The Winds of Change

A strong west wind is blowing across my prairie landscape this week. After weeks of heat and humidity warnings and near-daily thunderstorms, there’s a change in the air. The sun is nearly set by 9 p.m. Small flocks of Canada geese are beginning their flight training. The day lilies in my garden have lost their bloom and summer is passing before my eyes.

The winds of change are blowing across Manitoba’s legal landscape as well. The Law Society of Manitoba’s latest Communique 2.0 newsletter outlines some of the changes in legal governance on the horizon for Manitoba lawyers, including entity regulation, changes in bencher composition and further standardization of the western provinces’’ CPLED (articling education) program. (I previously wrote about some of those changes here.)

In the area of family law in Manitoba, significant legislative and court rule changes are coming, that will, according to this recent Manitoba Government news release, shift the priorities to put children first in those processes.

And in the wake of a recent bombing and another attempted attack on Manitoba lawyers, the Law Society’s website now includes links to resources for lawyers on recognizing suspicious packaging and addressing personal security issues. Risk management for lawyers has taken on an entirely new look in light of those events.

Across the country, more change is afoot. Last week, the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society issued its inaugural Entity Regulation Update detailing many of the ongoing efforts in that province to assess, consult and consider how lawyers and law firms should be regulated in the future. On the other coast, the Law Society of British Columbia reports it is considering a possible regulatory merger with the Notaries Society, as set out in the July issue of E-Brief.

There are also changes evident in how both individual lawyers and firms are approaching their work differently, using risk management, project management and design processes, for example, to more efficiently achieve client goals. Some law firms are marketing their work for commercial clients as incubating innovation.

While its premature to say if what we’re seeing at this level is of greater significance than just a change in the language used to describe what lawyers are (and have always been) doing, there is value in using new language. A change in how we talk about what we do may just open the door to changes in how we think about those same processes and ultimately, to how we approach them.

It’s nearly a year since the Canadian Bar Association issued the Futures Report calling for an approach to legal profession regulation and service delivery that maximizes flexibility and choice for stakeholders, including clients, lawyers and other service providers.

Since that Report was released, the conversation about where our profession is heading hasn’t stopped. Bit by bit, our language has shifted and the landscape has started to shift with it, as assumptions about how we do things are challenged, as different approaches are taken to client service, and as lessons from other sectors are learned.

Out here in my prairie home, the wind never seems to stop blowing. I’m hopeful that the winds of change won’t soon die down in the legal profession either.

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