The Power of Necessity

COVID-19 has caused the legal system to move forward a decade.

The legal system has been sometimes described as a “dinosaur”. This is not unfair – we still use faxes. My clients often remark how backwards, slow, and inefficient everything seems as we work through a legal proceeding. As someone who turns off his lights by asking the bulb politely, I agree entirely.

Law is conservative, which means technology is viewed skeptically. The old ways are often seen as best, usually with significant cost consequences to clients. However, this has all changed, rapidly, as a result of the pandemic; courts and lawyers have had to adapt and modernize with great benefits to the client.

One example is is trial scheduling in Toronto. Traditionally, when one wanted a Pre-trial or Trial date in a Civil Lawsuit, one had to attend “trial scheduling court” often informally called “to be spoken to court”. This would involve often upwards of 30 lawyers crammed in a small courtroom, waiting for their case to be called. When called, lawyers often only say a few words – advising the court of the date selected. Each lawyer in that room might be billing time, parking, and travel. Waits of an hour and a half were not uncommon.

While video appearances were tested last year, adoption was slow. Now, thankfully, we can just e-mail a form, or request a scheduled phone/video conference with a judge. Hours have been translated to minutes.

Another example is filing. Last year, in order to file most documents for court use, one had to hire a process server (or wait in line personally) much like one would at Service Ontario. The process server would cost usually around $50. Now, for most documents, I can upload, saving my clients from that cost.

This pandemic has had a devastating impact on Canadians in virtually every facet of our lives – it is not a good thing. But there is a silver lining in that it has forced modernization into a legal system rooted in antiquity. These changes will result in a more efficient, cost effective process that will translate to lower legal costs for clients.