Time for a Canadian-Based Think Tank on Legal Innovation and Competitiveness

I have been thinking for some time on the need for a legal innovation and competitiveness think-tank in Canada; so when a few of my students at University of Ottawa Law School independently suggested that Canada needs something like that, I decided that I was not completely crazy.

Surprisingly no Canadian business school, Rotman is the first to come to mind, has picked up on this obvious green field and neither has something like the Institute of Competitiveness and Prosperity.

What I mean by a legal innovation and competitiveness think-tank is a body that would take a serious look at what law firms are doing – and not doing; gathering and analyzing useful data on the Canadian legal marketplace to determine trends and offer new ideas based on these trends; something akin to what Beaton Consulting is doing in Australia or Hildebrandt is doing in the US.

Right now, there is a dreadful lack of Canadian data that frustrates me as I dislike extrapolating from US sources in creating my view on the direction Canada firms should take – and this lack of Canadian data makes it very easy for Canadian firms to ignore advice. The lack of Canadian data also makes it easy for lawyers in Canada to believe that they’re far more competitive than they are in reality.

A new Canadian Institute for Legal Innovation (CILI) would also look at (i) the best ways to train and retain legal talent in a firm; (ii) ways in which lawyers can more efficient and cost-effective; and (ii) reforms in legal education.

CILI could have as its vision something similar to that of the ICP: 

To significantly increase legal competitiveness, productivity, and capacity for innovation so as to provide all Canadians with greater access to justice and to provide Canadian lawyers with a higher quality of life.

We live in an era where law schools are turning down millions of dollars in the name of academic freedom – so perhaps our new institute should not be created as part of a law school at all. Rather, it should be independently-based and filled with smart, focussed people who want to move the legal profession into the 21st Century.

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  1. Mitch this is an excellent idea. I’d like to get involved. Know any other students or practitioners who’d like to run with this?

  2. First, solve the problem that the majority of the population cannot obtain legal services at reasonable cost. Therefore, it also affects the majority of Canada’s lawyers. But the expertise of the legal profession is not enough. That’s why the problem has been growing for decades without any sign that the law societies accept that there is a problem of that nature, let alone show any sign of being able to provide a solution. See the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s “Inventory of Initiatives” text, (click on the highlighted word “inventory,” in the last line at this site). It describes the problem as being one of mere “gaps in access to legal services” (p.1, para. 1). That indicates that the members of the FLSC don’t accept, nor understand the true nature of the problem. They have the powers attendant to the regulation of the legal profession, but they are not providing the necessary leadership. The problem affects everyone in Canada. Therefore such long-standing ineffectiveness threatens government intervention. So do predictions that during the next ten years middle-sized law firms may disappear (e.g., the CBA’s “Future of Legal Services in Canada” text (June 12/13) p.31: ) . If so, smaller firms will go first. They employ the majority of Canada’s lawyers. Therefore any such institutional think tank should solve this problem first. For a solution to the problem, and the correct analysis of it, see my Slaw piece of Oct. 24th: . — Ken Chasse (“Chase”).

  3. I think this is a great idea. One of the major issues (as you point out) is the lack of data on the legal profession. We have almost no visibility into the effectiveness of legal service delivery, which is crippling from a process improvement or redesign standpoint. There are indeed major changes coming, as one can see by examining other jurisdictions. Here in the US, the market has changed rapidly, although not to the extent that it has in the UK.

    Such an institute should probably be arms length from law schools and law firms. Although some law schools (e.g., Osgoode, at which I teach) are starting to adapt their curriculum in a positive direction, it would be better to have some independence from the incentive structure in place at both universities and in industry.