Alternative Business Structures

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The Law Society’s ABS Working Group was formed in September 2012 to explore various possible options available for the delivery of legal services. It has engaged in extensive research since its formation, including meetings with lawyers and paralegals, consulting with experts and reviewing research and related literature.

In September 2014, it released a discussion paper and sought input from the professions and other stakeholders.

In September 2015, the ABS Working Group delivered an interim report to Convocation outlining its initial assessment and the directions it will consider further. At that time the Working Group decided not to continue to consider structures involving majority ownership, or control, of traditional law firms by non-licensees. Through its research and consultations, the Working Group considers that the experience to date in other jurisdictions does not show that the benefits of majority non-licensee ownership, or control, outweigh regulatory concerns.

Since September 2015, the Working Group has focused its study on change with the potential to foster innovation or enhance access to justice. This includes:

  1. minority ownership by non-licensees;
  2. franchise arrangements;
  3. ownership by civil society organizations such as charities; and
  4. new forms of legal service delivery in areas not currently well served by traditional practices.

In June 2017, the ABS Working Group presented an interim report to Convocation outlining a proposal to enable lawyers and paralegals to deliver legal services through civil society organizations, such as charities, not for profit organizations and trade unions, to clients of such organizations in order to facilitate access to justice. The Working Group’s proposal followed a series of focus group meetings with front line workers, “embedded lawyers” (lawyers who provide services from offices within a hospital or not for profit organizations with mandates to assist vulnerable populations) and public policy / funding organizations. Meeting participants were overwhelmingly supportive of the idea of permitting the delivery of legal services by lawyers and paralegals through civil society organizations as a means of facilitating access to justice. In its June 2017 interim report, the Working Group proposed that the Law Society amend its By-Laws to permit civil society organisations to register with the Law Society. Lawyers and paralegals would be permitted to provide legal services directly to clients through the registered civil society organisations. The recommended approach is further described in the June 2017 interim report.

The ABS Working Group invites comments from lawyers, paralegals and the general public about the policy proposal to enable delivery of legal services by lawyers and paralegals through civil society organizations.

Comments may be submitted online by September 1, 2017.

Submissions will be provided to the Working Group. Submissions may also be provided to the Law Society’s Professional Regulation Committee and Convocation, and may be reproduced, and/or made publicly available by the Law Society with attribution.

The Law Society reserves the right to redact submissions at its discretion, for reasons including the protection of confidentiality, copyright, and brevity.

The Working Group is also continuing to consider minority ownership by non-licensees and franchise models, and new forms of legal service delivery in areas not currently served by traditional practices. It will be reporting further with respect to these issues in due course. 

ABS Working Group Reports to Convocation 

Additional Resources/Background Materials

Submissions received in response to September 2014 Discussion Paper

 The Advocates’ Society
 Akazaki, Lee
 Audet, Julie
 Audet, Julie and Picard, Nathalie
 Ball, James
 Barrie Real Estate Lawyers Association
 Botsford, Blair
 Brendt, Lorne and group
 Canadian Defence Lawyers
 Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
 Chasse, Ken
 Cognition LLP
 Conduit Law
 The County District Lawyers Presidents’ Association (CDLPA) 
 County of Carleton Law Association
 Criger, Janis 
 Criminal Lawyers Association
 Equity Advisory Group Working on ABS
 Essex Law Association
 Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL)
 Gehl, Nicholas
 Granton, Joseph
 Harris, Gordon
 Hollander, John
 Kowalski, Mitch
 LaBuik, Devon
 Law Students’ Society of Ontario (LSSO)
 Ledgerwood, Liam
 Lipinski, Baruch
 McLeish Orlando
 Ontario Bar Association
 Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (PDF available upon request)
 Ontario Trial Lawyers Association
 Southwest Region Women’s Law Association
 Stewart Title
 Teitel, Murray
 Thunder Bay Law Association
 Waterloo Region Law Association
 Wiseman, David
 Women’s Paralegal Association of Ontario