Trends and Issues paper provides starting point for CBA’s Legal Futures Initiative consultations

  • June 12, 2013

TORONTO – Economic forces, rapidly evolving technology and changing client expectations are just some of the forces exerting pressure on the Canadian legal profession.

The Future of Legal Services in Canada: Trends and Issues, released today by the Canadian Bar Association, shines a spotlight on many of the transformational pressures being faced by the country’s legal and para-legal professionals.

Trends and Issues gathers data and insights from original studies commissioned by the CBA looking at the current state of the legal industry in Canada and abroad. It provides a starting point for the consultations and discussions that will comprise the second phase of the Legal Futures Initiative, which the CBA launched last August. Consultations will begin next week.

“One of the goals of the Legal Futures Initiative, the first comprehensive study of its kind in Canada, is to create a framework for ideas and to identify ways to help the legal profession understand the challenges ahead, and shape the direction of the future – to the extent that that is possible,” says CBA Vice-President Fred Headon, who chairs the Legal Futures Initiative steering committee. “And we want to do so in such a way as to best serve the changing legal needs of the public and clients – to create a win-win situation.”

Most observers identify similar drivers of change – globalization, the economy and technology being primary among them – but there is very little consensus on what the profession should do to meet the challenge they pose.

Alternative fee structures; alternate business structures; off-shoring; near-shoring; and having more routine legal work performed by non-legal professionals are some of the responses suggested by various observers. There are also those, including noted expert Richard Susskind, who lobby for a more disruptive vision – rethinking not just who does what, but what is done, and why.

“While (the variety of ways forward) may seem daunting to some people, they also present a vast range of opportunities for the profession to reinvent itself and thereby ensure that it remains dynamic and confident,” the report says.

The Legal Futures Initiative goes hand-in-hand with the Envisioning Equal Justice Project, also launched last August, which is looking at solutions for the diminishing access to justice across Canada.

“A renewed understanding of legal service delivery must have at its core a commitment to the availability of affordable legal services to a broad range of Canadians,” the report says. While increasing access is not merely a question of affordability, that is a large part of the problem, and suggested solutions have included axing the billable hour, unbundling legal services and even “de-lawyering” – taking legal professionals out of the picture for some services.

As the CBA enters the consultation phase of the Legal Futures Initiative, it will seek input from stakeholders from across the legal spectrum, including clients and non-legal and paralegal providers of legal services. It wants to learn the impact the changes so far are having on all concerned, in order to identify the best route forward.

The Canadian Bar Association is dedicated to support for the rule of law, and improvement in the law and the administration of justice. Some 37,000 lawyers, law teachers, and law students from across Canada are members.

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