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Strategic Priorities and Initiatives

Strategic Priorities

Following the election of our new board of directors (known also as Convocation) in 2019, the Law Society established four key objectives to guide and direct its strategic agenda for the 2019–2023 board term. They are:

  1. proportionate regulation
  2. scope of regulation
  3. competence and quality of service
  4. access to justice. 

The Law Society is pursuing these objectives in tandem with our core operational priorities. You can read more about our most recent accomplishments in the Strategic Initiatives section (below) and the Key Trends and Financials section of this report.


Strategic Initiatives

Competence

Why it’s important:
Professional competence is an integral part of the Law Society’s mandate to regulate in the public interest — and it is essential that we continually enhance opportunities, and develop new ones, to support our members in strengthening their skills and knowledge base in order to best serve Ontarians.

  • What we did:
    • The Coach and Advisor Network (CAN) matched 654 coaches and advisors with members who requested support. Advisor engagements increased by almost 30 per cent over 2019. CAN also recruited 103 new volunteers — a 50 per cent increase from 2019. Access to coaches and advisors was enhanced through the creation of a CAN Volunteer Roster web page, and processes were modified to pre-confirm volunteer availability to ensure timely matches.

    • The Competence Task Force was established to examine the Law Society’s regulatory approaches to ensuring and improving career-long member competence. It is examining the principles and rationales for regulating post-licensure competence and studying potential approaches in order to identify the most appropriate regulatory tools. The task force’s objective is to recommend an effective, proportionate, and balanced regulatory framework that protects the public interest and is responsive to the public’s legal needs.

    • The Legal Information and Resource Network (LiRN) supports Ontario county law libraries to help meet the evolving needs of library users. In its first full year, LiRN’s new board established key governance and financial policies and brought on a managing director. Under the guidance of the board and managing director, LiRN established and began a strategic planning process, including several data collection initiatives.

    • The Practice Management Helpline (PMH) responded to members’ needs by developing and updating over 70 new resources to address new practice management challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including the creation of a best practices guide and checklist to support remote commissioning, banking technology FAQs, and FAQs to support the launch of CaseLines, the new cloud-based document sharing system for the Superior Court of Justice. Page views of the new resources reached 170,000. The PMH was a vital resource during the pandemic, answering close to 10,000 calls from lawyers and paralegals in 2020, a 15 per cent increase from 2019.

Access to Justice

Why it’s important:
It is critical that all Ontarians have fair and equal access to the justice system. Many individuals, especially those with modest means, have limited or no ability to access the help they need to address their legal issues. Facilitating access to justice in Ontario is part of the Law Society’s statutory obligations and we continue to collaborate with our justice system partners to support initiatives and programs that enhance access for everyone.

  • What we did:
    • As part of the Family Law Action Plan to increase access to justice in family law, the Law Society held a call for comment on a proposed model for a family legal services provider licence. The licence would permit appropriately trained paralegals to provide some legal services in family law. The Law Society also offered a continuing professional development program: Unbundling Legal Services for Family Lawyers. With unbundled legal services, a client can retain a lawyer or paralegal for assistance on just part of a legal matter, to help limit costs. 

    • The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) celebrated Ontario’s fifth annual Access to Justice Week by hosting five events with a series of awareness-building programs. Held virtually, the programs focused on the impacts of COVID-19 on the legal professions, the justice sector, public legal education and mental health, as well as Indigenous and language rights. There were over 60 speakers and 1,500 participants. TAG also launched the Research Community of Practice in July 2020 to facilitate collaborative research and knowledge and data sharing within the justice sector.

    • The components of a new Contingency Fee Regime were finalized in 2020 with amendments to the lawyer and paralegal conduct rules and the paralegal guidelines. The Solicitors’ Act was also amended and a new regulation, requiring the use of a standard form Contingency Fee Agreement, was adopted. The new regime, which comes into effect July 1, 2021, enhances consumer protection, improves transparency and fairness for clients, and facilitates access to justice.

    • The Technology Task Force continued to consider innovative methods of delivering legal services through technology, including legal technology tools, and options which could potentially permit innovative legal tech products, services, and delivery mechanisms to operate conditionally under the Law Society’s regulatory supervision. 

Equity Initiatives

Why it’s important:
The Law Society seeks to ensure that both the law and the practice of law are reflective of all the peoples of Ontario, including Indigenous peoples, Francophones and equity-seeking communities. The Law Society also works to ensure that its workplace and the legal professions are free of harassment and discrimination.

  • What we did:
    • As part of its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) initiatives, the Law Society developed a toolkit to assist legal workplaces in designing and delivering their own continuing professional development program, pre-accredited for EDI Professionalism Hours. The toolkit consists of a facilitator’s guide, participant’s guide and bibliography.

    • The Law Society pivoted in 2020 to deliver its Equity Legal Education Series virtually. For the last half of the year, all events were organized and held online with presenters and attendees participating from across Ontario. In all, we held six events, with a total of over 3,000 attendees.  

Terms or Concepts Explained