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Digitising Civil Justice in England and Wales

Digitising Civil Justice in England and Wales

What advice would you give to someone seeking to set up a similar ODR platform in England and Wales?

 

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I think it’s a tricky balance between having to lead change and especially, as the role is for government, I think, in this area, to lead justice reform. But also make sure that you’re not leaving people too far behind.

 

The change-management part of it, I think, is so important, it’s so key because you want to develop a collective sense of what the problem is and why you’re trying to address it. Then you can move into the solution, whatever form that may take. But definitely talking to different people.

 

Talking to groups who are currently marginalized by the justice system, talking to legal actors, but not only talking to legal actors. I think, often, when we talk about justice reform, we maybe consults lawyers, we consult judges, and that’s really important. But we forget, sometimes, to consult, people who have engaged with the system in the past. People who have specific barriers to engaging in that system.

 

If we’re trying to reform the justice system, you need to go to the people who are most impacted by it. That would be my suggestion. Try to strike that careful balance between bringing people along, holding them by the hand, reassuring them that you’re not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. But trying to inspire them with the vision of how things could be.

 

I think, particularly in the legal community, there can be a concern if government is trying to change the process that they’re, somehow trying to undermine the process and it’s important to explain, I think, that, especially in the CRT’s example, principles like the rule of law or procedural fairness, those are so foundational to everything that we do. That has been the collective product of hundreds of years of the common law and our attachment to precedent.

 

But our attachment to precedent, as lawyers, can become really unhealthy when it stops us from considering changes to process. When I talk to groups of lawyers, I try to really get them to separate in their minds, for a moment, the principles, that are so foundational to our justice system, from the process that gives it back to them.

 

If we could be a little bit more open minded about the process, and we can reassure people that we still care about the principles. Then, I think, there’s an opportunity to say, ”If we were to just start from scratch now, how would we build these structures that give effect to these principles? Would it be a brick and mortar building all the time? Or would it look a little bit different?”.

 

You have to work with the courts to do that, you have to work with lawyers, but it’s really important to really go to the public and not be paternalistic and learn from their experience with the justice system. It’s a rather longwinded answer but it’s a complicated problem.

About the mediator

Shannon Salter Profile Pic

Shannon Salter is the Chair of the Civil Resolution Tribunal and has a longstanding commitment to access to justice, particularly in the context of administrative tribunals. An active provider of pro bono legal advice and representation through her career, Shannon is also adjunct professor of administrative law at the UBC Faculty of Law, a commissioner of the Financial Institutions Commission and vice president of the British Columbia Council ... View Mediator