Bob Tarantino wrote an interesting piece for the National Post recently which commented on the fact that legal fees have become so ridiculously high that even a former Attorney General of Ontario has problems paying the legal fees associated with his self-inflicted legal woes. Bob and I entered into a good-natured Twitter chat in which I pointed out that the former AG did not have my sympathy as he freely chose his legal service providers and likely could have found less expensive personnel to achieve the same result.
That access to justice is impeded by high legal fees is, like the weather, much talked about (it seems to be a perennial speech made by judges across Canada), but no one does anything about it – including the former AG who is now seeing first-hand how legal fees affect the average Canadian.
Legal services have in many cases, morphed from a noble profession entrusted with safe-guarding the public at reasonable cost, into a voracious fee-based industry where time sheets have become the altar upon which lawyers willingly sacrifice their families and their lives – my apologies to small practitioners who do not fit this mold. For many in the profession and for many entering into our profession, the definition of success has become tied solely to wealth. Many have lost sight of the purpose of law. As Richard Susskind says, “Law does not exist to provide a livelihood for lawyers any more than illness exists to provide a livelihood for doctors. Successful legal business may be a by-product of law . . . but it is not the purpose.
And if the purpose of law is not to make lawyers wealthy, then we need to determine exactly what, as Stephen Allen told me this morning “is the end of law?” Because it is only once we determine as a profession and as a society what the end, or the purpose, of law is, that we can address how legal services should be delivered to maximize access to justice.
Will Ontario’s current Attorney General, or any others for that matter, finally take notice and seriously consider new and more innovative options to save our justice system?
Dare to dream.