Focus On

Access to justice and a culture of focus | William Poulos

Monday, January 18, 2021 @ 9:57 AM | By William Poulos

William Poulos %>
William Poulos
Access to justice remains an ongoing, challenging issue. We have made strides in civil litigation, where justice system participants have been encouraged to see things differently. Cultures of delay and meritless litigation tactics are frowned upon. On the criminal side, cultures of complacency are also frowned upon, at risk of having serious charges stayed for delay.

Efficiency, diligence and focus by all justice participants can only help our aim to improve access to justice. Focus is a key word. Focus has no borders as it is key in all areas of the law, whether civil or criminal litigation, administrative or family law. Focus breeds efficiency.

But along with focus, there must be the ongoing courage to stand behind the fruits that focus brings; to, for example, advance only those appeal grounds that matter, to plead only those key areas in a client’s case, to advance only those arguments that are key. It is harder to be efficient, to be focused and to advance the key elements of a client’s case. No lawyer wishes to be a defendant in a negligent or ineffective assistance matter claiming we missed something.

However, as members of the bar, we can take some comfort that we are not expected to be perfect. Reasonable standards of professional conduct fall within a reasonable range of conduct. Two different lawyers may achieve reasonable professional representation with the freedom to go about it in their own creative ways as long as they fall within this reasonable range.

A culture of focus breeds efficiency, not just for the lawyer participants in our justice system but also for our many adjudicators at courts and tribunals of all levels. Our adjudicators have a job to do and often have many outstanding jobs awaiting them in their offices and chambers. A culture of focus allows them in turn to be efficient with their time, as they can focus on the two key issues presented instead of the several hoping that one of the added ones may bear fruit.

Appeal courts can focus their analytical efforts and writing on the two or three key issues raised and do not have to hear matters which in the end do not really matter to the efficient resolution of the case. Our courts in a culture of focus are not burdened with hearing long motions to strike pleadings on matters that should not have been advanced in the first place.

We start with a ripple of focus and it leads to many ripples in the justice system saving time, energy, resources through all areas of law, through all courts and tribunals to the benefit of a number of justice participants, including clients, whose case and the energies put into it are in the key areas that matter.

A culture of focus breeds efficiency and cuts out weeds dragging down the resources in our justice system. Focus generates case briefs containing the key cases. Factums address the three key issues. Closing submissions follow a focused presentation and are more useful for the court, saving time and resources.

It is not easy cutting back, as we as lawyers must act in our client’s best interests and as fiduciaries must do the best job possible. But a culture of focus adapted and encouraged throughout our justice system, by all participants, can only make everyone’s job a little easier and open up resources for other cases waiting to be heard. We can be focused fiduciaries and still serve our clients properly.

The great J.J. Robinette was able to navigate through many areas of law and did so efficiently with courage and an eagle’s eye for what really mattered. He exemplified a focus with the courage to follow through on his focused efforts. Focus is not a new invention but is, at least, more important these days.

We have made significant strides in efficiency and no doubt there is more to come.

William Poulos has practised civil litigation for over 30 years and is a sole practitioner in Kingston, Ont.

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