What changes should be made to family law?

These proposals let family law lawyers discuss and vote on what changes they think should be made to the law or court procedures. The results can be viewed and shared with legislators and the Courts. The proposals put forth are written by member lawyers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of this website or its administrators. You can view more proposals or make a proposal yourself.

Proposal: No more emails
Other - Feb 21, 2023

62% in favour out of 13 votes

Anonymous 2017
   Edmonton Region, Alberta

I bet 90% of legal aid cases went over their allotted hours due to voluminous emails that likely did not accomplish much.

Instant communication brings about many efficiencies, but is absolutely awful in the context of highly charged emotional issues, or for people who have difficult times with emotional management.

Plus, it drives up costs for everyone. Counsel can be driven off a file from the sheer amount of messages transmitted. And because the communication is instant, you often get the unfiltered opinions of others that, in the old days, benefited from sober thought when you had to take greater effort to send a letter and lick a stamp.

So this is a controversial opinion. Maybe food for thought, though. Should there be limits in place for the use of emails? Like they can be used for important court steps - service of materials, exchange of financial disclosure, providing offers. But have an option that parties may insist upon regular correspondence be delivered in other ways. That is already an option, to be fair, but I'm thinking of generally a better culture shift that can be reinforced.

I'll say that docket has really brought about a culture shift in how behaviour was changed. Ambush applications no longer a thing, there has needed to be better manners and discussion on files. This is all good.

On the topic, I think it would also be nice if mean-spirited emails received from a self-rep or an opposite counsel could have a better mechanism. I do not enjoy having to send emails to my client that are meant to harass him or her, but erring on the side that they should see everything. Maybe we get a rule saying we can delete emails that are calculated to cause grief or distress. We then reply saying the email is being deleted per rule 12.435 or whatever. This of course could be abused too, but at least you would maintain an option to deliver things in alternate ways.

We have communication protocols for parents where we state they can't have more than 1 email a day, no more than one topic per email, no more than 100 words, no replies within 3 hours etc. A lot of this would do good on our files too.

I appreciate in capable counsel's hands no rules are needed. And hard cases make bad law. I just think it is worth throwing out to the group here what the pulse is: are emails overall good for the profession? Or overall not-so-good?

2 16 months ago

Anonymous 2017
   Calgary Region, Alberta

In my practice I began to enforce communications rules on my clients after we discussed the need to conserve money on their file. Many appreciated the effort made on my part to not let them run rampant in hopes of a larger pay out.
In addition I have also made agreements with clients dealing with abusive opposing parties (exes) that permitted me to refrain from automatically forwarding the emails provided I summarized any pertinent details with the client myself.
In each circumstance I had written agreement from my clients about the decision to ensure I covered myself.
Ultimately I don't think it would be possible to codify this type of adaption on harassing or verbose files and it really ought to be an issue between the client and lawyer. I realize it requires a presumption that all lawyers will responsibly look out for their clients' wellbeing but I am hopeful that covers the majority of us called to the Bar.

3 16 months ago

Anonymous 2019
   Edmonton Region, Alberta

I like phone calls more than written communications.

Phone calls are interactive. You can quickly grasp tone and subtlety. You develop rapport.

None of that happens quickly with written comms.

Furthermore, written comms can be very positional. "This is what I think and what I want."

If you do that in a live conversation, you essentially "talk at" (rather than with) someone.

1 16 months ago

Anonymous 2017
   Calgary Region, Alberta

to a degree but I have also had counsel misrepresent what had been communicated to them in phone conversations and had it not been for my annoying habit of note taking for calls I would have had nothing to confirm that counsel was in fact lying. There are also counsel who have a tactic of being aggressive in writing and then on the phone they are pleasant - this doesn't mean phone is the best method of communicating with them though because they are inconsistent

0 16 months ago

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