(Not So) Random Acts of Justice

  • April 01, 2017
  • By Caroline Nevin

It’s an exciting time to be in law

Just as signs of spring start to cheerfully pop up in unexpected ways after a long and chilly winter, so too are we seeing new signs of vibrancy, action and meaningful conversation in relation to justice and the rule of law. 

Say what you will about who’s sitting in the White House, the change in administration has wiped out complacency amongst the comfortable. With the rule of law clearly the only thing standing between the ideals of a just society and the “arbitrary actions of the powerful,” lawyers and judges are earning a whole new level of respect. 

No-one will forget the camera images of lawyers working feverishly on laptops and cellphones in all corners of major airports, doing everything they could to aid those stranded following the surprise imposition of Trump’s first immigration ban. And how great was it to see the many vocal comments of support for Judge James Robart, after the President of the United States of America publicly insulted both him and the principles that underlie the justice system?

Closer to home, in Canada in general and in BC in particular, there is a clear resurgence of legal brains, skills and energy being focused on improving Access to Justice (“A2J”) for everyone. Here are just a few:

  • Fantastic new work is happening at the intersection of justice and technology right now – Legal Hackers Vancouver consistently hosts crammed, high-energy events; and Thompson Rivers University Professor Katie Sykes has developed a first-of-its-kind-in-Canada law course that culminates in a year-end contest among app-creating law students paired with frontline organizations seeking to solve real Access to Justice problems.
  • A2JBC, led by Chief Justice Bauman, is really starting to find its groove – acting to connect and align people and organizations working to attack barriers to Access to Justice, and encouraging a collective commitment to collaborative, user-centred, evidence-based action. 
  • BC leads the country in terms of not just exploration but significant experience in online dispute resolution – the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal is an ambitious experiment that everyone is watching and learning from. More than 5000 people have tried out the CRT Solutions Explorer already, seeking to resolve their own problems, and more than 200 people have applied for dispute resolution assistance; all without a single day in court.
  • The concept of “unbundled legal services” is growing by leaps and bounds in BC – lawyers who want a different type of practice/business model (discrete services, rather than “full package” for every client) are being directly linked to consumers who need and are willing to pay for those services, through the BC Family Unbundling Roster and the CBABC Lawyer Referral Service. The Law Society is actively promoting unbundling as a practical business model and Access to Justice initiative. And Courthouse Libraries BC has created an awesome webpage of tools for lawyers who are interested in trying out a new way of practising law. 
  • A Family Justice Innovation Lab has been created to nurture innovative ideas to improve resilience and well-being of families going through separation and divorce.
  • And the CBA itself is going through major renewal and innovation, focusing all staff, volunteer and financial resources on connecting lawyers to one another, professional growth, and impactful advocacy, particularly relating to Access to Justice and the rule of law.

All to say, this is a time and season for hope and optimism. Find something to engage in that feeds positive energy and makes justice and the rule of law more relevant, more accessible and more powerful than ever as a force for good in the world. 

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Caroline Nevin
cnevin@cbabc.org