of trends and influences on the future of the CBA and the legal profession. Most notably, the Committee observed a fragmentation of the professional culture into a series of sub-groups, based not only on identifiable personal characteristics (e.g. gender, age, ethnicity), but also on factors such as area of practice, type of organization or workplace, or location. Three demographic influences appear to be dominant – the influx of more women to the profession, the increasing diversity of the profession, and the inter-generational differences in attitudes and expectations.
The question of image – both self-image and the overall image of the profession – arises repeatedly because of its impact on both individual self-worth and the viability of a legal practice or career.
The legal marketplace will continue to see a number of trends such as the commoditization or unbundling of services, a shift to alternative pricing models, the use of alternative processes (e.g. ADR), the ongoing need to demonstrate the value of legal services, and the continuing demand for transparency and accountability.
One ever-present factor that will continue to influence the profession will be technology – as a resource, as part of the legal process and as an area of law.
The legal and judicial systems themselves are also key drivers of change in ways including: the continuing potential for erosion of the rule of law by the use of extensive and arbitrary state powers, threats to judicial independence and the lawyer-client relationship, and the limiting of certain constitutional rights and freedoms in the interests of national security.
One final factor is the proliferation of organizations representing elements of the profession. This will result in individual lawyers and firms having more choice in organizations they wish to join and how they seek to be represented.
The Committee made a number of recommendations that I will discuss in my next column.
This report is an important document, not only for the CBA but also for the profession as a whole. At 65 pages it is a relatively easy read and contains a wealth of information. It can be found at www.cba.org/futures. I commend it to you.
This article was published in the October 2005 issue of BarTalk. © 2005 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.