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The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 4, October 2010


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Developing Strategies for Retention and Re-Engagement of Lawyers

By Sarah J. King D’Souza, QC, Bencher and Chair, Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force, Law Society of Alberta

THE RETENTION and Re-Engagement Task Force has commenced its work to identify the issues and to develop a strategy to retain and re-engage lawyers in the private practice of law.

I invite lawyers to share their stories and provide their thoughts to inform the Task Force on lawyer retention and re-engagement in the legal profession in Alberta. You are welcome to email me at sking@flo.legalaid.ab.ca.

Access to justice for many Albertans means access to legal services of different kinds and in varying areas of law. The recent Ipsos Reid General Consumer Survey on legal service usage and attitudes undertaken by the Alternate Delivery of Legal Services Committee indicates that a large majority (90%) of Albertans are very or somewhat likely in future to hire a lawyer for serious legal problems.

Who are Albertans using as their lawyers? The Ipsos survey indicated the following:

  • 82% of Respondents find a lawyer within their immediate community or city/town/ region.
  • 72% of Respondents sought assistance from a lawyer in a firm of less than nine lawyers (14% of Respondents sought assistance from a sole practitioner).

What can the Law Society of Alberta do to ensure that there continues to be lawyers in communities across Alberta who can provide legal services to individual Albertans?

We hear that rural law firms have difficulty hiring students-at-law and retaining new lawyers in their communities. Some lawyers are leaving active practice early in their legal career for various reasons. Research from other Canadian jurisdictions suggest that clients want lawyers who reflect their demographics and are located in their local communities.

A recent report for the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ornstein, April, 2010) indicates that in Ontario the number of lawyers who are women, Aboriginal and members of a visible minority continues to grow. The report predicts that the future will bring an increasingly diverse legal profession.

What might be happening in Alberta? There is concern that the attrition of lawyers from private practice creates gaps in the provision of legal services and access to justice for Albertans. We do not fully understand all the reasons why lawyers are leaving active practice in Alberta.

The Task Force is tasked with considering what might retain and re-engage lawyers in active private practice and with developing strategies the Law Society could adopt in this regard. I look forward to hearing from you (sking@flo.legalaid.ab.ca).

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