Interview with head of CBA Legal Futures Initiative

 

By: Kathryn Marshall

The future of our profession is always a major topic of conversation within the legal industry. We live in an rapidly changing world, and the the legal industry must always be evolving to keep up.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Fred Headon, the Assistant General Counsel at Air Canada and past President of the CBA, who also happens to Chair the Canadian Bar Association’s Legal Futures Initiative. 

This initiative is an ongoing project that studies the future of the Canadian legal marketplace and how it is evolving – looking specifically at how lawyers can meet the needs of a changing legal landscape. “Technology won’t replace the real value of lawyers, but it can help” says Headon. Some major changes in the legal marketplace include the increasing number of Apps and other technological innovations that help the public gain access to justice.

“As a profession, we need to be where our clients are” says Headon, adding that there have been significant changes in the market for legal services, and there are opportunities for lawyers to play a larger role if they can understand that change.

The initiative has conducted extensive research and heard from a wide array of stakeholders – from the public to legal professionals. They have released numerous fascinating reports, which you can read here. 

Headon singles out some of the priorities of the initiative as technology and innovation, saying “lawyers are changing the way they do things”.

That is certainly true. Many firms are embracing technology and changing the way they do things – even though this sometimes means changing a system they have followed for 50 years,.

Others areas of focus for the initiative include education – there is currently a call out for proposals on how legal education can be transformed to equip lawyers with the skills for a changing legal landscape.

Time will tell what the future truly looks like for law, but fortunately the CBA Legal Futures initiative is there to help.

This course should be taught in law school

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by: Kathryn Marshall

There has been a lot of talk lately about ways to reform our legal education system in Canada. There has been a move towards more practical lawyering skills courses, such as negotiation and advocacy. While law school remains a largely academic, traditional education experience in Canada, the reality is that the legal profession is a practical vocation that requires many everyday skills. These skills include staff management, communication,  business development and finances.

Lawyers are many things, from advocates to problem solvers, but they are also business people and Business 101 should be a mandatory course for all law students. There are several law degree programs in Canada that offer a joint LLB/MBA stream, however this is not really suitable for people who plan to practice law exclusively.

Most lawyers, even junior lawyers, are typically responsible for managing staff as part of their legal practice. Lawyers who start their own firm or become partners in a firm have business management duties beyond practicing law.

A basic business course would benefit most lawyers in their law practice, and should be taught along with the black letter law courses in school.

What course do you think should be taught in law school?

 

So you didn’t get an articling job – now what?

 

By: Kathryn Marshall

Failing to land an articling gig is a stressful scenario for any law school graduate. But with the dwindling supply of articling gigs and the increase in law grads, it is not a totally uncommon scenario.

So what do you do if you find yourself graduating law school with no articling job lined up?

  • Don’t panic. You will eventually get an articling job, it just may take some more effort and time. Stay calm, carry on and work on your CV.
  • Be creative. Big law firms are not the only employers hiring articling students. Seek out opportunities with the municipal/provincial/federal government, in-house gigs at companies, smaller firms, regulatory authorities, and not-for-profit organizations. Also look outside of urban centers – in smaller communities and rural areas.
  • Create your own opportunity. Just because a prospective employer is not actively seeking an articling student does not mean that they won’t hire one. Don’t be afraid to approach employers and sell them on the idea of hiring a student. There are lots of benefits to hiring a student, however employers don’t always realize this. Make a list of places you would like to work at and start calling them with your elevator pitch.
  • Work your network . It is one of your most valuable resources. Go through your Facebook friends list, gmail contacts and phone and figure out who in your network could be helpful in connecting you with an opportunity. Schedule some lunches and coffees and let people know you are on the hunt for a job. Your network will always surprise you.
  • Volunteer. While you are looking for an articling job, volunteer your time with an organization. Contribute to your community, build some new skills and keep engaged and productive.

Good luck!

Do you have an idea to innovate how lawyers are trained?

 

By: Kathryn Marshall

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of touring Ryerson’s new Legal Innovation Zone and it was great to see people working hard thinking up ideas to innovate the legal sector. In a similar trend towards fostering ideas and innovation, the Canadian Bar Association wants to hear your ideas about how we can better train lawyers, both at the law school level and in their lifelong careers, to meet the needs of a changing legal landscape.

The CBA Legal Futures Initiative is calling for submissions for their workshop happening in winter 2016 that will explore innovation in legal education. The 500 word submissions must be sent in by July 31, 2015. If your submission is selected, you may be able to present your idea to a team of key stakeholders at the 2016 workshop – which will help form the blueprint for legal education innovation in Canada.

So do you have an idea? Then submit it!

Newly launched legal innovation zone is ‘Lawsome’

 

By: Kathryn Marshall

When it comes to technology, the legal profession is not known for being an early adapter. Indeed, law firms are likely the reason that fax machine companies are still in business.

This is slowly changing. More and more, the legal industry is embracing technology and looking at ways to make legal services more accessible in our tech savvy world. Some of this innovation is happening right here in Toronto.

I had the opportunity to check out the newly launched Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) at Ryerson University. They’ve dubbed themselves “Canada’s First Legal Incubator”, and they are doing some pretty awesome (dare I say Lawsome) stuff.

I sat down with LIZ Director Hersh Perlis, who explained the purpose behind the incubator was to help design and develop a 21st century justice system by fostering innovation. LIZ is partnering with companies and individuals who are working on their own legal innovation projects. LIZ is also partnering with law firms to help them innovate internally.

Unlike some incubators, LIZ does not provide funds. Rather, their goal is to create a “culture of innovation”, as Hersh puts it.  LIZ provides an energetic, open concept workspace and mentorship in exchange for participants bringing their ideas and innovation to the table.

LIZ workspace
LIZ workspace

Hersh made a point of emphasizing that LIZ is not a think tank. Their goal isn’t to generate reports or research, it is to come up with “solutions that can be implemented right away”, says Hersh.

So far there are 7 teams working with LIZ, and I had a chance to speak with some of them while I was touring the center. The teams were all working on ideas that will make our legal system easier for the public to navigate – from finding a lawyer to figuring out the court system. That was refreshing to see, since a lot of legal tech innovation these days is geared towards making it easier for lawyers and firms to do their jobs.

LIZ currently has 16 work stations, however they are hoping to grow their space and are accepting applications for participants on a rolling basis. So far, the response to LIZ from the legal industry has been very friendly, says Hersh. They had a packed room for their April launch and have seen a steady stream of applications.

So – do you have an idea to help develop a justice system fit for the tech age? Consider applying to LIZ. You never know, your idea may be the next big thing in law since the fax machine!