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Law societies’ policies for access to justice failure | Ken Chasse

Friday, June 28, 2019 @ 11:22 AM | By Ken Chasse


Ken Chasse %>
Ken Chasse
Law societies appear to be powerless to serve the public interest by defending lawyers’ markets against three major threats:

(1) The access to justice problem (the A2J problem of unaffordable legal services for the majority of society that is middle- and lower-income people), which has left the majority of law firms short of clients;

(2) The commercial producers of legal services such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer now have millions of customers, who are now here in Canada beginning the same process of invading lawyers’ markets, along with the many small “apps” startups that provide automated legal services; and,

(3) Machine (artificial) intelligence that can remove the need for lawyers in the production of many legal services, bringing about a de facto deregulation of legal services markets, as well as enhance that human intelligence that is sufficiently specialized to be enhanced.

Based on their actions and statements, it is very uncertain what law societies will do in regard to such threats — threats that could eventually eliminate many lawyers’ law practices and could greatly reduce the membership of law societies, and therefore their size, as has happened in many industries. Canada’s law societies have not yet recognized them as major threats to their ability to serve the public interest. If left unchallenged and unchecked, they will do away with (supersede) more than half of each law society’s membership, i.e., the general practitioner and the small, unspecialized law firm.

What law society access to justice committees do is very small in comparison with what should be done.

It merely, in a minor way, tries to help the population learn to live with the problem, but not to solve the problem.

This is just a summary of a full text article (SSRN, June 14, 2019). The text concludes with a detailed list of topics, with extensive commentary for a law society policy statement that lawyer-members should demand of their law societies. This request for such a policy statement is for notice as to how the law society will, if at all, attempt to meet the threats to lawyers’ ability to serve the public interest. The contents of such a policy will alert lawyers as to when and how they should plan to endure the consequences of the major forces that are threatenining to replace them.

The topics are:

1. Maintaining the use of the legal profession’s services by middle- and lower-income people;

2. Sponsoring the creation of support services and standardizing and packaging parts of lawyers’ work;

3. Supporting the creation of a national civil service for all of Canada’s law societies;

4. Coping with the challenges presented by the commercial producers of legal services and by the disruption to be caused by machine intelligence;

5. The government-law society split in responsibility for the victims of the access to justice problem;

6. The creation of various types of independently operating paralegal services workers;

7. Statistics as to the decreasing numbers of lawyers in private practice as a law society responsibility;

8. The obsolescence of the “bencher concept” of law society management by practising lawyers;

9. Alternative business structures (ABSs) that allow law firms to become investment properties;

10. The members of law societies fall into two groups having conflicting interests on major issues;

11. The purpose of a demand for a detailed law society policy statement concerning these issues;

12. The consequences of law society neglect of these topics, being topics that require law society action and reformation;

13. The Law Society of Ontario’s (LSO’s) $1.2 million public relations campaign — purpose and relevance please.

For 40 years, starting in 1966, Ken Chasse was a criminal lawyer in Ontario and B.C., serving as both Crown prosecutor and defence counsel. He taught law in both provinces and conducted a national consultation process for the federal Department of Justice concerning a proposal to replace the Canada Evidence Act with an evidence code that was a Canadian version of the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence. Since January 2007, he has concentrated on developing “records management law” and among Chasse’s most important accomplishments was the creation of LAO LAW at Legal Aid Ontario. E-mail him at kchasse@fixy.org.

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