Mediate BC Blog

Mediator & Retired Judge Carol Baird Ellan shares her views on A2J

Posted by Walter.Brynjolfson

Recently we sent an email to mediators with a link to a short survey. Access to Justice (A2J) had become a prominent topic, and we wanted to get a sense of what mediators thought. The results were varied, but fulsome; and we’re eager to hear more. If you are a mediator and you haven’t responded, please follow this link to let us know your thoughts.

In the meantime, we reached out to a few people, hoping to go a little deeper than a few survey questions. Here’s an interview with Carol Baird Ellan, former judge, retired lawyer, and active family mediator.

If family mediation isn’t your focus, we also interviewed Civil Mediator Amanda Semenoff. Click here to read what she had to say.


How important is Access to Justice (A2J) to your collaborative dispute resolution practice?

It is a major component of the way I do my mediation practice. People that come to me are people who have either started the court process or they’ve been to see lawyers and they see a big legal bill looming. They want to get an earlier resolution, a more satisfactory, and certainly a more economical one than what will certainly be the case if they end up going to court.

What does Access to Justice mean to you as a practitioner?

It plays on with my whole practice focus. I see a lot of people who are lost in the cracks in access to justice. That’s not just economical but it’s also the availability of services. There’s not a lot of people who are able to provide mediation at a lower rate. So there are a lot of people who just can’t find that service, and that’s basically what A2J means from my perspective.

What are some key ways you improve access to justice in BC according to the three elements of the A2JBC Triple Aim measurement framework (page 9):

I provide services to a broad spectrum; and people need to provide to a broad spectrum. Younger people and elderly people tend not to have the resources or even the skills. So it’s important to go and make it known that services are available. They have to find you, or you have to find them in order to access justice. That’s one thing that Mediate BC does pretty well. You have a good website with the rosters showing with what kind of mediations people do and what their prices are. So that’s good.

Some Mediators say Access to Justice and Mediation are unrelated, and any requests to help provide Access to Justice are essentially requests to reduce fees and cheapen services. What are your thoughts on that?

Even the more expensive model of what I call "downtown mediation" is more efficient, affordable, and meaningful than going to court. I’m certainly seeing a big niche in that mid range price. Where they’re coming away from having a consultation with lawyers, or going to a court process, and finding mediation to be more affordable.

Also, many lawyers are flat-out busy, and if they perceive that you’re adding the pressure to do pro bono, it’s understandable that they’re probably a bit mistrustful of the proposition. Especially for a struggling lawyer. I can see when this kind of message comes along and seems to say, “you need to do this,” but it may be as simple as finding alternatives for a client.

I am in a fortunate position. I can afford to offer low rates, but not everyone is at that point, nor do they have to be. It is more of a mindset.

If you’re interested in reading what other mediators have to say, we’ll be releasing more responses from the survey as time goes on. You can also click here to read Amanda Semenoff’s responses to these questions. As a civil mediator, she has a very different perspective.

For more about Carol Baird Ellan, visit her roster profile here.

Also, if you’re a mediator, let us know what you think! Fill out the survey.


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