New Accessing Law and Justice Project Aims to Redefine the Practice and Delivery of Legal Services in Quebec

27 May 2019

By Valerie Le Blanc

The Quebec Accessing Law and Justice Project (ADAJ) has launched a new project, known as Hub23, to develop innovative practice and billing models for legal services in the province. Led by ADAJ founder, Professor Pierre Noreau (l’Université de Montréal), and Julie Paquin, associate professor (University of Ottawa’s civil law section), the Hub23 project aims to “draw on the expertise of practitioners involved in the day-to-day practice of law and university researchers from several disciplines (sociologists of organizations, management specialists, accountants, economists and lawyers) to establish models of practices likely to ensure a future for legal practice and true access to professional service for middle-income households.”

Background of the Project

The Hub23 ADAJ project builds upon the Barreau du Quebec’s 2016 report, which outlined the impact of traditional hourly billing on the accessibility of legal services, and a need for a new service delivery model. Results from a 2018 ADAJ survey showed little progress in this regard, with almost 75% of respondents saying existing hourly rates remained too high, pushing more and more people towards self-representation.

The Hub23 project seeks to develop a modern business model for legal services to meet every day client needs and ensure sustainable and fair compensation for lawyers. According to Noreau, some models to consider “include law firm co-operatives, novel fee-for-act pricing schemes and more use of articling students in case work.”

The three-year study is funded by Jolicoeur Lacasse and Mitacs.

The ADAJ and BCLI’s 2017 Study Paper on Financing Litigation

The Hub23 project directly relates to the BCLI’s 2017 Study Paper on Financing Litigation, which explored the traditional and alternative methods litigants use to pay for litigation. Like the focus of the Hub23 project, BCLI’s study highlighted that the cost of litigation remains a significant barrier to accessing the justice system, with many litigants lacking the financial resources to secure advice or ongoing representation from a lawyer.

The study paper reviewed six financing models that emerged both in Canada and internationally:

  • Unbundled legal services;
  • Third-party litigation funding;
  • Alternative fee arrangements;
  • Crowdfunding;
  • Legal expense insurance; and
  • Publicly funded litigation funds.

The study paper also identified 18 opportunities and ideas to consider for structural, systemic or legal change to enhance the use of each financing option in British Columbia. Alternative options explored to mitigate the cost of legal services included litigation budgets, client value adjustments, and new business models.

About the ADAJ

Founded by Professor Noreau, the ADAJ examines the issue of access to justice under 23 separate research hubs, categorized within the following three key research areas:

  • Awareness and Knowledge of Law
    • Hub 1: Self-representation and litigants without counsel
    • Hub 2: Compensation for individuals through class action
    • Hub 3: Accessible dockets
    • Hub 4: Clarity of legislation and contracts
    • Hub 5: Legal education in schools
    • Hub 6: Justice and the media
    • Hub 7: Justice statistics
  • Legal Practices and Accessibility of the Justice System
    • Hub 8: The function of expert opinion in justice
    • Hub 9: Custody in youth protection
    • Hub 10: The state, municipalities and private dispute resolution
    • Hub 11: Practitioners and private dispute prevention and resolution
    • Hub 12: Paperless justice
    • Hub 13: Curatorship and protection regimes
    • Hub 14: Innu youth protection institutions
  • Trust in and Legitimacy of Law and Justice
    • Hub 15: Alternative Measures Program for adults in penal cases
    • Hub 16: Access to justice in detention
    • Hub 17: Rights and freedoms: on the social construction of diversity
    • Hub 18: Measuring access to justice (financial and human costs)
    • Hub 19: Social expectations and awareness of law
    • Hub 20: Controversial practices in law
    • Hub 21: Mental Health and Justice
    • Hub 22: Consumers of financial products and services
    • Hub 23: Practice Models

The ADAJ team is comprised of 34 co-researchers, 7 collaborators and 50 partners from the institutional sector, professional community, community groups (NGOs), and the university community.

For more information on ADAJ, visit its website here.

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