The Advisory: Volume 10, Issue 2, April 2012

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Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force Conceived as an Access to Justice Strategy

By Frederica Schutz, QC, Bencher and Chair, Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force

Creat ed as an Access to Justice strategy, the Retention and Re-Engagement Task Force has been researching the issues affecting the retention and re-engagement of lawyers in the private practice of law.

The Strategic Directions report of the Law Society’s Access to Justice Committee identified the need for a task force to enhance access to justice for Albertans by developing programs and policies to retain and re-engage lawyers in the private practice of law.

The mandate given to the Task Force is driving its research and policy work towards recommendations which:

  • Support the retention of women lawyers and lawyers from diverse backgrounds in the private practice of law; and
  • Support sole practitioners and small, rural and remote firms.

Through its recommendations, it is expected that programs and policies will improve the availability of lawyers in the delivery of legal services to Albertans.

In June 2011, the Access to Justice Committee adopted a project planning model to guide the Task Force’s work plan. A five-stage approach was adopted that included (1) issue identification, (2) research and information gathering, (3) policy development, (4) a report with recommendations, and (5) implementation.

The issues that the Task Force explored included questions such as:

1. Is there a shortage of lawyers serving Albertans?

2. Is there an attrition of lawyers from the private practice of law? And if so:

  • Who is leaving the practice of law,
  • Why are they leaving,
  • Who are we trying to retain and re-engage, and
  • What would keep or would have kept these lawyers in private practice of law?

To inform its work, the Task Force engaged several research strategies including findings of the Law Society’s exit surveys, analysis of Law Society demographics, and a smaller community lawyer survey.

The Task Force will be summarizing the research outcomes and making specific recommendations to the Benchers.

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