The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 2, April 2010

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Retention and Re-engagement Task Force to Identify Initiatives

By Karen McDougall, Casefinder

The Benchers of the Law Society of Alberta recently adopted a new direction in the Society’s plan to ensure access to legal services in Alberta. A new strategy statement involves three potential ways to increase the availability and diversity of legal help for Albertans by:

  1. continuing the Law Society’s examination of the alternate delivery of legal services (including those by non-lawyers),
  2. promoting diversity and equity in the legal workplace, and
  3. looking at issues surrounding the retention and re-engagement of Alberta lawyers, to ensure sufficient numbers and diversity of available lawyers.

The last component of the strategy, related to the retention and re-engagement of lawyers, is to be the subject of a task force examination. That task force, to be called the Retention and Re-engagement Task Force, will look at two groups of lawyers in particular - women, and those lawyers working in areas currently without adequate legal practitioners, for instance small, rural or remote law areas.

The Law Society routinely monitors movement within the profession and notes movement from active status to some other status. Rod Jerke, QC, Law Society President, confirmed that, based on the numbers, “there is no question that women are leaving the private practice of law in significant numbers.”

Once struck, the new Retention and Re-engagement Task Force will begin a detailed analysis, ultimately identifying initiatives to encourage lawyer retention and re-engagement, and bringing those ideas back to the Benchers.

This new Access to Justice strategy statement responds to a report recently presented by the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee, which identifies various barriers to access to justice and some potential ways to overcome those barriers.

Rod Jerke said that, although this work and the new strategy statement is fresh, it is part of a larger picture, namely the “strategic goal that the Law Society has had for some time, to uphold and preserve the fundamental principles of justice including effective and equal access to justice and [the promotion of] equity and diversity in the legal profession”.

Other Initiatives already in place in support of this goal include the 2007 launch of Pro Bono Law Alberta. Introduced in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Alberta’s Law Society. The mandate of Pro Bono Law Alberta is to create opportunities for Alberta lawyers to provide free services to those of limited means.

Karen McDougall is a Principal in Casefinder which is a firm providing writing and research services to other Alberta lawyers. She is coauthor of a case book for Carswell, “The 2010 Annotated Alberta Family Law Act”, and author of the “Alberta Family Law Annotated Legislation”. She is the Alberta correspondent for The Lawyers Weekly.

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