Monday, February 23, 2015

There's a new sheriff in town ..... old boys everybody stay calm!

Good Day Readers:

Law societies and the Canadian Judicial Council are under increasing pressure these days to fix their broken/flawed business models that define how complaints are managed due in large part to a lack of meaningful layperson (you know the great unwashed taxpaying masses who get stuck with the bills) involvement. They're still seen, and rightly so, as organizations of lawyers, by lawyers and for lawyers. In the case of the CJC it called for written submissions from anyone with a interest and is scheduled to release it's long awaited recommendations. More layperson involvement is expected to top the list. Ms Dangerfield would do well to follow suit.

CyberSmokeBlog's Recommendations for "The Sheriff"

1. Beware the creeping old boys network

She's been at the LSM long enough to know where the closets filled with skeletons reside and the land mines are buried. Students of law societies will tell you the real power is to be found in its various committees. Prior to her successor Allan Fineblit becoming CEO in 1998, veteran lawyers will tell you it was very much an old boy's network.


Mr. Fineblitt did much to dismantle it. "Sheriff's" biggest challenge could well be that it makes a comeback and hijacks her agenda. She'd do well to keep in mind the two guiding principles of Organizational Behaviour 101 - always watch your back and always have backup.

A slightly frazzled lookingKristin Dangerfield in 1998 before the makeover. She was largely the point person for the Manitoba Law Society that came under heavy criticism. Although the rumours were rampant and wide spread about the late Jack King posting nude photographs of his wife (Lori Douglas) the LSM did nothing because it had received no formal complaint. Here at CyberSmokeBlog we affectionately like to refer to her as "Blanche."

2. Re-educate yourself on self-reps

"Another major issue is the growing numbers of people who choose to represent themselves in court. Not only are they likely doing themselves a disservice from a representation point of view, they are also causing largely unnecessary delays down the line because they're unaware of how the legal system and various procedures work."

You need to familiarize yourself with the work of University of Windsor Law Professor Dr. Julie Macfarland. Her research and effort on behalf of self-reps over the past three years or so has been leading edge and ground breaking. CSB recommends if you and your staff haven't already subscribed to her regular newsletter (free) you do so (The National Self-Represented Litigants Project).

3. Begin a review of The Legal Profession Act of Manitoba especially section 79 (1) and (2)

4. Section 79(1) and (2) need to be clarified

A couple weeks ago CyberSmokeBlog attended a disciplinary hearing at which the Chair of the three member panel went to great lengths to advise the public of 79. They also noted that any witnesses who were former clients of the accused also not be identified. Where is that covered in Section 79? The Law Society of Manitoba needs to spell out in much greater detail precisely what can be reported at its disciplinary hearings.

This section provides for up to a $2,000 fine and or 6-months in jail for any individual to identifies an accused lawyer prior to a finding of misconduct - $10,000 for a mainstream news outlet. That's totally unnecessary and draconian. The 6-month possible jail sentence moves it into the realm of a criminal offence.

5. Initiate a top down bottom up review of the Manitoba Law Society

Law Societies like the Canadian Judicial Council are widely viewed, and rightly so, as organizations of lawyers, by lawyers and for lawyers. As such they are monopolies. Where is the meaningful layperson involvement in the disciplinary process? There is none.

Good Luck Sherrff!

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

Law Society CEO set to tackle access-to-justice issues

By Geoff Kirbyson
Saturday, February 7, 2015

Kris Dangerfield is the new CEO of the Law Society of Manitoba. (John Woods/Winnipeg Free Press)

There's a new sheriff at the helm of the Law Society of Manitoba, but she doesn't need to worry about learning a new route to work.

"I had to turn left when I walked in the door instead of right," said Kris Dangerfield, who has taken over as CEO of the legal profession's regulator in the province after years as its senior general counsel.

She has replaced longtime CEO Allan Fineblit, who resigned last fall to return to private practice at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman.

Dangerfield, who worked in private practice for more than a decade before joining the Law Society in 1998, is well-versed in the issues that will be coming across her desk.

In her previous role, she was responsible for discipline, including prosecuting lawyers for professional misconduct or incompetence and providing legal advice to various committees or the CEO.

"I find the regulation of the legal profession to be incredibly interesting and there's a very broad range of issues to deal with. (The CEO role) gave me an opportunity after being here for 17 years to tackle some new issues that I hadn't been engaged in and to look at things from a different perspective from the other side of the office," she said.

The biggest challenges facing Dangerfield and regulators across the country are globalization, the constantly changing legal landscape and access to justice, she said.

For example, she said there are far too many people whose income levels are too high to qualify for legal aid, yet too low to be able to afford their own lawyer.

It's the Law Society's job to come up with solutions, which could include lawyers forming partnerships with other professionals, such as psychologists or accountants, so a broader range of services can be provided to the public at a reasonable cost.

Another major issue is the growing number of people who choose to represent themselves in court. Not only are they likely doing themselves a disservice from a representation point of view, they are also causing largely unnecessary delays down the line because they're unaware of how the legal system and various procedures work.

"Eighty-five per cent of (legal) duties that could be handled by a lawyer aren't," she said.

"Everything takes much longer. Something that ordinarily would take one or two days might take a week or two. That can be very challenging for the courts and the profession."

Regulation gets even trickier when dealing with online legal resources, such as Legal Zoom, which continue to grow in popularity and are based in other jurisdictions, she said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2015 A12

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