THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 5 S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 697
AND THE CHANGING FACE OF
OR HOW TO STAY RELEVANT IN
A TRANSFORMED PROFESSION
By Shea Coulson
Lawyers traditionally served an important role as conduits and
mediators of knowledge. When the great majority of the population
could neither read nor write, lawyers authored written
deeds that transformed the very social-political basis of power:
land. The written mercantile contract enabled an entire system of commerce
that was previously impossible.
Today, despite much ink being spilled over access to justice, the structure
of the entire legal profession is premised on gatekeeping, not access.
Lawyers’ high fees, the partnership model, the leveraging of young lawyers,
face-to-face service delivery, obtuse procedural rules and legal jargon all contribute
to making access to justice by members of the public difficult.
However, the function of lawyers as gatekeepers is coming to an end.
Why? Technology. But while technology holds the potential for improving
public access to justice, it also carries risks. Lawyers must confront this situation
and the ethical and professional challenges that the future holds.
THE FUTURE OF LEGAL SERVICES: A ROUGH SKETCH
The legal profession in Canada, and in B.C. in particular, is behind the
times. Some lawyers still use fax machines. The courts lag massively behind
private companies in electronic systems, data collection and logistics.
Lawyers think conducting electronic discoveries is novel progress. Our outdated
regulatory environment and slow-to-adapt market norms have
blinded most lawyers to changes that are happening elsewhere, including
• The liberalization of the legal market to permit service delivery
by non-legal professionals. The Co-operative Bank in England