Law: A culture of change
Author: Dale Lloyd
Published in Cur Ad Vult June 2019
Reading Jo Hambleton’s article on law in the time of Dickens encouraged me to reflect, and to look forward, at the social rules that govern human society. Richard Susskind in Tomorrow’s Lawyers describes law as “one of humanity’s most remarkable and sophisticated constructs, a comprehensive system of knowledge that provides a framework for human order and behaviour”.
So then, who are we that work in the area of the rules that govern our society in New Zealand, and what does looking forward suggest for law in our time. The Snapshot of the Profession in 2019, published in Law Talk March 2019 provided a very good analysis of the demographic of the 14,333 holders of Practising Certificates. Queenstown where I am based was recorded as having 94 lawyers, 48.9% of whom had been in practice for less than 10 years.
I recently had the good fortune of attending the NZLS Culture and Systems Change Symposium. I came away with the abiding desire to tell our stories, and celebrate our stories. As a profession many of us make our skills available to our communities. The young lawyers I meet are deeply committed to giving to and helping the communities with which they engage.
Access to Justice has many guises, not the least of which arise in those areas blessed with circuit courts. How best can we lawyers assist those we represent to have their disputes resolved? There are fewer civil cases being resolved – and the costs of resolution are increasing. Research out of the Otago Legal Issues Centre has brought into sharp focus the costs of resolving disputes – and the delay that is endemic.
The business of law faces the usual challenges and opportunities faced by business – the consumers desire for more product for less cost; the concept of liberalisation (of where provides legal services); and the impact that technology has had, and will continue have.
It is this last, technology, that is currently facilitating greater access to justice. The use of AVL is gaining traction – it is used in criminal courts particularly for bail hearings. In the civil jurisdiction we have long used AVL for list courts. On-line dispute resolution is a growing (and it appears necessary) facility. So, what are the possibilities?
Being of the age where I still have to look at the remote when changing channels (we all still do that right?) I question how and in what ways I am constrained when thinking about the possibilities. Could AVL be extended to provide a court along the lines of E-Duty? Or is that simply linear thinking and not making the most of the opportunities? As someone who has been in practice for more than 10 years, I am hopeful that those in the less than 10-year group, who will soon make up the greater number in Queenstown, will lead the charge in how we might utilise technology in the practice of law. Let’s tell those stories.