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    October 20th, 2014

    ♫ Our contribution to the revolution…♫

    Lyrics and Music by Michael Jacobs and Patrick Regan, recorded and Created by Lucent Technologies Public Relations (2000) (this has got to be the geekiest music video I have ever seen!)


    roger smith

    Roger Smith

    This is a guest post from Richard Zorza on his blog: Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog.  It is a very thoughtful piece about innovation here in British Columbia by the Legal Services Society when faced by massive budget cuts, as compared to what has been done elsewhere (such as the UK) when faced with a similar situation.  This blog post follows Roger Smith’s recent visit to us here in BC (where I was fortunate enough to have a fascinating lunch with Roger and others at the LSS offices) and Roger’s own blog post (mentioned herein) on this topic.  Hat tip to Erin Shaw, a lawyer who has an extensive background in policy analysis, dispute resolution and justice and law reform, for pointing this post to me this last friday in Victoria!  This post is reproduced with the kind permission of the author.

    I want to draw your attention to a blog post by the UK’s wonderful Roger Smith contrasting the BC and UK approach to cutting, and response to cuts in, legal aid budgets.  His essential point is that the BC cuts, while apparently just as draconian, were structured to allow for flexibility and innovation, and the challenges were  approached in that spirit.

    A couple of paras of contrast from the post:

    The crucial difference between our [UK] position and that of BC is that, unlike by Chris Grayling and the Legal Aid Administration, cuts were not seen as an end in themselves. Yes, the government wanted blood but, provided legal aid could work within a reduced budget, then its administration was left free to do the best that it could. At first, the extent of the slaughter left little wriggle room and lawyers still argue that they should have been the first beneficiaries of any discretionary cash. But, the Legal Services Society, the legal aid administrator, has gradually sought to re-engineer its purpose as not only to provide representation in core cases but to deliver self help and advice designed to assist people to resolve legal problems on their own.

    The difference a decade after BC’s cuts is that I have come all the way to Vancouver to see the brilliant work that the Legal Services Society, the Justice Education Society and the Courhouse Libraries are providing in digital delivery to those on low incomes. Google, families, (soon to be for a host of cutting edge provision in the province. Even the Ministry of Justice is joining in. Legislation in 2012 allows the funding of an online small claims court, the civil resolution tribunal, which will come on stream next year. Try even to file an electronic document in our own dear courts. No chance. No imagination. No innovation. Just a Minister and a Ministry shorn of any interest save in reducing expenditure. Cuts, Mr Grayling, are the easy part. Making sense – or even the best – of them takes imagination and innovation. Get on a plane; meet your BC counterparts and be appropriately humble about your government’s limited imagination and barren approach to policy.

    In some ways, the cuts in these jurisdictions put them roughly where the US is now.  So the question is whether we approach digging ourselves out of the access crisis with the same creativity.  Or are we only nibbling at the edge of change.  Inevitably, in the US the answer is “it depends” usually on the state and on the quality of leadership in the state.  But I fear that our fragmentation means that we lack national leadership on things like a broad roll-out of self-help centers, forms, unbundling, and the other elements of the continuum of services, and all the quality and cost benefits that would come from national strategies.  An exception is special kudos to LSC, Pro Bono Net and others for creating a near-national network of websites (although all would agree that the integration could go much further particularly on the marketing/partnering end.)

    I hope that we as delivery innovators never forget that there will always be cases in which lawyers are needed — even as we work through simplification and innovation in both community based and court-based legal aid to reduce that percentage.  But I also urge right to counsel folks not to forget that explicitly or implicitly taking the position that lawyers are always needed makes their proposals far more expensive and both politically and legally much more likely to build resistance.  It’s an interesting question how the recent Boston Bar (article) (Report) and Maryland Right to Counsel reports deal with this challenge.

    The key, of course, is triage and the key to the politics of a solution to the differences in perspective is common research and understanding about triage.

    p.s. There is a newly updated website on right to counsel developments, including an interactive map, recently launched by the Coalition.

    I hope you have enjoyed this little contribution to the revolution!  Thanks Roger, Richard and Erin!

    This entry was posted on Monday, October 20th, 2014 at 6:00 am and is filed under Adding Value, Change Management, Firm Governance, Issues facing Law Firms, Law Firm Strategy, Leadership and Strategic Planning, Technology, Tips, Trends. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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