One month since A2J Triple Aim: Let’s show mediators are walking the walk!

During the event, and shortly after, a flurry of press releases and news articles were published by Vancouver SunThe Lawyer’s Dailyand Slaw, to name a few (a full list can be found at the bottom of this blog post).
 
Ian Mulgrew of Vancouver Sun commended the efforts of the A2J Triple Aim for providing a measurement framework for improving population access to justice, user experience, and costs, but made an all too familiar criticism: “Slogans aside… neither B.C. nor any other jurisdiction seems to be doing a very good job at finding a remedy for this [Access to Justice] disaster that has been a generation in the making.”
 
Mulgrew’s criticism has a point. Evidence is mounting that B.C. is in an Access to Justice crisis, which is precisely why a unifying measurement and goal-setting framework like the A2J Triple Aim is an important step in the right direction; and we believe mediation and collaborative dispute resolution practices are critical parts of the suite of A2J options.

How Mediators “Walk the Walk”

Mediation is, at its core, an access to justice process. Any successful mediation, regardless of a client’s socio-economic status, can increase end-user satisfaction and free up court resources for issues needing judges’ expertise. So long as quality is maintained, mediation is an inevitable improvement to the justice system and a major step to fulfilling at least part of the Triple Aim.
 
In addition to this inherent contribution, tons of you are also passionately going the extra mile and making your services accessible to various populations. Some offer intentionally low rates and others offer pro or low bono services, sliding scale or legal aid mediations. We know many of you are also out there volunteering to raise public awareness and provide resources to those in need. 
 
Finally, as an organization, Mediate BC currently supports several of the components of the Triple Aim (see them listed at the bottom this blog post).  
 
To show mediators are willing to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk,” or to at least gauge how you feel, we would like to hear your thoughts and stories about access to justice. We know mediators are making huge contributions in B.C. and want to be able to back that up with some evidence.
 
We’ve compiled a short 5-question survey. The questions are:
 
1) How important is Access to Justice (A2J) to your collaborative dispute resolution practice? (multiple choice answer)
 
2) What does Access to Justice mean to you as a practitioner(text) 
 
3) What are some key ways you improve access to justice in BC according to the three elements of the A2JBC Triple Aim measurement framework (page 9)? (text)
 
4) What more would you like to see Mediate BC doing to take action? (text)
 
5) Are you a mediator or med-arb practitioner?
 
Let us know what you’re doing to walk the walk!
 

Answer 5 Questions

 

Ways Mediate BC Supports the Triple Aim

Here are some of the ways Mediate BC currently supports various components of the A2J triple aim (on page 9 of this report):

1.2.1 People’s choice of path to justice – by outling various options to people in a conflict, e.g. on our website and by phone/email. 

1.2.2 Legal info and education needs – by providing online and over the phone info, as well as through public education efforts like our annual Conflict Resolution Week.

1.2.5 Need for consensual dispute resolution process – by providing a central place for information and finding mediators.

1.4.4 Public Confidence in social institutions – by having objectively verifiable training & experience requirements, Standards of Conduct and Complaint Process so users can be confident in the Roster Mediators, and thereby raising confidence in mediation as a viable process to resolve their conflict. 

2.2.3 User empowerment – mediation is a process that holds firm on user empowerment and decision making authority remains with the users.

2.3.4 Prevention of conflicts – by providing resources (e.g. Conflict Resolution Virtual Expo) for people to help themselves before a conflict escalades. 

2.4.3 Voice and participation – mediation allows the users to have their voices heard in the process and be able to tell their truths. Meaningful participattion is key to feeling heard. 

Our past projects that have taught us and the dispute resolution community valuable lesons in:

2.1.1 Obstacles to access (distances, technology, affordability) – through the Distance Family Mediation Project, Small Claims ODR Pilot Program, Family Sliding Scale Mediation, and Family Unbundled Legal Services Project.

1.4.6 Justice for Indigenous people – through the Aboriginal Human Rights Project

 

The A2J Triple Aim in the Media

Vancouver Sun

SLAW

The Lawyer’s Daily

The Indo-Canadian Voice

Ming Pao Vancouver

Announcements from the Justice Sector

Access to Justice Research Network

Mental Health Review Board

Chief Justice Robert Bauman

Canadian Bar Association

Provincial Court

People’s Law School

CLEBC

BCLI

Courthouse Libraries

Thompson Rivers University

 

 

Nascent North Vancouver A2J initiative offers Co-Mediation Opportunities

Access to justice means enabling people to avoid, manage, and resolve civil and family legal problems and disputes.[1]  Justice is the cornerstone of a society based on the rule of law. Much has been written about our serious access to justice challenges – an overly complex justice system, long delays, lack of access to affordable and timely legal advice and representation and the lack of adequately funded legal aid.  Report after report has described a justice system that is inaccessible and not responsive to the needs of the people it is intended to serve. Many of these same reports made recommendations for action that were never implemented.  The access to justice challenge has proven to be a complex and frustratingly intractable problem. 

Despite these challenges, many organizations and leaders in our profession continue to work tirelessly to improve access to justice for British Columbians, including, but certainly not limited to:

To truly improve access to justice outcomes, these leaders, organizations, the legal profession and court users will need to work together to effect fundamental systemic and cultural change.  In concrete terms, this will likely look like a simplified, user focussed system, adequate public funding and a multi-disciplinary rather than a purely legal approach.  A system at its essence is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system.[2] One of the hallmarks of all systems, including our justice system, is that they seek homeostasis: trying to keep things stable or the same.  The path to change faces strong headwinds.

Where does this leave the nascent North Shore Pro Bono Society?  Certainly with a humility that one more pro bono legal clinic is but one spoke in a larger wheel.  Lawyers in BC contribute thousands of hours of volunteer time towards pro bono and many other worthy community initiatives.  North Shore Pro Bono Society seeks continue this tradition by serving as a hub to offer North Shore residents of limited means pro bono family mediation and estate planning legal services.   We also plan to offer free public education in the areas of estate administration and representing oneself in court.

Of interest to the dispute resolution community, we seek to at least partially reinstate the worthy example of the Mediate BC practicum programs.  I was lucky to have been able to participate in both the Court Mediation Practicum Program and the Family Mediation Practicum Program, which were key initiatives in enabling me to build foundational mediation skills and obtain the requisite experience to be admitted to the Mediate BC Civil and Family Rosters.  In the current absence of these programs, there is a dearth of opportunities for new mediators to develop real life skills, mentorship from senior mediators and the experience required to be admitted to the Mediate BC Rosters.

North Shore Pro Bono Society’s Co-Mediation Practicum Project seeks to offer training opportunities for newer mediators seeking to obtain the requisite experience to qualify for the Mediate BC Family Roster.  These “Associate Mediators” must commit to at least one, two hour low bono mediation a month, to occur at our premises.  Established mediators are encouraged to apply –  to offer desperately needed family dispute resolution services in our community and to share their valuable wisdom and skills with the next generation of dispute resolution professionals.  Established mediators should already be on the Mediate BC Family Roster and must commit to at least one two hour low bono mediation a month, to occur at our premises. Further information and an application form can be found here: https://northshoreprobono.ca/services/co-mediation-practicum-project/

 

About the Author

 

North Shore Pro Bono Society

Nicole L. Garton, B.A., LL.B., C.Med, TEP, is the Principal of Heritage Law and President of Heritage Trust. View her LinkedIn Profile here: http://www.bcheritagelaw.com/team/nicole-garton/    

 

[1] Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (Ottawa, ON, 2013).

[2] William Edwards Deming, The New Economics: For Industry, Government, Education (MIT Press, 2000) at 50.

Growing a Community of Practice to Enhance Access to Justice

I am honoured to be a part of Mediate BC, and to take on the role of Chair of our Board.  Over the years, Mediate BC has done some really important work to advance dispute resolution and peacemaking in our Province – by managing rosters of qualified mediators, developing new mediators through practicums, offering public education, coordinating programs to deliver conflict resolution services, and playing an active leadership role as strategists and collaborators in various justice service initiatives. And there is so much more for us to do to further our mission of leading, promoting and facilitating collaborative dispute resolution in BC.  When our Board meets in November, we will discuss strategies and next steps to deliver on our mission.  So, stay tuned. As for me, personally, I would like to explore ways we can build greater connection among mediators—old and new—to learn together in a community of practice.  Mediate BC’s mandate is to serve the public interest by promoting high quality, ethical dispute resolution services. We do this, in part, through our Rosters, which require standards for admission and continuing education.  But, we know that mediators, especially those new to the profession, are eager to connect with others in order to develop their skills and knowledge.  There are already organizations in place, like CoRE and the Justice Institute, who are doing great work in training and developing mediators.  Building on this, I would like to deepen our partnerships to further develop a community of practice of mediators – which I see as a means to strengthen the profession as a whole and to ultimately serve the public by providing greater access to quality justice. My invitation to those of you reading this newsletter: send me a brief message at board@mediatebc.com and share your thoughts about:

1) what benefits you would like to receive from a community of practice of mediators; and

2) what efforts you would like to contribute to creating a community of practice.

I look forward to connecting.

About the Author

Lori Charvat is the current Chair of the Mediate BC Board of Directors. In her private practice, she is a Civil Mediator and an executive coach who strives to build better workplaces. Visit her website, Sandbox Consulting, for more information.  

Final Report of Mediate BC’s BC Family Justice Unbundled Legal Services Project

Law Societies in many jurisdictions have formally approved unbundling (also called limited scope legal services) but few lawyers were offering these services to the public. The purpose of Mediate BC’s BC Family Justice Unbundled Legal Services Project (the “Project”) was to find ways to encourage more lawyers to offer these services.

After an 18 month process, I’m pleased to advise that the Project’s final report and the report of the independent evaluation of the Project are now available.

The Project has been highlighted in various Slaw posts during that period including here and Nate Russell’s excellent post here. While the final report details the Project’s activities, observations and deliverables during its 18 month life, the unbundling movement is far from over. In fact, the report acknowledges that, at most, it attempted to nudge an existing movement and that much more still needs to be done.

Unbundling is not the silver bullet for access to justice. However, it is an important piece of the access to justice puzzle. The Project used the term “unbundling” to include “legal coaching” and has collaborated the National Self-represented Litigants Project and Nikki Gershbain who are working to promote that important approach. We also shared information with JP Boyd’s Alberta Limited Legal Services Project.

The Project’s research and engagement phase identified both concerns/barriers and successful practices which led to the creation, in collaboration with others, of four major deliverables:

The Toolkit is open and available to anyone. While it focuses on family matters, the contents were designed to be adaptable to other practice areas. Tools address the major concerns expressed by lawyers: claims and complaints to the Law Society and reputational concerns.

Many lawyers are already providing unbundled legal services, although they may call them something different and, due to their concerns, may refrain from promoting or advertising those services. Unbundled legal services can come in many different forms and in a variety of practice areas. When he first learned about unbundling, one lawyer from the Okanagan was excited to announce that he was providing unbundled services to small claims litigants using a flat fee. We also encountered a number of BC lawyers who are focusing their practices on unbundling in creative and satisfying ways. We hope that the Project results will provide more lawyers with the incentive and reassurance to examine their own practices and consider how they could offer unbundled services to existing or new clients.

The report was also drafted with other change-makers in mind. It includes observations, principles and learnings that were designed to assist those who are supporting unbundling and related initiatives in other jurisdictions.

The Project evolved over time (as is expected when dealing in a complex environment) and focused on some key principles including:

  • Acknowledging that the Project attempted to intervene in a complex (justice) system and that change-making in that environment requires a different approach;
  • Embracing a “learn as you go” approach;
  • Gaining inspiration from other jurisdictions (which were also encouraging unbundling);
  • Collaborating with a wide variety of stakeholders including the public;

The report concludes with observations about unbundling and the change process, a vision for the future and some critical next steps. It urges stakeholders (in particular, the Law Society of BC, CBA BC Branch, Courthouse Libraries of BC and Access to Justice BC) to assume a joint stewardship role to continue to nurture the unbundling movement. The CBABC has already confirmed creation of a new province-wide Unbundled Legal Services section and A2JBC is in the process of forming an Unbundling Working Group. We are optimistic that the momentum created for unbundling will continue.

The Project evaluation report confirms the growing interest of lawyers in unbundled services and tangible support from the BC judiciary (which is encouraging). It also confirms perceived barriers to lawyer involvement plus strategies to address them, all of which were taken into account in designing both the Toolkits and Roster. The evaluation report also points out areas needing further research (including more robust input from clients who have used unbundled legal services). The report concludes with:

Across the board, there was concurrence that there is a crisis of legal affordability and that unbundled legal services are needed as one way to address a lack of access to justice and lack of access to legal services.

It is still early days in this journey and we hope that evaluation activities will continue as unbundling expands.

A key point emerging from both reports is the urgent need for a focused effort to raise public awareness of unbundling. Now that the profession is stepping forward to offer these services we need to let the public know they are available and how to find those who offer them.

We are extremely grateful to the Law Society of BC, the Law Foundation of BC, Courthouse Libraries of BC, CBABC and Mediate BC for their ongoing support (financial and otherwise) of this initiative and to the many other stakeholders who have stepped up to champion unbundling.

Please take a few moments to review the final report and evaluation report and consider how unbundling is or could be a more prominent part of your practice. While my official role in the Project has concluded, I would be happy to receive your thoughts and ideas and to support this important initiative as it moves forward.

[Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on Slaw: Canada’s Online Legal Magazine. Mediate BC is grateful to have been allowed to re-publish Kari Boyle’s post here. See all of Mediate BC’s posts on this project and unbundling.]

 

Kari BoyleKari D. Boyle is the BC Family Unbundling Roster Project Manager. She is also the Coordinator of the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab, a Knowledge Engineer with the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, Board member of the Courthouse Library Society of BC and member of Access to Justice BC. Kari served as Mediate BC’s Executive Director and then Director of Strategic Initiatives for ten years. She enjoys using her legal, mediation and leadership experience to collaborate with others to improve BC citizens’ access to justice.

 

 

Photo by Mari Helin-Tuominen on Unsplash

Family Unbundled Legal Services Project Update

We are working to pass the baton on this exciting initiative to other interested stakeholders, primarily the Courthouse Library Society of BC, Access to Justice BC and the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch. These three, plus the Law Society of BC, the BC Judiciary, the Ministry of Justice, the Law Foundation and others have provided significant leadership, input and support for unbundling over the past year and their continuing efforts will be critical to shepherd this initiative into the future. Thank you!

This is a good opportunity to provide a brief update about the status of the initiative.

First, we are very pleased to advise that on Saturday the CBABC Provincial Council approved the proposal to form a new provincial Unbundled Legal Services Section! We believe that this is the first such section / group in Canada and we are grateful for the CBABC in leading the way in this important initiative! While the section will begin with a focus on family unbundled legal services the intention is that it will service unbundled services in all practice areas. The toolkit materials were created, as much as possible, to be easily adaptable to other areas.

A special thanks to Zahra Jimale who spoke to the resolution on Saturday and who has also agreed to act as the first Chair of the section.

Work is underway to plan a 2017/18 meeting schedule, topics and speakers. Given the provincial nature of this section all meetings will be fully accessible using appropriate technology.

The Executive Officers for the section will be:

  1. Chair: Zahra Jimale
  2. Treasurer: Zahra Jenab
  3. Secretary: Laura Atkinson
  4. Members at large:
    • Robert Gunnarsson
    • Michael Butterfield
    • Polina Furtula
    • Sonali Sharma
    • Rizwana Choudry
    • Kari Boyle

This section is open to all CBABC members. This might be a good time to renew your membership! If you are not yet a CBABC member we will continue to work through the toolkit and otherwise to help you meet your needs for collegiality, peer support, sharing of materials etc. Your thoughts and ideas will be appreciated!

On June 20th, Carol Hickman QC, Jennifer Muller and Kari Boyle led a discussion about unbundling with the Supreme Court Judiciary in Vancouver (with video and telephone links to other locations). Given the increasing number of self-represented litigants in Supreme Court, participants were very interested in learning more about unbundling and provided many excellent comments and suggestions. A brochure explaining unbundling with a link to the Roster is in process.

The Provincial Court website already links to the Roster in numerous places. Chief Justice Bauman has been a strong supporter of unbundling and hosted a Law at Lunch seminar for Court of Appeal Justices in January.

One last note – the external evaluation of the Mediate BC Family Unbundled Legal Services Project will be completed by the end of this month and the evaluation report will be available in July. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to participate in surveys or interviews to support this evaluation.

Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions:  kari.boyle@shaw.ca.

Stay tuned for more information!

 

Kari BoyleKari D. Boyle is the BC Family Unbundling Roster Project Manager. She is also the Coordinator of the BC Family Justice Innovation Lab, a Knowledge Engineer with the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, Board member of the Courthouse Library Society of BC and member of Access to Justice BC. Kari served as Mediate BC’s Executive Director and then Director of Strategic Initiatives for ten years. She enjoys using her legal, mediation and leadership experience to collaborate with others to improve BC citizens’ access to justice.

 

 

Photo by London Scout on Unsplash