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LSBC president Craig Ferris

Law Society of B.C. launches ‘innovation sandbox’ on expanding access to justice

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 @ 9:18 AM | By Ian Burns

The Law Society of British Columbia (LSBC) has launched an “innovation sandbox” which will look at proposals from those who are seeking to address unmet legal need in the province.

Those admitted to the innovation sandbox will pilot legal services and advice under the supervision of the law society. Proposals to enter the innovation sandbox must include a summary of the services that the provider is proposing to pilot, who are expected to be clients, how the services will increase access to justice, as well as information about the provider and an assessment of any risks to the public. If accepted into the sandbox, successful applicants will be given the opportunity to demonstrate that their proposal effectively meets the needs of B.C. citizens in the areas of legal advice and assistance covered in the proposal.

LSBC president Craig Ferris

LSBC president Craig Ferris said survey after survey has revealed that a significant percentage of the public is not benefiting from the advice of a lawyer to assist with their legal problems.

“The innovation sandbox is a forward-thinking approach that allows us to test and monitor whether individuals and businesses who are not lawyers or law firms can make affordable legal services available to British Columbians who currently get no legal help, while still ensuring there are proper safeguards to protect the public,” he said.

The law society will review proposals, as well as monitor the effectiveness of the proposals that are approved as pilots.

The sandbox, which was approved by LSBC benchers in September, was part of a set of proposals on meeting legal need in the province recommended by the law society’s licensed paralegal task force. Committee chair Trudi Brown said she and her colleagues decided to step away from a “top-down” model where a regulator defines categories of providers and a scope of practice to endorse a “grassroots” approach, where the law society permits legal services by individuals who may already be providing them.

“The marketplace can in fact identify and create the business models and the proposals that work for people better than we can and impose them from the top down,” she said. “It is a system that says, rather than ‘if we build it, they will come,’ let them build it and let us make sure the public isn’t harmed.”

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