The Innovation Conversation

Are you participating?

In her last column as CBABC President, Margaret A. Mereigh kicks off a discussion about innovation in the legal profession.

The Innovation Conversation

Last fall, my first introduction to “innovation” during the early days of my presidency were Justice Hack 2018, Innovate BC’s AI Justice Challenge and Access to Justice BC’s (“A2JBC”) Leadership meeting. These events, the people and the ideas captured my attention. In this article, I would like to share with you CBABC’s efforts to inspire innovation in the profession these past 12 months.

We have the opportunity to consider access to justice through another lens – an innovation lens. This as a more optimistic and collaborative way to discuss access to justice.

Have you heard of A2JBC? A2JBC is a network of people and organizations connecting with each other to realize a common vision – access to family and civil justice for all British Columbians. Chief Justice Bauman is the chair. A2JBC follows a Triple Aim approach where access to justice goals are influenced by three elements:

  • improved population access, improved user experience and improved costs. This approach has proven to be successful in the health sector. In June of 2019, the BC Attorney General and 50 justice sector organizations, including CBABC, formally endorsed the Triple Aim approach.
  • CBABC and our innovation partners want to bring lawyers into the innovation conversation. Shifting our perspective to a “user perspective” includes us, as users of the system, as well. We want lawyers to think about how to practice law differently, to understand how different regulations might help us do that, and to think about how to meet the needs of many who currently cannot access legal help.
  • Recently, the federal government announced superclusters with regional concentration – digital technology in BC, protein industries in the Prairie provinces, advanced manufacturing in Ontario, AI powered supply chains in Quebec, and ocean supercluster in Atlantic Canada. Why is this important? There is now a concentration of technology companies in BC looking to solve problems. Why not legal problems?

Justice partners are considering a Law Lab. This is where legal problems are taken to an innovation lab where solutions are studied, data is collected, pilot projects are run, and solutions are presented. It would involve law and non-law partners (e.g. technology companies) and looking at how other professions or industries are using technology or other forms of innovation to deliver services better. This takes advantage of BC supercluster in digital technology and also private and federal funders. It also ensures that we, the profession, are involved in the innovation discussion.

In BC, we enjoy self-regulation as a profession and, therefore, we are responsible for providing legal services. England and other jurisdictions have lost self-regulation.

Last September, we heard from Washington State Bar executives about their limited license legal technicians – their equivalent of alternative legal service providers.

In February, we hosted members of the tech sector and lawyers who practice law differently. They shared what they do and how they can help lawyers change their practice to work smarter, to improve the client experience and to provide legal services to more people.

In May, we partnered with other organizations to host Gillian Hadfield, University of Toronto law professor, economist and writer of Rules for a Flat World: Why Humans invented law and How to Reinvent it for a Complex Global Economy. Professor Hadfield approaches the access to justice problem through an economic lens. She suggests our Law Society regulations need to change to enable partnerships with non-lawyers.

In June, we heard from judges about innovation in the courts, specifically, Chief Justice Hinkson of the Supreme Court, Chief Judge Gillespie of the Provincial Court and Justice Willcock of the Court of Appeal. Of particular note, Justice Brown of the Supreme Court of Canada spoke about access to justice provided by courts as distinct from access to resolution provided by tribunals.

Disruption in law breeds challenges and opportunity. I encourage you to take on the challenges and to develop the opportunities. You are our forward thinkers. Most importantly, we as lawyers need to be at the forefront of changes to the justice system in BC.

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