At this year’s annual Canadian Bar Association meeting, two public figures in the Canadian legal world spoke out on a topic that is very oftendiscussed, but extremely difficult to assess whether any positive change is taking place: access to justice. Both the Governor-General of Canada and former dean of law at the University of Western Ontario, David Johnston and Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin spoke at this year’s annual CBA conference.
This past weekend, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin discussed Canada’s access to justice (see a Globe and mail article here): according to the World Justice Institute, Canada places 9th out of 12 European and North American countries when it comes to access to the courts. Not surprisingly, questions of affordability, complexity and time delays make access to justice a continued challenge.
On a slightly different note, the Governor-General brought up in his speech a variety of issues other than simply that of access to justice, issues which are not often so honestly addressed (see here for an article in the Vancouver Sun). The Governor-General in fact called for change at all levels of the practice of law. He went from the early stages of the legal training by discussing the problems with law schools, to the lack of work-life balance, especially for mothers, once lawyers are in the midst of their practice and to currently practicing lawyers who are not earning the public’s trust. Indeed, the Governor-General addressed many of the issues that give lawyers a bad name.
There is absolutely no doubt that the challenges raised by these two keynote speakers are crucial to all legal practitioners. However, to what extent is the legal world ready to make the necessary changes to usher in the elements required to solve these issues?