Changes At Bakerlaw
- July 29, 2020
- David Baker
Bakerlaw is pleased to announce that it has been growing, regionalizing and adding new leadership.
Starting today it begins a second stage to the achievement of these goals, projected to extend over the coming year that will include the addition of experienced litigators, the launching of an access to justice initiative and working collaboratively to establish a law and policy centre that will be involved in research, international consulting and graduate level education.
Kim Srivastava, formerly senior associate at bakerlaw, becomes the firm’s first managing partner effective today. In addition to continuing her outstanding litigation work Kim will assume:
- Day to day management of the firm;
- Lead the recruitment and supervision of new lawyers, paralegals, legal assistants and students;
- Head professional development and legal research within the firm;
- Lead the firm’s public legal education and website development;
- Involvement in client intake; and
- Implementation of the firm’s access to justice and unbundled legal services initiative.
Long before COVID bakerlaw was moving to enhance client service by regionalizing and increase efficiency by increasing the number of staff who will be working remotely.
Bakerlaw now has a base in Ottawa [Laura Lepine] and London [Kim Srivastava] Ontario. Additional office outside Toronto will be added in due course.
Litigation by teleconference and videoconference, along with electronic service and legal documents occasioned by COVID is making justice faster and more affordable. Lawyers, clients and witnesses can participate remotely creating huge savings. Courts and Tribunals should move forward with these innovations, rather than reverting back to the costly and ponderous methods of the past.
Bakerlaw has a core staff of lawyers, a paralegal, legal assistant and administrator. Over the past year growth has been achieved by involving associate lawyers, such as Sujit Choudhry, Amanda Dimilta and Mark Donald in counsel or co-counsel capacities. This has not only increased capacity, but deepened and diversified it in areas such as civil litigation, education law, judicial review and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
With the addition of experienced litigators over the next year, it is anticipated bakerlaw will resume its hiring of articling students and junior associates.
Access to Justice Initiative
David Baker taught courses in disability rights and access to justice for many years as an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. When bakerlaw was established in 2001 it chose “accessible justice” as its credo.
Corporations, the wealthy and persons with cases that assure a favourable financial outcome have always been well served within our legal system, arguably disproportionately so. Others often end up self-representing themselves.
Bakerlaw will be trying to enhance access to justice for self-represented people by providing more efficient access to the unbundled legal service of consultations with experienced lawyers or paralegals who can advise on law and procedure.
Full accessibility requires equal representation with the privileged. Judges and politicians have pontificated about access for decades, yet we are no closer to this goal than we were forty years ago. When the courts had the chance to restore access in human rights cases they fumbled the ball [See Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission) v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 53 [Mowat]. Justice Coulter Osbourne’s attempt at procedural reform based on proportionality, while promising have ultimately been unsuccessful in their application.
Politicians have been even worse. Bakerlaw’s proposal for a Mowat cost system as part of human rights reform. More recently the current government has cut the Human Rights Legal Support Centre budget. Human rights have never been so inaccessible as they are today. Respondents are represented by counsel. Only a small percentage of applicants are. Not surprisingly human rights jurisprudence has been increasingly disappointing. Human rights matter.
Ontario is blessed to have a Law Reform Commission which has made significant efforts to achieve access; both by reducing the need to hire a lawyer in some areas [eg. Estates] and enhancing access procedures in others, such as class actions. The Commission’s access enhancing recommendations languish unimplemented by politicians. Bakerlaw nevertheless urges the LRC to redouble its access to justice efforts, by submitting proposals for further study and reform. [Link to special education reform proposal]
Over the coming year bakerlaw will attempt to stimulate real change by helping to establish a non-profit institute dedicated in the public interest to procedural and substantive inclusion and accessibility. It will do this by sponsoring post-graduate teaching, cutting edge research and international consulting. Watch for further announcements.