President says CBA Futures Report More Than “One Year Wonder”

The Legal Futures Initiative report issued by the Canadian Bar Association is a reminder that change in the legal profession is profound, and already underway, the President of the Federation of Law Societies says.

“A significant number of recommendations deal directly with the regulatory environment and are a call to action by the Federation and the law societies” Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard said in her speech to the CBA Legal Conference in St. John’s. “The challenges of change are not something that can be dismissed as a one year wonder. I am certain that the Report will add enormous value to the reflections that the Federation and Canada’s law societies have been addressing for several years.”

The Federation President noted as an example, that the regulation of entities and alternative business structures are already high on the agendas of a number of law societies. “The addition of the CBA’s perspective in the Legal Futures Initiative report will be an important part of the discussion about how law societies can best regulate the profession in the public interest.”

Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard said the Federation and Canada’s law societies have been dealing with change for some time now in a number ways, but one key aspect stands out. “The days are long behind us where regulating the legal profession is simply a provincial or territorial endeavour. It is now a national project.”

She explained that legal regulation in Canada is far different today than it was 10 years ago. In the last decade, all law societies have decided to recognize the credentials, indeed the competence and integrity of every member of the legal profession no matter where in Canada they were first admitted to the bar without any additional training or evaluation.

“So it begs the question, if any lawyer can move anywhere and have his or her licence recognized by any law society, is there any principled reason why the regulation of lawyers should be approached differently from one jurisdiction to the next?”

“The answer to that question, of course, is no, there is no principled reason for any substantial variation in how the public is protected by legal regulators anywhere in Canada” the Federation President added.

“And if you accept that answer, then the next question is how exactly do the law societies ensure there is consistency in legal regulation? We have no illusions. Arriving at consistent approaches with our Canadian federation is hard work.”

At the core of the CBA’s Legal Futures Initiative is the proposition that change in the legal profession is here, and it is profound, Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard added. “All of us, whether members of the profession, legal regulators or legal educators, have to adapt to the times and look forward, rather than to our historical comfort zones.”

The complete text of the speech by Federation President Marie-Claude Bélanger-Richard to the CBA’s Legal Conference is available here. The complete CBA “Legal Futures Initiative” report is available here.