I believe we are members of a very special profession, but not so special that we can ignore the changes that confront us. The LSO must regulate in a manner which ensures that the profession not only survives, but thrives.
As a child, I listened to my parents discuss their day. Their day as lawyers. I listened as they discussed advocacy, support, navigation, resistance and business.
As I grew, so did the sophistication of my understanding. I started to see that there was a third player in the profession of law. The regulator. I understood that the regulator ensured the protection of the public. I understood that the rules were the nexus between a lawyer’s dealing with other lawyers, the public and their business. I saw that for the most part, those rules and regulations suited the profession. That they were largely responsive to the needs of the public while allowing the profession to have a comprehensive ethical framework that balanced their duties to the court, each other and the public they serve, with the realities of running a business.
Once I entered the practice of law I used the rules to help guide me in ethical practice. I used them to help me navigate difficult interactions with other lawyers and the public. I used them to ensure I was practicing in a manner worthy of the profession. Initially they were sufficient. As time has progressed things have changed drastically in the profession. A new paradigm has emerged largely as a result of incredible advances in technology. With technology came increased access to information for lawyers and the public they serve. A new demand and expectation around the timing and cost of legal services. The question being asked was (and is) why does it take so long and cost so much for lawyers to deliver their services when other professionals have figured out a more effective and efficient way to conduct their affairs. A very important question indeed, and one that needs to be answered. Is the ethical component of a legal professional’s duty so unique and restrictive as to negate the ability to find creative, nimble ways to serve the public and interact with each other. I would argue not.
With the new paradigm and an ability to communicate globally, socially, instantly the reality that the profession is slow to evolve has been brought into sharp relief. Serious gaps in equity exist in the profession and we have only now, haltingly, started to address it. This is not only an issue of human value but one of relevance. If we do not reflect the public we serve, why should they have confidence in us as a profession? Additionally, how can we expect to meet the challenges of the future when we rely of the antiquated structures, attitudes, assumptions and mores of the past? Much work must be done, and done promptly to address the equities and take advantage of the abundance pluralism ubiquitously offers.
In sum, I believe that the legal profession is an integral part of the social contract. We are the corporeal manifestation of that incorporeal concept. Our duties to the public must be defined as they must be protected. The LSO is responsible for that definition and protection. The LSO must take on and tackle the access to justice crisis. The LSO must embrace the changes brought about by technology. The LSO must also undergo a long over-due evolution of identity. The work done at the LSO is central to the profession surviving and thriving in this age of disruption and change. I want to be there to help shape it.