In the spring of 2020, Canada’s legal system seemingly changed overnight, with the majority of court appearances moving online. Today, most courts across Canada have transitioned many proceedings back to the courthouse. However, Chief Justice Richard Wagner of the Supreme Court of Canada recently cautioned that the Canadian legal system must continue to modernize its processes going forward to avoid aggravating existing case backlogs.
Remote hearings important step to reducing backlog, case delays: Chief Justice
As the Globe and Mail reported, Chief Justice Wagner confirmed that the Supreme Court continues to encourage the use of remote hearings. The Supreme Court began hearing cases via video conference and hybrid remote/in-person sessions in 2020.
To encourage the continued modernization of Canadian court operations, a Supreme Court committee has compiled practical suggestions for judges and court administrators to avoid case backlogs and delays.
Use of technology supports access to justice
In his remarks on June 16, Chief Justice Wagner emphasized the critical role technology plays in facilitating access to justice. He described access to justice as “a basic human need and an essential ingredient of democracy” and not just a fundamental right.
The Chief Justice lauded audio/video technology and digital documents as measures that “level the playing field” for all parties. He stated that this convenience particularly benefits interveners and public interest groups who offer the court valuable insight on complicated legal matters.
“Truly, it does not matter if counsel is standing before [a court] or appearing on screen. Strong, well-reasoned and persuasive arguments can be made from anywhere.”
Innovation reduces cost, risk for clients outside urban centres
Adopting video conferencing and digital document filing systems offers considerable cost savings to clients. Being able to attend at least some of their case’s court appearances remotely decreases transportation expenses and document reproduction charges. In a press conference protesting an Ontario court directive to return to in-person family law court appearances, family lawyers cited reduced legal fees, gas, parking, childcare, and time away from work as benefits clients receive through virtual hearing processes.
Clients in rural or remote communities are also spared the need to travel during dangerously adverse weather conditions. Ontario lawyer Ram Shankar noted that lawyers may stop accepting Legal Aid cases as funding does not always cover lawyer transportation to rural areas. “Ultimately,” he warned, “the poor and disadvantaged sections of society will be the ones to suffer.”
Provincial judges have also praised the efficiencies and cost savings that technology offers clients. In a 2021 decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice Myers acknowledged the limitations of virtual proceedings – such as a loss of decorum and potential for abuse – but emphasized that these evolutions can create positive long-term change:
“I do not accept that the pandemic is over so we should all just go back to the way it was. That assumes that the ‘good old days’ were actually good.”
Lawyer-client relationship not necessarily sacrificed by embracing virtual service provision
Outside the courtroom, everyday legal assistance is enhanced by departing from rigid, traditional methods of service provision. Some Canadian law firms have expanded their meeting options to correspond to clients’ medical needs, pandemic-related comfort levels, and work schedules.
While a common criticism of technology is the potential loss of a “human touch”, the lawyer-client relationship can be enhanced by embracing hybrid service models. Clients receive the benefit of increased access to their lawyers, regardless of circumstance or location. Offering a variety of consultation methods, including video conferencing, ensures clients are not delayed in receiving timely, accessible legal advice.
Flexibility and adaptability key ingredients of quality personal injury legal services
Clients may be particularly vulnerable to mobility and accessibility issues after suffering a serious personal injury. Broken bones, spine issues, joint problems, and other physical ailments can significantly hinder a client’s ability to travel to a law office safely. Emotional and psychological conditions arising from an accident can also impact a client’s comfort and willingness to leave their home. And, of course, a degree of wariness and concern about the ongoing pandemic can be expected from those with chronic health conditions or comprised immune systems.
By adopting flexible meeting options, personal injury lawyers help injured clients and their families preserve their legal rights through timely, accessible advice. Clients can choose to confer with legal counsel in person or online regardless of location, including their homes, a law office, or the hospital.
Recovery from an accident or medical malpractice can be long and creates significant upheaval in the lives of the injured person and their loved ones. Compassionate, high-quality legal services include innovative service methods that accommodate clients’ needs.
Contact Cuming & Gillespie in Calgary for Accessible, Responsive Personal Injury Services
Cuming & Gillespie understands the trauma created by a serious personal injury. Whether arising from medical malpractice, negligence, a motor vehicle accident, or a slip and fall, serious or catastrophic injuries can cause significant disruption to the injured person’s life and financial stability. Our attentive and compassionate personal injury lawyers provide consultations at the hospital, in clients’ homes, on-site in our office, or through video conference (Zoom) to meet each client’s needs and comfort level.
Known for its award-winning legal advice and backed by a quarter-century of experience, Cuming & Gillespie proudly serves clients in Calgary, Edmonton, and throughout Alberta. To schedule a consultation, contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555 (toll-free at 1-800-682-2480).