Legal aid applications increased in Ontario for the first time in three years last year, according to Statistics Canada’s annual snapshot of the system.
Following two years of decline, the report showed 350,000 people applied in the 2008-09 fiscal year, up five per cent from the previous year. The pattern was reflected nationwide, with applications up four per cent overall to 780,000.
Legal aid plans spent about $730 million in the period, with Ontario accounting for almost half of the total at $356 million.
Meanwhile, the number of lawyers providing legal aid assistance in Canada sank to about 10,000 from 11,000. The decline is due almost entirely to the drop in the number of private lawyers in Ontario, many of whom stopped work in advance of the official legal aid boycott that began last June, just after the reporting period.
TRANSFORMATION ACCELERATES: REPORT
The recession has transformed the relationship between law firms and their clients as the push for better value and greater efficiency accelerates, according to a report from U.K.-based Eversheds LLP.
The international law firm surveyed 130 general counsel and 80 law firmpartners from around the world to produce the report, which found that78 per cent of respondents believe the economic downturn will have alasting impact on the profession.
Three-quartersof general counsel said they now occupy a far more senior commercialadvisory role in their companies compared to before the recession.Bryan Hughes, chief executive at Eversheds, said that represented a keyshift in power to the client.
“This will prove to be a realshakedown for the legal sector and its workings, and law firms willneed to really prove their worth as in-house teams expand theirexpertise,” he said.
For commentary on this issue, see "Canadian firms should adapt more quickly"
FIRMS LAUDED FOR DIVERSITY
Two of Canada’s largest firms have been named among the country’s top employers for promoting diversity in 2010.
Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP and Stikeman Elliott LLP were among 45 companies honoured by Mediacorp Canada Inc. for programs and policies promoting diversity in the workplace.
Brock Gibson, the chairman of Blakes, is celebrating the firm’s third consecutive year on the list.
“Diversity strengthens the firm and makes it more effective in competing in an international marketplace,” he said.
Stikeman Elliott was singled out by judges for maintaining an in-house diversity committee to review recruitment and career development practices, among other initiatives.
Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP has been recognized for a unique program designed to help internationally trained lawyers find work in Canada.
The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council presented the firm with one of five awards honouring leadership in the recruitment and retention of skilled immigrants at its annual Immigrant Success Awards on Thursday.
FMC won for introducing a six-month paid internship for lawyers trained abroad, the first scheme of its kind in Canada.
Together with the University of Toronto, the firm is now working to expand the program by establishing a bridging program that will help internationally trained lawyers make the transition to employment in Canada.