Over 50 Justice Organizations Agree to a Common Access to Justice Goal That Puts User Experience at the Centre
Yesterday (June 12) in Vancouver, leaders of BC’s justice system came together to endorse the Access to Justice Triple Aim.
The one goal of improving access to justice in BC has three interrelated elements:
- improving population access to justice
- improving the user experience of access to justice and
- improving costs (as they relate to access to justice).
Each participating organization has committed to a common goal to improve access to justice in BC and to action to pursue that goal. How organizations choose to act is for them to decide within the context of their respective mandates.
Implicit in the Triple Aim notion is the idea that its three elements are interdependent: change in one element may produce change in the others. The Triple Aim approach is therefore an exercise in dynamic balance – a recognition that good ideas are subject to policy, financial, and other practical constraints. Overall, the Triple Aim encourages a “user-centric” perspective.
The Access to Justice Triple Aim is an initiative of Access to Justice BC – a network of people and organizations from the judiciary, the government, not-for-profit justice organizations and the public dedicated to realizing a common vision – access to justice for all British Columbians. Access to Justice BC borrowed the Triple Aim concept from the health system and adapted it to the justice sector.
Jennifer Muller, a self-represented litigant and an active member of Access to Justice BC’s Leadership Group and Steering Committee commented:
“It will make a real difference for people who use the justice system that justice sector organizations are collectively committing to the Access to Justice Triple Aim. The Triple Aim pushes the system to be more attentive to the challenges and needs of single parents, like me, who have to take off time from work or travel a distance to go to court. If the Triple Aim were applied to court scheduling, wait times at the courthouse would be reduced.”
This cross-sector commitment to a common goal is an historic step for justice sector organizations that have quite different mandates, which often require that they act independently of each other.
Yesterday’s event represented the justice sector collectively acknowledging that the civil and family justice system needs to work better for the people it is intended to serve. Robert Bauman, Chief Justice of British Columbia and Chair of Access to Justice BC, told the group that the Rule of Law is at risk if citizens are denied access to justice. David Eby, Attorney General of British Columbia, spoke of how important it was for justice system organizations to work together and to collectively focus on improving the experience of those who turn to the justice system, ensuring that services work for the people who need them.
No one was suggesting that the Access to Justice Triple Aim will be an easy goal to attain. Yet the gathering was a celebratory one – not a celebration of achievement (there is too much to be done for that) but a celebration of hope and promise.
— Jane Morley QC, Strategic Coordinator
Access to Justice BC
The above-described “Common Access to Justice Goal” means this result:
No one is trying to solve the access to justice problem (the A2J problem). Therefore: (1) no one is trying to learn the cause of the problem; and, (2) all responses are limited to providing various forms of simplistic legal services by way of charity, and types of reduced-competence legal services such as, unbundled-limited-retainer and pro bono legal services, and, “alternative legal services.” And so, the commercial producers of legal services, such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, and the hundreds of small startups providing a great variety of automated legal services, direct to retail (without lawyers), will take over the markets of the general practitioner and the small, unspecialized law firm. They are well on their way to doing so in the U.S., where they now have millions of customers. And they have started the same process here in Canada.
Therefore, Canada’s legal profession is doomed to shrink drastically. Our law societies have developed no ability to stop that from happening. They all have had “access to justice” committees for more than a decade, and they have recognized the A2J problem has having been in a crisis status for longer than a decade. But none has a program the purpose of which is to solve the A2J problem. And so the problem’s victims continue to grow rapidly.
I have posted the following two articles as to what responsible law societies should be doing: (1) if they are going to maintain their present posture of not trying to prevent the loss of such practitioners to the commercial producers of legal services and the resulting loss of more than half their memberships of lawyers; and conversely, (2) what they should do if they wish to try save the profession and their membership from that end result (pdf. download):
(1) “Law Society Policy for Access to Justice Failure” (SSRN, May 14, 2019);
(2) “Access to Justice—Unaffordable Legal Services’ Concepts and Solutions” (SSRN, November 7, 2018); at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2811627.
Instead, our law societies will do neither, and will carry on as they have been, such that their A2J victims will continue to grow—(1) that majority of the population that cannot afford lawyers’ services; (2) the court systems’ being overwhelmed with self-represented litigants; (3) the legal profession’s accelerating loss of per capita numbers of lawyers in private practice; and, (4) Legal Aid funding—governments can’t improve funding while law societies do nothing to provide affordable lawyers for that majority of taxpayers.
It is a great insult to that majority of taxpayers and voters, who pay for the justice system whereat all lawyers, directly or indirectly, earn their living, but no one is trying to solve the A2J problem and give that majority an affordable lawyer. Instead, our law societies, along with the A2J relief groups, appear to view that majority as being no more worthy or successful than to be treated as charity recipients. Therefore, as the victims grow, so will the political vulnerability of Canada’s law societies grow.
As to the progress of the many small startups, see:
(1) Suzanne Bouclin, Jena McGill, and Amy Salyzyn, “Mobile and Web-Based Legal Apps: Opportunities, Risks and Information Gaps” (SSRN, June 16, 2017);
at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2960207; and,
(2) Ken Chasse, “Artificial Intelligence; Will It Help the Delivery of Legal Services but Hurt the Legal Profession?” (Slaw, November 21, 2018);
at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2960207 .
The first step to greater Access to Justice must be greater use of Plain Language. You can’t access what you can’t understand.