Saturday, October 25, 2014

Bencher Nominee Stats, How I Voted

Of the 38 candidates for 19 positions, on the basis of info from the law society and simple web searches:
8 - called to the bar after the advent of the world wide web
4 - with twitter accounts they have used
10 - are from small or solo practices
100% - percentage of solo practitioners on the ballot who are criminal lawyers
3 - practising law for longer than I have been alive
1 - with a Google Local search result
1 - with a blog
100% - percentage of the lawyers with blogs who have been practising longer than I have been alive (I voted for that guy)
15 - women, which is actually quite good when you consider that the attrition rates for women in private legal practices are terrible.
6/7 - ratio of non-private, non-prosecutor lawyers (in-house counsel, legal aid staff, etc.) who were women.

For my part, I was looking for candidates who were likely either by their vintage (relatively new to the bar) or by their actions (twitter accounts, blogs) to be open to new technology.  I also was looking for candidates who by their actions had demonstrated a commitment to providing legal services to those less fortunate.  I also looked for those who were currently or had experience working in a solo practice, which is where the rubber hits the road in the legal profession.

I'm impressed with the quality of all the candidates, and I thank them all for putting their names forward, and wish them luck.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

5 Qs for prospective Benchers #law #yeg #yyc

The legal profession in Alberta is governed by the Law Society of Alberta, which in turn is governed by a board of directors-like body called the "Benchers."

There is currently an election going on to select the representative of the legal profession who will sit as Benchers for the coming term.

To that end, I thought I'd publish a list of questions I'm interested in hearing answers on.  If any of the Benchers run across it, I'd be happy to have their answers.

1. The Law Society of Alberta has as one of its strategic objectives the promotion of retention and diversity and inclusion of lawyers toward the goal of access to justice.  Since the attrition rate for female lawyers in private practice is three times the attrition rate for male lawyers, do you agree that the law society should acknowledge that this problem affects women disproportionately, and take steps to address that inequity?  What steps would you recommend?  Do you believe that retention of women lawyers in private practice should be a formal Performance Measure for the Law Society?

2. Do you believe that the Law Society's regulation of law firms should not advantage entrenched corporate entities, and that rather than dictating expensive means, law society regulations should specify desired outcomes, and allow individual lawyers to find the most efficient means of achieving those outcomes?

3. Do you believe that sole practitioners and small firms are disproportionately impacted by regulations of every type, and that sole practitioners and small firms, as the largest part of private practice lawyers, should be the first hypothetical against which the appropriateness of all proposed regulation is tested?  Do you believe that sole practitioners and small firms are adequately represented in the LSA's governance structure?

4. What do you think the law society's approach should be with regard to advising lawyers on new technologies? Should the law society proscribe and endorse certain technologies, or be technologically agnostic - provide information on risks and benefits, both practical and ethical, and allow clients and lawyers to make informed choices?

5. Do you believe the resources that the law society spends educating, supporting, and assisting lawyers in adhering to best practices are appropriately balanced with the resources that the law society spends disciplining members for failing to adhere to those practices?

Friday, October 03, 2014

"Uhhhh... what?" A response to 2014 SCC 59 #scc #law

So according to the Supreme Court of Canada, the right to access the superior courts is found in section 96 of the constitution, by implication. Which means that it is not subject to being overridden by legislation, like the measly common law right of reasonable access we had until now; and it is not subject to being overridden by reasonable limits in a free and democratic society, like the rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (piddly things like life, expression, and the right to vote).  It is now as sacrosanct as the exclusivity of the federal government's right to raise a military.

Just to take a single real-world example, what might this mean for provincially enacted section 96 court rules regarding, say... limitation dates?  Those pesky rules that say if you are going to sue, you have to do it by a certain time?

Is that an infringement of your right to access the courts?  Well yes, in the now traditional sense of the infringement of rights under the Charter.  But if we're talking about section 96... the question is not about your rights, it's about jurisdiction, and becomes something like: are limitation dates in pith and substance a restriction on access to the courts, or in pith and substance a matter pertaining to the administration of courts?

Constitutional law just got old-school. At least paramountcy won't come up, because the courts don't legislate.  I mean, yet.  Goodness knows what else is in section 96, I guess.

OK, let's try this again.  So section 92 gives the provincial government the right to administer the court system, but not the ability to do anything in administering the court system that would constitute an infringement on the jurisdiction granted to the superior courts under section 96, which jurisdiction includes the right of individuals to access those courts?  Uhhhh... what?

This is hard to unpack. Analogy time.  Jurisdictions are like national borders, right?  You control what is inside them, you don't control what is outside them.  And so the right of access to the courts in this analogy would be like the right to visit another country.

So, by analogy, it is a violation of the territorial integrity of the United States if I can't afford to go there.

No, I'm still lost.  Does anyone else understand what is going on?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Clio sets a new standard in Technology Customer Service

So here's a thing that just happened.

I discovered that Clio works with Zapier, which is an IFTTT-esque service.  I discovered that Zapier could automate some of the steps that I take when I open a new file in order to connect my gmail archiving script to my google drive.  A bunch of steps.  Annoying ones.

But... there was something missing.  The information that I could get out of Clio was just not quite right.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Will Premier Prentice help @LegalAidAlberta?

I was pointed by a friend to Justice Minister Denis' mandate letter from the new Premier.

Mr. Denis is one of only four Ministers to maintain their post after the swearing in of Mr. Prentice as Premier on Monday.

Mr. Denis has, until now, been comfortable blaming the federal government for the state of Legal Aid's finances.  The federal government may be obliged to contribute more.  But I am not satisfied that is an excuse to allow people to go without representation in court.

It appears the Premier has made adequate funding of Legal Aid one of Minister Denis' new top four or five or six priorities.

Hopefully Mr. Denis has been informed that the status quo is unacceptable, and that he expects the minister to take action, not merely make excuses.  We'll see.

As a first step, Minister Denis could immediately take on financial responsibility for the representation of individuals for whom Rowbotham applications are granted.  Just a thought.