The Law Society is considering whether it is in the public interest to liberalize its rules regarding the business structures through which lawyers and paralegals may provide legal services. This would permit what is known as alternative business structures, or ABS.
The Law Society’s ABS Working Group delivered an interim report to September 2015 Convocation outlining its initial assessment and the directions it will consider further.
The Working Group has 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.
The Working Group plans to focus its study on change with the potential to foster innovation or enhance access to justice. This includes minority ownership by non-licensees, franchise arrangements, ownership by civil society organizations such as charities and new forms of legal service delivery in areas not currently well served by traditional practices.
The ABS Working Group was formed in 2012 after ABS was identified as a priority for the 2011-2015 bencher term. 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, the Working Group released a discussion paper and sought input from the professions and other stakeholders. (see below for individual submissions).
ABS Working Group Reports to Convocation
Additional Resources/Background Materials
- ABS: Frequently Asked Questions
- The Emergence of Alternative Business Structures in Other Jurisdictions
- Profile of Legal Services Professionals in England and Wales
- Profile of Legal Services Professionals in New South Wales, Australia
- ABS Reading List 2014
- The Impact of Alternative Business Structures on Sole Practitioners and Small Firms
- Unmet Legal Needs in Ontario
- An Economic Analysis of Alternative Business Structures for the Practice of Law - Edward M. Iacobucci and Michael J. Trebilcock, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, September 20, 2013
- Transforming Regulation and Governance in the Public Interest - Prepared for Council of the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, October 15, 2013 - Executive Summary
- Evaluation: Changes in competition in different legal markets - An empirical analysis, Legal Services Board, October 2013
- Law Society of Upper Canada Alternative Business Structures Symposium, October 4, 2013: Morning Session Webcast / Afternoon Session #1 Webcast / Afternoon Session #2 Webcast
Submissions received in response to September 2014 Discussion Paper
The Advocates’ Society
Audet, Julie and Picard, Nathalie
Barrie Real Estate Lawyers Association
Brendt, Lorne and group
Canadian Defence Lawyers
Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
The County District Lawyers Presidents’ Association (CDLPA)
County of Carleton Law Association
Criminal Lawyers Association
Equity Advisory Group Working on ABS
Essex Law Association
Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (FACL)
Law Students’ Society of Ontario (LSSO)
Ontario Bar Association
Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers
Ontario Trial Lawyers Association
Southwest Region Women’s Law Association
Thunder Bay Law Association
Waterloo Region Law Association
Women’s Paralegal Association of Ontario