Does a Generational Divide Hamper Change in Legal Services?

My class at University of Ottawa Law is now over. But the thoughts provoked in class hopefully are not. U of O has, probably more so than other Ontario law schools, a social justice/access to justice bent and I have been critical of the CBA’s recent Reaching Equal Justice Report mostly because it is unrealistic and provides little hope for change. So it was interesting for me to see two presentations by students that focussed on ideas that should have been part of that CBA Report.

One student presented ways in which gamification could be used in legal services. It reminded me of the CBA’s recommendation for legal capability training, but which was very light on specifics. What if CBA took the initiative itself – instead of telling everyone else what to do – and created online games that taught every day Canadians their legal rights? Fun and informative!

Another student presented on Chartered Legal Executives from the UK – another hands-on way to alleviate access to justice by creating a less-expensive path to becoming a lawyer. If law students have less debt – or gasp – no debt, after training, they are better able deliver affordable legal services. Again this would fall nicely within the purview of the CBA to advocate for, and push, a new training path.

Perhaps, the biggest problem with reports and studies, whether by law societies or bar associations, is the generational divide of the persons undertaking them. Are the authors really in touch with what students and new lawyers think? Are they in touch with what every day Canadians think? How much of their own past experience colours their perceptions and prevents them from seeking better solutions. Solutions that may even be against the personal interests of themselves and the rest of the profession?

My students were unencumbered by decades of legal experience, and with no self-interest to be protected – and they could see the possibilities.

Perhaps the CBA and law societies should have the initial draft of their reports done by students in the future….

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