President’s Blog
April 11, 2017

by Herman Van Ommen, QC

Law Week is a timely reminder of how important it is to consider our legal system from the perspective of the end user.

Access to justice is perhaps the defining challenge of our time, and the Law Society has been working in recent years to address systemic barriers. We have introduced rules that make it easier for lawyers to offer “unbundled” services for those who cannot afford full representation, and expanded the scope of legal services that can be provided by paralegals and articled students. The Law Society is continuing to examine ways to increase the types of legal services that could be offered by regulated alternate legal service providers, and has recently outlined its vision for legal aid, with the goal of facilitating an informed discussion about making legal services available to everyone who needs them.

More recently, efforts have focused on the experience of individuals as they interact with the justice system. Meeting the needs of the end user was the impetus behind Access to Justice BC, a broad coalition of stakeholders and service providers to which the Law Society has lent its support.

BC Law Week, organized by the Canadian Bar Association, BC Branch, breaks down barriers by bringing the people and the institutions of the justice system directly to the public. The most notable example is Twitter Town Hall, where Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree responded directly to questions submitted via Twitter. For several hours, the chief judge of the Provincial Court of BC dispensed with the complex rules and protocols of the court to communicate directly with the people of BC.

Another popular Law Week event hosted by CBABC is Dial-a-Lawyer Day, when BC residents can call in for a free 15-minute legal consultation. Approximately 20 lawyers volunteer their time to answer questions on issues ranging from wills and estates to criminal law. It’s a remarkable example of lawyers reaching out directly to the public.

Other events include courthouse tours, an opportunity for high school students to meet British Columbia’s chief judges, free law classes, and regional events throughout the province. Details of these and other events are available on the CBABC website.

Whether it involves a small claims dispute, a family matter or a business transaction, almost every resident of BC will interact with the legal system at some time in their life. The first step to taking full advantage of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by Canada’s Charteris to ensure we are familiar with how the legal system works. Law Week plays a vital role by taking the law directly to the public.