A little standardization goes a long way
♫ He say, “One and one, and one is three.”
Got to be good-looking ‘cause he’s so hard to see
Come together right now over me...♫
- Music and Lyrics by Lennon-McCartney, recorded by The Beatles
Access to justice is a bedrock legal principle. Access to technology, however, is a principle of a lesser god. But over the last while, the biggest factor in improving the delivery of legal services has been the changes wrought by technology. Technology, then, is an enabler for greater access to justice.
Akin to steps that can be taken to provide greater access to justice, there are steps that can be taken to open up the availability of technology to lawyers.
For one, aligning practice/trust regulations among law societies along with aligning provincial taxation of legal accounts would allow a practice management/accounting legal software developer to write one application that would only need minor modification for each province in order to be compliant. This has long been the holy grail of lawyers. Alignment such as this opens up the potential market of users without adding additional marginal costs, and brings efficient practice software to the market. Take Saskatchewan as an example. Saskatchewan has 1,894 lawyers as of February 8, 2018. It is very difficult to justify the expense to customize a legal practice management/accounting software package that would only serve this market. But, by combining Saskatchewan, Alberta, BC and Manitoba, we create a market of 1,894+9,800+11,668+2,008= 25,370 lawyers.
Furthermore, consistent regulations in multiple jurisdictions would ease interjurisdictional practice. They would provide law societies with a degree of assurance that if lawyers are consistently using a commonly used software package, lawyers are complying with their relevant practice regulations (Lawrence Lessig’s Code is Law principle). Not the least of all, it also allows developers to put time and money into creating such software in the first place, with the reasonable assurance that their investment will bear fruit.
For example, Software Technology, Inc, the developer of Tabs 3 (legal general and trust accounting software), which integrates with PracticeMaster (practice management software) has great products focusing on the smaller law firm market in the USA. However, they have maintained that the fragmented market in Canada can’t justify their investment to come here. That means that Canadian lawyers have fewer options to choose from in finding great tools to assist them in practice.
Legal education is another area where economies of scale relate. Great speakers and a great program in a great location can be justified where you have a large market with consistent regulations. Smaller markets, less so.
When it comes to automated document assembly software, aligning the laws across provinces would similarly allow for the creation of one automated forms package for use in any particular area of the law for use within multiple jurisdictions.
When it comes to increasing access to justice, part of the puzzle may be hard to see. However, the answer may be in coming together.
The views expressed herein are strictly those of David Bilinsky and do not reflect the opinions of the Law Society of British Columbia, CBABC, or their respective members.
David J. Bilinsky is the Practice Management Advisor for the Law Society of British Columbia
(presently on leave).