CBA’s Map to Equal Justice

The Canadian Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee has released a new summary report today, Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation to Envision and Act. The report explains why fundamental change in the legal system is necessary, exploring issues like the growth of unrepresented litigants, the role of technology, and potential partnerships between private practices and public resources.

The report emphasizes greater public education over the law, and approaching law as an essential life skill given that over the next three years given that 45% of the Canadian population will encounter some problem with a legal component to it. One of the greatest challenges is that 48% of Canadians lack the literacy skills to properly make use of the information which is already available online.

The report finds a parallel to the Pareto Principle in access to justice, and notes that 22% of Canadians have 85% of the legal problems. These trends tend to correlate with marginalized and socially disadvantaged populations, but also allows for some potentially targeted strategies to address this segment of the public.

There is also quite a bit in the report about reinventing the delivery of legal services, including limited scope retainers, developing legal expense insurance, and a significant emphasis on the need for more legal aid. Of course the report mentions the CBA Legal Futures Initiative, which is conducting a comprehensive examination of the future of law in Canada. One of the more fascinating concepts I came across in here is the development of incubator programs to develop people-centred law practices for younger lawyers.

Of particular concern to members of the bar is the finding that public confidence in the justice system is declining. Surveys conducted by the Committee found consistent views that the justice system was not to be trusted and was only for people with money. Survey respondents also indicated the legal system was inaccessible to ordinary people, and was arbitrary and difficult to navigate. As officers of the court this growing perception about the justice system becomes a professional responsibility for us to address.

Although reports and studies are great for brainstorming and identifying problems and solutions, reports by themselves do not solve the issues without action. I had the opportunity to speak to Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin yesterday and asked her about the role she envisioned for the bar in promoting access to justice. She indicated that the bar needs to keep an open mind in order to consider doing things differently than in the past, and a resolve to actually act on these reports in order to make a difference.

A copy of the video clip is available here.


Courtesy of the Canadian Bar Association (via Omar Ha-Redeye)

\ Courtesy of the Canadian Bar Association (via Omar Ha-Redeye)

A pdf copy of this map is available here.


  1. The only solution that will bring back legal services at reasonable cost is the “support services” method of legal services delivery. Instead, all published recommendations attempt to improve the existing system–the “handcraftsmen’s” method. That is like trying to make a horse-powered transportation system have the capacity, speed, and cost-efficiency of a motor vehicle powered transportation system. It cannot be done. Family doctors don’t attempt to provide all medical services themselves. They refer their patients out to many different specialists and special divisions of medical science. Similarly, car manufacturers contract-out to special parts companies the manufacturing of those complex parts that don’t make them a profit if they do it themselves. Similarly, LAO LAW of Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is a very popular support service for legal aid lawyers. It has been saving LAO millions of dollars for 34 years. In contrast, the present “handcraftsmen’s” method of delivering legal services will produce ever-increasing costs because it doesn’t use specialization as an on-process, in response to the law’s ever-increasing complexity, volume, and dependence upon technology. In response, all legal services must take ever-increasing amounts of time to deliver, unless specialization is used to keep pace with increasing volume and complexity. All major manufacturing, and other professions use support-services that specialize so as to make the difficult, complex parts of services-delivery profitable. But not the legal profession. For example, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s publication, “Inventory of Access to Legal Services Initiatives of the Law Societies of Canada,” (Sept. 2012) recommends lowering legal costs so as to preserve the existing system by means of using much less competent alternatives to using experienced lawyers–students, paralegals, unbundling of legal services, and the unpredictable capacity, availability, and timing of services provided pro bono. Then why do we need law societies to regulate the legal profession if law societies recommend that clients not use experienced lawyers? And experienced lawyers should feel themselves betrayed by their law societies. The reports containing such recommendations were written by lawyers. But this is not a lawyers’ problem. Try instead an M.B.A., or other expert in the development of systems of specialized information services delivery. Otherwise, end our law societies’ decades of failure by inviting in government intervention by way of socialized law. But, the future doesn’t have to be that way. For more, see my other posts & comments on this “legal services at reasonable cost” problem– Ken Chasse, member, LSUC & LSBC.

  2. Ken,
    I don’t disagree with your comments or your post here, but they’re not necessarily the only solutions possible.
    It’s too easy for the bar to turn around and point fingers at the law schools and government and say the responsibilities are entirely theirs. We have our roles to play, and this report is a good step in the right direction.