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.