Iurisconsulti Canadae Vivunt in Terra Incognita

One of the more interesting parts of Guy Joubert‘s recent interview with the Canadian Lawyer is his observation that there is only scant accurate and current statistical information on the Canadian legal profession. We encountered this in drafting a background chapter of the CBA Conflicts Report in which we discussed trends within the population of Canadian lawyers and access to justice.

Joubert said:

What we’ve been finding over the last few years is that there is a real scarcity or paucity of information or statistics relating to the legal profession. Stats Canada’s last bit of information they have dates back, I think, to the ‘50s, so there’s really not much information out there.

I’ll give you a startling example: there’s the whole rural and remote regional access to lawyers. We’ve been receiving anecdotal evidence that some regions are in dire straights, where younger lawyers are not interested in taking over practices in rural or remote areas and they are moving to larger centres. This could be part and parcel of the work-life balance thing, but people in remote and rural areas are having problems accessing lawyers or they can access the lawyer but there’s a conflict because that lawyer acted against your wife or husband. The long and short of it is that we’ve been receiving this information on an ad hoc basis and so what we’ve tried to do is gather the information to better understand, to get that empirical information. Virtually, it’s next to impossible. We’ve contacted the law societies. We’ve given them a sort of format to follow, but of course all the law societies are independent. They collect information in detail but differently.

StatsCan’s website has only a 1986 magazine article on the changing profession of law, from Social Trends. David Stager’s Lawyers in Canada is now 18 years out of date. J-P Goudreau’s A Statistical Profile of Persons Working in Justice-Related Professions in Canada, covers all sorts of personnel working in the Criminal Justice System and again dates from 1996. David Gill’s Fraser Institute study on the market for legal services is even older. There are dozens of reports from Justice Canada’s Research and Statistics Division but nothing surveying Canadian lawyers. Industry Canada’s two-page snapshot profile dates from 2001.

There are some interesting insights in a recent statistical study conducted by LawPro in Ontario.

But overall, I have to conclude that Joubert is right. For all we write and speculate about changes in the legal profession, we really don’t have adequate data to know quite what we’re talking about.

Comments are closed.