We have the skills, so let’s use them together
As lawyers, we are in the business of preventing and solving problems for our clients. Those clients may be private citizens or businesses, government ministries or agents, or the public. In every facet of law, preventing and solving problems is the core service. It’s what we do.
Our educational path gives us the tools to develop and improve our problem-preventing and problem-solving knowledge, skills and philosophical approaches. Increasingly, lawyers are also encouraged to consider their own personal make-up. What unconscious biases do you have? How is your mental and physical health affecting your work? What can you change in your practice to feel good about what you do? Problem-solving in operation again.
With all this problem-preventing and problem-solving ability, lawyers are well positioned to collaborate to change laws, policies, and justice delivery models. That is what we do through the CBABC Sections, working groups, committees and Provincial Council. Coming together to propose solutions and initiatives allows us to apply those problem-solving skills to bigger issues for the greater good. The fall term was exceptionally busy as CBABC groups made submissions to the BC Law Institute, the Law Society, the Legal Aid Review and the Provincial Government. Individual lawyers like you contribute thoughtful, creative, purposeful solutions because they know that there is strength in numbers to develop strong ideas and to represent a collective view.
One of the biggest challenges that lawyers are working with others to solve is access to justice. Defined as “enabling people to avoid, manage and resolve civil and family legal problems and disputes,”1 the ultimate goal of accessible justice is to meet the significant unmet demand for assistance to solve legal problems. CBABC has been and continues to be an initiator of ideas and programs.
If you are wondering if anything is changing in the access to justice conversation and if it is moving forward at all, I assure you it is. Lawyers throughout the province are evolving their individual approach to incorporate user-centered, collaborative and evidence-based principles. For example, the family law bar in Victoria collectively has changed its culture from “file the claim first” to one where collaborative law practices (informally or formally) are pursued from the start for a better experience for the clients. Another example is Tom Spraggs in Coquitlam who empowers clients while improving his personal satisfaction with his work. Clients use a secure, online communication platform to document, organize and store their injury and recovery information collaboratively and efficiently. His clients find their voice and prepare to tell the story in court through video and review sessions in a green-screen studio. Other lawyers have developed data-driven predictive technology to provide clients with evidence-based information on which to make their decisions. Every lawyer who adapts his or her practice to improve a client’s experience and help more clients is doing their part to solve the problem of access to justice.
And then there is the challenge of collectively making change in our systems and institutions. Access to Justice BC recently developed the Access to Justice Triple Aim and Measurement Framework. This refers to a way for justice system partners to measure specific elements, which will indicate whether or not we are improving population access, improving user experience, and ensuring the costs of access are sustainable. Why does it matter? Because having a shared framework for us to present and evaluate initiatives will show how the many initiatives fit together and what progress we make.
Our society is at a stage where many need help to solve typical life problems. We lawyers can develop and embrace new ways of problem-solving that the public can access, use to solve problems and prevent future ones. It’s what we do.
1Access to Justice BC: What is Access to Justice? | ↩
Kerry L. Simmons, QC