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
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
- 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.
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.
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.
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
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 (PDF available upon request)
Ontario Trial Lawyers Association
Southwest Region Women’s Law Association
Thunder Bay Law Association
Waterloo Region Law Association
Women’s Paralegal Association of Ontario