A2J: Preventing the Abolition of Law Societies by Curing the Defects in their Management Structure: A Solution to the Unaffordable Legal Services Problem

24 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2015 Last revised: 5 Sep 2015

Date Written: August 20, 2015


The root cause of the unaffordable legal services problem (“the problem”) in Canada is the obsolescence of the management structure of its law societies (10 major defects listed). A 19th century management structure cannot cope with the need for legal services of a 21st century society based upon democracy and the rule of law. Law societies should either be abolished or their management structure changed. A Canadian version of the Clementi Report (U.K., 2004) could effect such abolition.

The re-structured management solution recommended is a combination of: (1) a national institute, providing law societies with the continuing and permanently developing expertise for such difficult problems, as does a civil service provide for an elected government, which is missing from current law society management, being management by “part-time amateurs” (benchers) providing their labor as charity; and, (2) a centralized legal research support service providing at cost to all lawyers and judges in Canada, legal opinions and other online materials. Since July 1979, such a service has been provided by Legal Aid Ontario to Ontario lawyers in private practice who service legal aid cases. The Appendix describes a national version of such a service. That service would be the beginning of a much needed national conversion of the provision of legal services from the “handcraftsman’s” method to a support services method.

All areas of the production of goods and services have made that transition, where there has been sufficient pressure to make it happen, such as the pressure upon all medical services, and that imposed by a highly competitive commercial market. As a result, no doctor’s office provides all treatments and remedies for all patients, as does each law office for each client.

The law societies’ response to the problem is to promote various alternative legal services, based upon a strategy of, “cutting costs by cutting competence” — the competence of the person providing the service, or the service itself; for example: targeted, unbundled legal services; assisting self-represented litigants programs; student and paralegal programs; pro bono for simple, short cases; family mediation services; and, self-help phone-in and online services. Thus, law society benchers do only the easy things because their motivations for becoming benchers, and the need to serve their clients and legal department employers first, conflict with tackling difficult problems, otherwise, they are at risk of being “spread to thin” for time, troubles, and temper.

Keywords: Access to justice, unaffordable legal services, A2J, law society management structure, support services, handcraftsman’ method, Clementi Report, socialized law, delivery of legal services, evolution of legal services delivery, legal research, alternative legal services, CanLII, LAO LAW, law students

Suggested Citation

Chasse, Ken, A2J: Preventing the Abolition of Law Societies by Curing the Defects in their Management Structure: A Solution to the Unaffordable Legal Services Problem (August 20, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2647948 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2647948

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