The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ quarterly journal, Dædalus, recently dedicated an entire issue to America’s access to justice crisis. The issue, which is available online for free, was edited by Lincoln Caplan, Lance Malcolm Liebman, and Rebecca L. Sandefur. This first-of-its-kind open access issue on access to justice by the well-known U.S. journal includes twenty-four essays by researchers, professors, access to justice advocates and others. The essays examine a range of civil legal services issues being faced by low-income Americans, various barriers to creating a responsive justice system, and opportunities for improving access to justice through technology, innovation and new approaches. The Dædalus issue on access to justice is available here: https://www.amacad.org/daedalus/access-to-justice.
The University of Victoria Access to Justice Centre for Excellence (UVic ACE) has launched a newsletter!
NEWSLINKS is a new UVic ACE publication that collates recent news and information from the media, the courts, government and the academy that will be of interest to people working to advance access to justice in British Columbia and elsewhere. The first issue of NEWSLINKS includes coming events, links to recent articles on A2J and Legal Education, A2J and Legal Practice and A2J and Self-Represented Litigants, as well as links to recent research and reports on access to justice.
British Columbia will be holding its inaugural Access to Justice Week from September 29 to October 5, 2018. The week’s events have been organized and are being led by the province’s three law schools – Allard Law School at the University of British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law, and the University of Victoria Faculty of Law. BC’s A2J Week will include:
- Tech events
This will include a weekend hackathon, as well as a panel on artificial initelligence (AI) innovation and the justice sector.
- Law school events
Events to be held at BC’s three law schools include a presentation on “What would A2J look like for victims of sexual violence?” and a panel on “Lawyering with Heart: Violence informed and solution-focused lawyering for Indigenous youth and families”. The 7th Annual National Pro Bono Conference in Vancouver on October 4 – 5, which will coincide with BC’s A2J Week, will bring together lawyers, paralegals, law students, judges and other stakeholders to discuss ideas and best practices for increasing access to justice.
- Victoria events
Students at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law will be holding an Access to Justice Fair to share information on opportunities to increase A2J. Later in the week, there will also be a presentation by Dr. Julie Macfarlane on the challenges that self-represented litigants face.
- Kamloops events
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) law school students and staff from the TRU Community Legal Clinic will be offering information and intake referrals at the Farmers’ Market on September 29. The Community Legal Clinic will also be offering information (and free coffee) later in the week and Dr. Macfarlane will speak to law students and to members of the legal community on October 3. There will also be a talk on legal tech and access to justice as well as activities to teach attendees about the challenges of self-representation.
For more information on BC’s inaugural Access to Justice Week, visit: www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-18-09-2018.
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.
The Honourable Thomas Cromwell’s The Lawyer’s Daily columns explore topical issues related to access to civil and family justice in Canada. His latest column features an interview with Professor Katie Sykes of Thompson Rivers University’s Faculty of Law about a course that Professor Sykes created and teaches on “Designing Legal Expert Systems”. This course, like several others being offered at law schools across Canada, are fostering innovation among law students and engaging them to identify creative solutions to justice system challenges. “Access to Justice: Katie Sykes on Designing Legal Expert Systems” is published on The Lawyer’s Daily website here and can also be accessed online here.
The Canadian Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee has developed a new professional development webinar series called, Better Client Service Series: Good for Clients, Good for Lawyers.
Three live 90-minute webinars are currently scheduled to take place as a part of this series. The themes are as follows:
- (March 7, 2017) Lasting Client Relationships: Intake Strategies that Build Long-Term Trust: Using client intake procedures to identify long-term needs and build client capacity;
- (March 29, 2017) Made-to-Measure Legal Services: The Power of Limited Scope Retainers: Understanding the practical application of limited scope retainers and the associated professional responsibilities;
- (April 19, 2017) Intelligent Client Communications: Empowering Your Clients Through Clear Legal Writing: Drafting correspondence that optimizes clients’ understanding of their legal issues and helps them make effective decisions.
These webinars will be led by faculty who are well known in the access to justice arena. More information about the webinar series can be found at the following link: http://www.cbapd.org/details_en.aspx?id=NA_ona2j17. Information about accreditation of the sessions for inclusion in continuing professional development hours is located here: http://www.cbapd.org/accreditation_en.aspx?id=NA_ONA2J17
Non-CBA members who work in Access to Justice are eligible for pricing discounts. Follow the links above for contact information and to learn more about this series.
On October 21 and 22, LawConnect Ontario (a collaboration of CLEO and OJEN) and The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) will be hosting a conference on public legal education and information (PLEI) and access to justice. The conference, “Connect, Create, Communicate 2016”, welcomes participation from members of the legal profession, community workers, students, and others working in access to justice and PLEI.
TAG and LawConnect Ontario invite proposals for workshop sessions that will engage the public on issues pertaining to PLEI and Access to Justice.
Proposals can be submitted using the web form available at http://bit.ly/1Pa0PgX. All proposals must be received by 6pm on Monday June 27, 2016.
There is a new study from the UK entitled: “Understanding the Legal Problems of Renters”. This report by Pascoe Pleasence, Nigel Balmer and Catrina Devnir is available here: http://www.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/report/understanding-the-legal-problems-of-renters . It is part of a broader study on “How People Understand and Interact with the Law”.
The webpage highlights the following key findings of the study:
- The latest figures show that over a third of all households in England and Wales were rented, which makes the ability of renters to resolve housing-related legal problems a major issue for society.
- Few renters realized that their housing difficulty was a legal problem, nearly half (47 per cent) put it down to bad luck.
- The renters most likely to experience housing-related legal problems are the young, single parents, and unmarried couples with children.
- Legal problems with rented housing take a long time to resolve: half lasted more than a year; a quarter were still unresolved after two years.
- Renters are more likely than those living in other types of accommodation to have higher levels of non-housing-related legal problems – such as with domestic violence, divorce, welfare benefits and personal injury.
- Those renting privately (rather than in the public sector) were the most likely to have non-housing-related legal problems; the least likely were those who owned their homes outright.
It is noted on the webpage that “people living in rented accommodation are twice as likely to experience some kinds of non-housing-related legal problems as those living in other types of housing”.
Additional research and reports by the Legal Education Foundation are available here: http://www.thelegaleducationfoundation.org/research.
Kathryn E. Thomson, PhD Candidate, UVic (Law), along with several AJRN listserv subscribers, have indicated publications that they would include on their “Access to Justice Top Ten Must-Read” list. There is a lot of valuable research and commentary worth revisiting or, for those of you who are new to the topic, discovering for the first time. Here are the recommendations:
- Genn, Hazel. Paths to Justice: What People Do and Think About Going to Law (Portland, Ore: Hart Publishing, 1999).
- Cromwell, Thomas A. “Access to Justice: Towards a Collaborative and Strategic Approach” (2012) 63 U.N.B.L.J. 38.
- Friedman, Lawrence M. “Access to Justice: Social and Historical Context” in Mauro Cappelletti and John Weiser (ed) The Florence Access-to-Justice Project (Milan: Doti.A.Giuffe Editore, 1978) Vol II, Book I.
- Macfarlane, Julie. “The National Self-Represented Litigants Project: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants” (Kingsville, Ontario: Self-Published Report, April 2013).
- Reports for the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, February 12, 2013. Online: Canadian Forum on Civil Justice: http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/action-committee
- Wexler, Stephen. “Practicing Law for Poor People” (1970) 79(5) The Yale Law Journal
- Currie, Ab. The Legal Problems of Everyday Life: The Nature, Extent and Consequences of Justiciable Problems Experienced by Canadians (Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada, 2007)
- Hadfield, Gillian. “Higher Demand, Lower Supply? A comparative assessment of the legal resource landscape for ordinary Americans” (Feb. 2010) Fordham Urban Law Journal
- Australian Government – Productivity Committee – Access to Justice Arrangements (2014): http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/access-justice/report
- McEown, Carol. “Civil Legal Needs Research Report” (Report prepared for the Law Foundation of BC March 2009, 2d ed) online: Law Foundation of British Columbia: http://www.lawfoundationbc.org/wp-content/uploads/Civil-Legal-Needs-Research-FINAL.pdf
- Brewin, Alison & Stephens, Lindsay. Legal Aid Denied (2004): http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2004-REPORT-Legal-Aid-Denied-Women-and-the-Cuts-to-Legal-Services-in-BC.pdf
- Brewin, Alison & Govender, Kasari. Rights-Based Legal Aid (2010): http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2010-REPORT-Rights-Based-Legal-Aid-Rebuilding-BCs-Broken-System.pdf
- Track, Laura, (in collaboration with Shahnaz Rahman and Kasari Govender. Putting Justice Back on the Map (2014): http://www.westcoastleaf.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/2014-REPORT-Putting-Justice-Back-on-the-Map.pdf
- CBA Access to Justice Committee. Reaching equal justice report: an invitation to envision and act (2013): http://www.cba.org/CBA/equaljustice/secure_pdf/EqualJusticeFinalReport-eng.pdf
- Roderick MacDonald’s work on access to justice in Canada – a list of his words can be found here: http://people.mcgill.ca/files/roderick.macdonald/macdonald-pubs.pdf
- Cohl, Karen & Thomson, George. “Connecting Across Language and Distance: Linguistic and Rural Access to Legal Information and Services” (2008): http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/The-Connecting-Report.pdf
- CLEO’s Centre for Research and Innovation host a research database through the PLE Learning Exchange website. The database is an annotated bibliography of research on public legal education and information (PLEI) issues from Canada and other jurisdictions, and also contains some papers on A2J generally where PLEI is referenced: http://www.plelearningexchange.ca/research/research-database/
- Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. “Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change” (2013): http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/sites/default/files/docs/2013/AC_Report_English_Final.pdf
- The National Self-Represented Litigants Project blog by Professor Julie Macfarlane houses many A2J articles: http://representingyourselfcanada.com/
Please note that this list isn’t exhaustive and additional suggestions are welcome. What publications would you include on your “Top Ten” list?
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with “AJRN subscribe” in the subject line to join the conversation taking place on the listserv!
Please see below, a reminder from Sherry MacLennan, Director, Public Legal Information & Applications, Legal Services Society
This is a reminder that the Innovation and Access to Justice Conference is just a few weeks away – October 1 and 2. A few spots remain available and we are hoping to sell out. It is attracting a broad swath of interest from innovators across the legal community, ranging from government, law societies, legal aid, the private bar, PLEI providers and academics from across Canada.
This conference is in Montreal for the low registration fee of $175 to ensure the conference’s accessibility. However, this will increase to $200 on September 28. The final date to register is September 29. It will not be possible to register in person at the conference.
You may view the agenda and register at: http://iaj2015.openum.ca/registration/