With so many of us working remotely, the June issue of BarTalk is a digital-only issue. Watch for our next print issue in October. 

The Future of Law

How the Access to Justice Triple Aim can make a difference

 

The Future of Law

In June of this year, more than 50 justice system entities –courts, tribunals, government, legal service deliverers, legal education organizations, and others – publicly endorsed the Access to Justice Triple Aim.

The Access to Justice Triple Aim is a single goal with three elements: (1) improved population access to justice; (2) improved experience for the users of the justice system; and (3) improved costs. By endorsing the Triple Aim, sector leaders and participants acknowledged the access-to-justice challenge for ordinary British Columbians, and demonstrated their aspirations to be part of the solution. Although the Triple Aim may sound modest to some, its three elements are potentially revolutionary.

First, working toward improved population access means improving access to justice for everyone, including for sub-populations that may currently experience more barriers to accessing justice – for example, Indigenous peoples or people with disabilities. This element encourages assessing current access levels and evaluating over time whether things are getting better… or worse. How is this radical? The justice sector is behind other sectors in using data to measure performance, and those working in the sector are often reluctant to engage in performance measurement. It’s simply more attractive to keep doing things how they’ve always been done rather than to gather data and use it to help determine what is working and what is not as the evidence upon which to base reforms. Measuring our progress shouldn’t be scary. It can help us to better do our jobs.

Second, putting the user experience at the centre of the sector’s reform efforts is a significant break from the traditional model. Generally speaking, courts, tribunals and law firms have been designed with judges and lawyers in mind, not litigants. Design has been expert-driven, rooted in the myth that judges and lawyers alone have the knowledge and intelligence to solve the access to justice problem. The Triple Aim’s underlying premise that we look at the justice system from the user perspective challenges that myth. It encourages bringing users into the design of the system, which has the potential to reduce the dissatisfaction, intimidation and inconvenience users of the justice system too often experience.1

Third, bringing the cost element in opens up the possibility of making the “business case” for spending more public money on access to justice. The costs contemplated by the Triple Aim include, but extend beyond, direct costs to individuals – paying lawyers, photocopying documents, obtaining child care – and include, for example, the health sector and economic costs of increased stress, loss of work days and housing insecurity. These are costs borne by society because of a lack of access to justice.2

People need solutions now. We should accept that there is no one solution to the access to justice problem. Rather, there are dozens of solutions, big and small – including, but not limited to, solutions using new technology that cumulatively will move the dial. Some solutions will require cross-sector collaboration. Others will require trying ideas that might fail, but adjusting and trying again. Most, if not all, will require approaching the problem from the perspective of the people using the system – the ones whom, after all, the system is supposed to serve.


1  For a discussion of these ideas see Hagan, Margaret D. (2018) “A Human-Centered Design Approach to Access to Justice: Generating New Prototypes and Hypotheses for Intervention to Make Courts User-Friendly,” Indiana Journal Law and Social Equality: Vol. 6: Iss. 2 (accessed June 18, 2019)  |

2  Farrow, Trevor C.W. et al (2016) “Everyday Legal Problems and the
Cost of Justice in Canada: Overview Report”
(accessed June 14, 2019) |