The Benchers have adopted a strategic plan to guide the priorities of the Law Society over the next three years, with emphasis on two key goals - enhancing the "lawyer brand" in the public eye and expanding the opportunities available to lawyers.
The backdrop to the strategic plan has been recognition within the Law Society that the public, as consumers of legal services, have changing needs. The future direction of the legal profession must take account of a more diverse and multicultural population, an aging population, more knowledgeable and sophisticated clients and some clients that have a diminished view of the profession.
The practice of law too is in the midst of change. The strategic plan notes that the market for legal services is more highly competitive than ever, more technologically intensive, more varied in its practice structures, less homogeneous, less collegial and in some respects less enjoyable, given the pace of practice, pressure to meet billing targets and a time commitment inconsistent with lawyers' expectations.
The Law Society's challenge is to ensure the public continues to receive competent and ethical legal advice while enabling lawyers to innovate and adapt to the changing marketplace.
Enhancing the brand
The strategic plan acknowledges the competitive advantage and value in being able to say "I am a lawyer."
The plan notes: "Despite the general image of lawyers in the public mind, focus groups and survey evidence indicate that, when confronted with a significant legal problem, the public would prefer to seek advice from a lawyer because lawyers are perceived as having the appropriate education and experience to assist them. The principal challenge lies in supporting and enhancing the value that lawyers provide."
Enhancing the connection in the public eye between membership in the Law Society and value of legal services has two components. The Law Society and its members must ensure that lawyers do, in fact, have the expected education and experience and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the reputation of the profession. The Law Society must also take steps, in partnership with others interested in the delivery of legal services, to see that the public is aware of the benefits of choosing a lawyer."
Expanding opportunities for lawyers
The strategic issues confronting the Law Society and the profession arise because the marketplace for legal services continues to evolve to meet client expectations. In the face of these changing expectations, lawyers must be prepared to adapt their practices and that the Law Society, in addition to preserving the core values of the profession, must address the need for change.
"To expand the opportunities for lawyers, the Law Society must ensure that its rules and regulations do not hinder innovation that is in the public interest and does not compromise the core values underlying the brand," the plan states. "The Law Society must also identify opportunities for change and communicate these to the profession."
The strategic initiatives
The Benchers have adopted eight strategic initiatives to support these goals, with each initiative fulfilled through targeted objectives and tasks:
To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Law Society
To better ensure that lawyers are honourable and ethical in their dealings with each other and the public
To ensure that newly called lawyers are competent to provide quality legal services to the public
To ensure that lawyers are competent throughout their careers to provide quality legal services to the public
To expand the practice opportunities available to lawyers
To increase and improve public access to legal services and the courts
To ensure that the Law Society and the legal profession act equitably and in recognition of the diversity of our society.
The strategic plan, including the priority objectives and tasks, is published on the Law Society website for information and comment by the profession: see www.lawsociety.bc.ca/about/frame_about_strategic.html. If you have comments or would like more information, please contact David Newell by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax to (604) 646-5919.