CFCJ’s Nicole Aylwin
was joined by fellow CFCJ Research Alliance members Noel Semple
(University of Windsor) and PhD student Andrew Pilliar (University of British Columbia) at the the annual Law and Society meetings
to present papers on a panel dedicated to issues related to access to justice. The panel entitled, “Costs of Justice” featured papers on Indigenous legal needs and access to justice, the usefulness of a “lifecourse perspective” for thinking thorugh access issues, and a presenation on “accessible professionalism”.
“Cost of Justice” Panel Abstract:
Research on access to justice - at the local, national, and international levels - has often noted the conflict between initiatives to improve access and limits to the funding of those initiatives. The papers presented in this panel address this tension in a variety of settings and locations, and seek to push into new conceptualizations and approaches to the "cost of justice". These papers explore conceptual boundaries between cost and justice - including the costs of injustice - in a wide range of sites, including rights of indigenous peoples, how private lawyers manage the costs of providing services, how demands for justice change over the life course, and new findings on the cost of unmet legal needs.
This panel was supported by the SSHRC Community-University Research Alliance Cost of Justice project at the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.
"Conversations on Access to Justice: Aboriginal Legal Needs & Community-Led Policy Making"
Non-Presenting Co-Author: Karolina Wisniewski
, CFCJ Student Research Fellow, Osgoode Hall Law School
Abstract: In July 2013 The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples released the report, "Access to justice in the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples". This report is an example of the way in which traditionally national conversations on access to justice and indigenous peoples have now become global. In this paper we discuss what we know about aboriginal legal needs and how these needs must be interpreted in relation to local and global conversations on human rights, self-determination, and culture and legal pluralism. We suggest that these conversations challenge us to think differently about the costs of providing, and failing to provide, access to justice to First Nations and other aboriginal peoples in Canada and encourage us to support new forms of community-led policy making.
Presenter: Noel Semple
, CFCJ Cost of Justice Research Alliance member,
University of Toronto Faculty of Law
Abstract: Lawyers in private practice are an essential portal between people with legal problems and the just resolutions which law promises. How, and to what extent, do lawyers create access to justice for individuals negotiating with or confronting insurance companies, ex-spouses, landlords, and other non-state parties? What impediments do these private law "personal plight" lawyers encounter in their efforts to provide services to people of modest means? Is there anything that the legal profession and its regulators can do to increase the accessibility of this segment of the bar? To respond to these queries, the author proposes a mixed-method empirical research project with Ontario lawyers. The research goals include advancing knowledge of legal professionalism in action, and creating new insights about how private practice lawyers can facilitate access to justice. At the Conference, I hope to introduce and obtain feedback on my primary research queries. Justice would be more accessible if lawyers' services were more affordable. What factors influence lawyer decisions about how much to charge? How are business management and profitability imperatives reconciled with the professional and personal inclination to help impecunious needy people? Flat rate billing and contingency billing arguably have accessibility advantages over hourly billing; how do lawyers decide between these pricing models? Non-financial impediments to access can also be better understood through empirical research with lawyers. Personal plight legal services might be more accessible if the firms providing them were larger and better-capitalized. Why have small firms and solo practices remained dominant in this sphere? How do lawyers perceive the benefits and drawbacks of aggregating into larger firms? Would they prefer to serve their clients from within the non-lawyer controlled "alternative business structure" firms which are now proliferating in the United Kingdom? Have personal plight lawyers considered or experimented with potentially access-enhancing options such as unbundled legal services, legal process outsourcing, and quantitative legal prediction? Finally, I hope to ask questions about how lawyers perceive marketing and public legal consciousness, and about their experiences of isolation and financial insecurity.
"Law in Lives: Bringing Life Course Perspectives to Access to Justice Research"
Presenter: Andrew Pilliar, CFCJ Cost of Justice Research Alliance member, University of British Columbia
Abstract: What are the future directions for unmet legal needs research? This paper suggests one possible direction, namely attempting to understand unmet legal needs over the life course. Drawing on methods and examples from public health research and elsewhere, a life course perspective on unmet legal needs could prove valuable in understanding how legal problems aggregate and disaggregate across time, and in understanding common trajectories of entanglement with justiciable problems among sub-populations. This approach has important implications for access to justice research. Understanding unmet legal needs over the span of a lifetime will lead to more complex examination of how distribution of legal services – whether by market or other approaches – can effectively address justiciable problems. This approach will also provide more depth and detail to the picture of unmet legal needs by expanding that picture over the course of a lifetime. This more detailed understanding may permit more promising policy responses to access to justice problems. After exploring recent developments in unmet legal need research, this paper will investigate the ideas and methods which underlie a lifecourse research approach before critically assessing the potential for life course perspectives in access to justice research. The paper will also sketch a preliminary research agenda for access to justice research which is informed by a life course approach, and will explore opportunities and challenges for that research agenda, with a particular focus on research in Canada. This research is generously supported by the SSHRC Community-University Research Alliance Cost of Justice project, at the Canadian Forum for Civil Justice.