You don’t have to look very far to see that platforms are dominating the Internet. Just look at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Uber, and PayPal. Twenty years ago none of these companies existed.
Unlike those technology companies, the Law Society of Upper Canada has been around since 1797. The motto of the Law Society is “Let Right Prevail.” On its website, the Law Society states it “has a duty to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.”
Currently, the Law Society connects members of the public to lawyers through its inadequate, little known Law Society Referral Service.
How can the Law Society facilitate access to justice if it fails to seamlessly connect members of the public to lawyers AND lawyers to each other?
The Law Society needs to initiate change before change is thrust upon it, like in the taxi industry. The cab companies could have created a platform years before Uber did. However, complacency, government protection, and arrogance kept the industry stagnated. These same forces lull the Law Society into a false sense of security.
As Justice Brown said in Bank of Montreal v Faibish, “how many wake-up calls do the legal profession and the court system need before both look around and discover that they have become irrelevant museum pieces?”
It is only a matter time before we begin to see some sort of platform that successfully connects legal consumers to lawyers gain traction. Perhaps this platform looks like LinkedIn meets Uber.
It is not too late for the Law Society to take control and hire computer developers. The Law Society should not waste time with years of consultations. Instead, they should use the design-thinking method to create a program that easily connects people to vetted Ontario lawyers. All of the hassles attached to using the current Service need to be removed. The profits from this new service can even go towards funding other equity initiatives.
The Law Society is uniquely positioned to create and deliver an excellent platform. They have the financial resources, political clout, and database to create this platform. And not only can it, but it must.
With great power comes great responsibility. The Law Society of Upper Canada must exercise power today to protect the public tomorrow. I highly doubt that the future Uber of the legal world will be so kind.