The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society is committed to enhancing the access of all Nova Scotians to both the justice system and legal services across the province. It conducts this work through the Equity Program, committees and working groups, and a number of justice sector initiatives and partnerships.
Justice sector liaison
The Society plays a significant role in facilitating and maintaining communication with the courts, the provincial Departments of Justice, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and others, to effect ongoing improvements in the administration of justice. A number of liaison committees meet regularly and report to Council through the Executive Director.
The Society’s Officers also meet through the year with representatives of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), the judiciary, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, the Public Prosecution Service, Schulich School of Law, the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia, AJEFNE, county Bar associations and others.
The focus of this liaison work is on matters that will benefit the public, by ensuring that lawyers are better able to serve their clients. Each discussion affords an opportunity to learn about the priorities and issues facing other organizations and how the Society might benefit from or assist in their work. The collaborative efforts also aim to improve the processes used to develop, enact and amend primary and secondary legislation.
Access through diversity
Access to justice is also accomplished through a justice system that reflects the diversity of the public it serves, and by ensuring legal information is accessible to diverse groups; this has long been a priority for the Society through the work of its Equity Program.
Cultural competence education for lawyers is ongoing, as well as legal information workshops for newcomers, African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq and other equity-seeking communities. A law reform project is developing more inclusive language for legal documents and terminology, to describe couples and families in ways that don’t exclude same-sex unions. Recruitment and retention efforts to increase diversity within the legal profession include a bridging program for internationally trained lawyers and a revitalized employment equity strategy, to name a few.
The Racial Equity Committee monitors and provides advice about programs that address issues of racism and discrimination in the legal profession and in relation to access to justice, including programs to increase access to the legal profession. The Gender Equity Committee similarly supports Council in the governance of the Society by monitoring and providing advice about matters that address issues of gender in the legal profession.
See Committees for a complete list of the Society’s committees and working groups, as well as their terms of reference, work plans and progress reports. The work of these committees benefits from many hours of volunteer leadership and participation by lawyers who are committed to advancing and improving the justice system.
The Society is engaged in similar dialogue at the national level, through the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, which is working to improve access to legal services, and with groups such as the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice and the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.