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


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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.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/02/2015 (2964 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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.

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