The Advisory: Volume 9, Issue 2, August 2011

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Task Force to Recommend Initiatives leading to the Retention and Re-Engagement of Lawyers

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

THE RETENTION and Re-Engagement Task Force is developing a project plan to achieve a strategic goal of increasing the availability and diversity of legal services to the Alberta public by retaining and re-engaging lawyers who provide legal services to the public. This goal was passed by the Benchers.

This year, the task force undertook an analysis of data that has been collected by the Law Society since 2005. This data has been gathered through an annual exit survey developed for the Law Society in 2004 by Guyn Cooper Research Associates Ltd. as part of a study on equity and diversity in the legal profession.

The current exit survey did not ask questions that might provide insight into regional and rural issues for Albertan lawyers. As a result, and as part of the task force work plan for this year, the Law Society, with the research consultants, developed a short survey for lawyers outside Edmonton and Calgary. The survey was completed by 230 lawyers of whom eight are inactive. The findings of the survey reveal a range of issues or challenges faced by lawyers practising in smaller communities which may contribute to increased attrition, and over time, reduce access to justice for Albertans living in communities with populations of 200,000 or less.

The task force also commissioned an environmental scan including information already collected by the task force to examine work done by other law societies in Canada, U.S., U.K., and Australia in relation to diversity and retention. This research identified various demographic groups that have been targeted for programming initiatives in other jurisdictions, types of initiatives, and has informed the task force of some concepts which may be feasible for the Law Society.

The Law Society has completed a full inventory of its existing programs for retention and re-engagement of lawyers. In order to provide further information to the task force, the Law Society, with the able assistance of its summer student, Brianna Butchart, has extracted data from the Law Society’s internal database. This has resulted in some key findings, such as identifying the impact of some expected trends and connecting this information to other research reviewed by the task force.

The environmental scan, survey and other results will be presented to the Benchers in the Fall 2011. Recommendations will be included for enhancing existing initiatives and implementing new initiatives. These initiatives are intended to lead to the retention and re-engagement of lawyers who provide legal services to the public, and, ultimately, enhance access to justice for Albertans.

I invite lawyers to provide the Retention and Re- Engagement Task Force with feedback.

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