As I sit down to write this blog, the referendum ballots have been mailed out and in two and a half weeks, we’ll know the outcome of the vote. And while the proposed law school at TWU has occupied much of our attention this year, the Benchers have already begun work on developing a direction for the Law Society over the next few years.
The end of 2014 marks the conclusion of our current strategic plan. We hope to have our next three-year plan – our vision for 2015 to 2017 – in place in January 2015. Developing this vision has occupied us for some time, and has reminded me once again about the importance of the leadership role we play in the profession.
We are being called on to lead the profession in adapting to the changes that are taking place in Canadian society. These changes – driven by pervasive technology, an uncertain economy, globalization, a changing regulatory environment and the public’s increasing demands for accessibility and transparency – present an immediate challenge to our leadership.
Earlier this year, when the World Justice Project released its Rule of Law Index for 2014, Canada was 11th overall, confirming that we have some work to do. While there were 99 countries covered in the report, the fact that a country like Canada is not in the top 10 is, to me, surprising. The report points to issues regarding access and administration that we have recognized for some time, but have not yet addressed. The report said:
“The country is relatively safe from crime, civil courts are accessible and independent, and the criminal justice system is effective in bringing offenders to justice. However, delays in court processes, and unequal access and treatment of disadvantaged groups at courts and police services, are areas in need of attention.”
There is work being done. Here in BC, the government is undertaking an ongoing and wide-ranging review of the justice system. The Benchers will consider what role the Law Society should play in this work as well as how the recommendations might affect the public interest in the administration of justice.
Sometimes, we are impacted by changes in other jurisdictions, as they adjust their systems and processes. The Law Society of Upper Canada is undertaking a new process for qualifying lawyers to practise law. As part of our strategic planning process, the Benchers will look at how these changes in Ontario may affect our approach to the admission of lawyers in BC.
We have also witnessed events that point to broader issues with our justice system. Recently, the media reported on what was said to be a criticism by the Prime Minister of the Chief Justice concerning the process of the appointment of Justice Nadon to the Supreme Court. This incident may be a symptom of a deteriorating public confidence in the administration of justice. Given the importance of public confidence in the justice system, Benchers will reflect on whether the Law Society has a role in addressing this larger issue.
I believe that as leaders in the legal profession, we have a role to play in looking at solutions to these issues. We can demonstrate our leadership by inviting participation, encouraging dialogue, listening to all points of view and developing a clear direction for the Law Society as we address the issues that face us today.