Forty years ago, then Kamloops Bencher Robert B. Hunter, QC, extended an invitation to me and a few other young lawyers to get together and talk about complaints filed with the Law Society. I’ve never forgotten that meeting. Not only was I excited to be included in the conversation, but it gave me insight into the disciplinary matters handled by the Law Society.
When I became a Bencher eight years ago, I started meeting regularly with articled students in Kamloops. Nine times a year we get together to talk about recent discipline decisions. I do this because, in my view, it’s an important topic, and these conversations are helpful to young lawyers. But the benefit is not one sided. I’m always inspired by the perspectives the students bring to the table, and after every meeting I walk away with a sense that they have taught me as much as I have taught them.
Last week, Bencher Nancy Merrill and I met with seven articled students and recent calls in Nanaimo. It was a good opportunity to talk to them about their careers, and to canvass their thoughts on access to justice and the future of the legal profession.
They spoke eloquently on the issue of access. They are passionate about wanting to help people solve their legal problems, but they expressed concern that the current cost of legal services was beyond the reach of many who need help. And while firms provide pro bono services, they noted that it is not enough, and there continues to be an unmet need. They recognized that opening the field to other categories of legal service providers could mean less work for some lawyers, but that did not seem to concern them. They welcomed the idea of liberalizing the marketplace to allow other properly credentialed and qualified persons to practice law in areas of unmet need.
Also interesting were their comments on designated paralegals. After the 2012 Rule changes that increased the scope of the work paralegals could do, they expected to see more paralegals working in these new areas. But, in their experience, this hasn’t happened. I’m most interested to find out if this is true in other areas of BC as well. There may be an opportunity to encourage greater uptake of the increased scope of work that paralegals can do.
We had a great meeting with these bright, enthusiastic, innovative people. I can see that the future of the profession is in good hands. They instinctively know that we must be guided by the public interest in the work we do and clearly, they have an appetite to ensure everyone has the appropriate level of access to the legal profession.