Access to Justice: Current Crop of Law Students Committed, Enthusiastic – Thomas Cromwell

This blog originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on April 18, 2018. It is the seventh blog in The Honourable Thomas Cromwell’s exclusive Lawyer’s Daily column dedicated to access to civil and family justice.

It is easy to get discouraged by the slow pace of progress on improving access to justice. But a constant source of encouragement is the enthusiasm and commitment of the current generation of law students.

Everywhere I encounter today’s law student, I see concern about the injustice of our current poor level of access to justice, interest in what can be done to improve it, and commitment to be part of the change to bring about that improvement. The interest and enthusiasm of students for work in legal clinics and with Pro Bono Students Canada and other access-oriented activities are some of the tangible evidence of their concern, interest and commitment.

I recently had the privilege and pleasure of being part of another manifestation of law students’ engagement with access to justice. The Society of Law Students at Thompson Rivers University organized a two-day conference on access to justice. The program can be found here.

In addition to presentations by students and faculty, the students hosted a number of special guests, including the Honourable Robert Bauman, chief justice of British Columbia, the Honourable Len Marchand, a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Honourable David Eby, minister of justice and attorney general of British Columbia. The organization was entirely student-directed and participation throughout the student body was significant.

I spoke with one of the co-chairs of the conference, Dave Barroqueiro, who is a second-year student. Dave’s take on access to justice and the profession’s role in improving it is bang on and shows how the next generation of lawyers understands the problem and wants to help to solve it. I asked him what lessons he drew from his work on the access to justice problem.

He started by speaking of the need for culture change: “The culture of law and of lawyers must change, and society isn’t willing to wait any longer. The legal industry itself, the profession’s self-insulation, and our paralyzing risk aversion, are undoubtedly major contributors to the access to justice crisis in Canada.”

He also recognized the role that lawyers and legal profession should and must play in improving access to justice: “ … the key to unlocking the solution to the access to justice crisis rests in the hands of legal professionals themselves — we simply need to be willing to adjust to the rapidly changing needs and demands of contemporary, digital-age clients.”

He stressed what he believes is the important part technology can have in bringing about the necessary changes: “Increasing the agility of lawyers and the efficiency of the delivery of legal services ought to be the principal focuses of the legal profession going forward.”

Finally, he recognized what many commentators have stressed: The necessity of responding better to the needs of the public seeking legal services. As he put it, “To think that we, even as a self-regulating profession, can overwhelm consumer-driven market forces for much longer is a delusion. The future practice of law will depend on an active, informed understanding of client needs.”

My impression is that Barroqueiro’s views are not unique. I believe they are shared by a lot of law students. Those in positions of power and influence should encourage and support this kind of thinking in the next generation of lawyers and at least make a start on the important work that they are keen to take up as they progress in their legal careers.

We are leaving them a big access to justice challenge. But I believe that they are up to it.

The Honourable Thomas Cromwell served 19 years as an appellate judge and chairs the Chief Justice’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. He retired from the Supreme Court of Canada in September of 2016 and is now senior counsel to the national litigation practice at Borden Ladner Gervais.

Plain Language in Modern Times – Call for Papers for the Clarity 2018 Symposium

The 2018 international Clarity Conference will take place from October 25 to 27 in Montreal. This year’s conference will focus on the usage of plain language in law to improve access to justice. Conference organizers have issued a call for papers and will be accepting paper proposals for this year’s event until March 31, 2018. The announcement about papers accepted for this year’s event will be made on May 1st. During the 3-day event there will be a total of 30 1-hour presentation blocks, consisting of 60 30-minute presentations. Information on the call for papers, recommended presentation formats, registration and more is available on their website here: www.clarity2018.org/call-for-papers.

For more information on the biennial Clarity Conference, visit their website here: clarity2018.org.

Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA), Aboriginal Communities and Parents Plain Language Guidebook

The involvement of Aboriginal communities in child welfare decisions increases the likelihood that Aboriginal children who are being impacted by these decisions will be placed with Aboriginal caregivers who can help to maintain cultural and community ties. In British Columbia, the importance and value of this is reflected in the Child, Family and Community Service Act (“CFCSA”) which, among other things, states that Aboriginal communities have the right to be involved in decisions affecting Aboriginal children in care.

The ShchEma-mee.tkt Project has published an Aboriginal Communities and Parents Plain Language Guidebook to educate and promote compliance with these and other requirements relating to Aboriginal children, and to help to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children in care. Wrapping our Ways Around Them: The Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA), Aboriginal Communities and Parents Plain Language Guidebook is available online at: www.wrappingourways.ca/.

Judicial College (UK) Publishes Updated Equal Treatment Bench Book

The Judicial College of England and Wales has updated the Equal Treatment Bench Book. The Judicial College, which is responsible for training the courts’ judiciary, recently published a revised, 422-page Equal Treatment Bench Book that includes new sections on anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, modern slavery and multicultural communication, expanded sections on litigants-in-person (self-represented litigants) as well as glossaries, useful suggestions and more. All information provided in the revised Equal Treatment Bench Book adheres to the existing legal framework. The newly updated Equal Treatment Bench Book is available online here: www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/equal-treatment-bench-book-february2018-v5-02mar18.pdf.

New Report on the Costs, Benefits and Limitations of Different Dispute Resolution Processes in Family Law

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF), in partnership with the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) have published an exciting new report that examines the use of collaborative settlement processes, mediation, arbitration and litigation to resolve family law disputes.

The study provides valuable insights into the costs of the different dispute resolution processes, how long cases take to resolve, and lawyers’ perceptions of their efficacy and suitability for resolving different types of family law problems.

Read “An Evaluation of the Cost of Family Law Disputes: Measuring the Cost Implication of Various Dispute Resolution Methods” on the CFCJ website here and on the CRILF website here.

CRILF publishes new reports on “Children’s Participation in Justice Processes” and “Perceptions of Polyamory”

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) has published two new reports.

The first report is the Record of Proceedings of Children’s Participation in Justice Processes: Finding the Best Ways Forward. This report is based on findings from a two-day national symposium, held in Calgary in September 2017, that brought together a multidisciplinary spectrum of leading stakeholders to share information and dialogue about how the voices of children and youth are heard, how their interests are protected and how their evidence is received in justice processes. The record contains the Program Guide, the PowerPoint slides presented at the conference, workshop scribes’ notes and presenters’ summaries of outcome, and a digest of the key themes and recommendations emerging from the workshops.

The Record of Proceedings can be downloaded on the CRILF website here.

The second report is Perceptions of Polyamory in Canada. This is the second of two reports published by the Institute on polyamory and polyamorous relationships. The earlier paper focused on the intersections between polyamorous relationships and family law in Canada’s common law jurisdictions. The new report takes a deeper dive into the data collected in the CRILF survey to look at the demographic characteristics of polyamorists, the composition of their families, their attitudes toward their relationships and their perceptions of how Canadians view polyamory and polyamorous relationships. The purpose of the study was to obtain a better understanding of the prevalence and nature of polyamorous relationships to inform the development of family justice policy and legislation. Recommendations are made with respect to law reform, public and professional education, and future research. This interesting and innovative research on the views and attitudes of Canadian polyamorists is the first of its kind.

Perceptions of Polyamory in Canada can be downloaded on the CRILF website here.

 

The details in this post were taken from information circulated by CRILF.

World Justice Project Publishes 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index Report

On January 31st, the World Justice Project (WJP) released its latest Rule of Law Index Report. This report is an annual publication that includes rule of law assessments of countries based on their level of adherence to 44 indicators grouped into the following 8 categories:

  1. Constraints on Government Powers
  2. Absence of Corruption
  3. Open Government
  4. Fundamental Rights
  5. Order and Security
  6. Regulatory Enforcement
  7. Civil Justice
  8. Criminal Justice

Countries are also evaluated on their adherence to a ninth factor – informal justice—that is not included in the aggregate scores. This year’s report includes assessments for 113 countries. The scores and rankings are based on data gathered from two sources: a General Population Poll (GPP) that is disseminated in the 3 largest cities of each country included in the ranking and, a Qualified Respondents’ Questionnaire (QRQ) that gathers responses from in-country experts in civil and commercial law, criminal justice, labor law and public health.

The 2017-2018 Rule of Law Index is available online here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/WJP_ROLI_2017-18_Online-Edition.pdf.

Previous Rule of Law Index publications can be accessed on the WJP website here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/wjp-rule-law-index/previous-editions-wjp-rule-law-index.

World Justice Project Publishes Global Insights on Access to Justice Report

The World Justice Project (WJP) has published its first-ever Global Insights on Access to Justice: Findings from the World Justice Project General Population Poll in 45 Countries report. The report is based on data gathered from an access to civil justice survey conducted with over 1,000 respondents in the 3 largest cities of the 45 countries included in the report. The survey questions were based on the following 11 themes:

  1. Types of legal problems experienced in the last two years
  2. Problem seriousness
  3. Sources of (professional and informal) help and advice
  4. Residual problem resolving behavior, such as attempts to learn more about the legal issue
  5. Reasons for advice not being obtained.
  6. Resolution process, through formal and informal means
  7. Fact and manner of conclusion
  8. Perceptions of the quality of the process and outcome
  9. Cost of problem resolution
  10. Legal capability, awareness, and confidence
  11. Impact of experiencing a legal problem

The report is organized by country with data presented according to the paths that respondents followed to deal with their everyday legal problems, with an emphasis on:

  • Incidence of Legal Problems
  • Violence
  • Action or Inaction
  • Status of Legal Problems
  • Process, Perceptions & Legal Capability
  • Hardship

The Global Insights WJP report, international poll, methodology paper and summary statistics report can all be accessed here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/news/global-insights-access-justice.

New Report Highlights Connection Between Legal Problems and Health Issues in the UK

A new Global Insights report by the World Justice Project (WJP) indicates that 1 in 3 people (31%) who experience legal problems in the United Kingdom experience stress or physical health problems as a result. The Access to Justice survey that was conducted for this report also found that:

  • 1 in 10 people in the UK who experience a legal problem within a 2-year period also experience a relationship breakdown as a result of their legal problem.
  • Almost 1 in 5 (18%) lost their job, faced financial strain or experienced housing issues because of legal problems they experienced within the reference period of the survey.

Trouble with neighbours was the most commonly experienced legal problem type reported by respondents in the UK survey with 1 in 5 (20%) experiencing this problem. Other common legal problems include:

  • Accessing benefits or care
  • Problems with Landlords
  • Debt-related problems, including paying credit cards, utility bills or loans
  • Harassment at work

This article provides an overview of the survey results for the UK and discusses the findings in the context of other recent reports as well as budget cuts to the UK’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (Laspo) Act in recent years: https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/jan/29/one-in-three-people-with-legal-problems-in-uk-develop-health-issues-report.

For more on physical and mental health problems related to everyday legal problems in Canada, see the recent Canadian Forum on Civil Justice report published here.