The Canadian legal profession is more open to discussion about the liberalisation of the market than its US counterpart, the head of the country’s bar association has told the Gazette.

Fred Headon (pictured), president of the CBA, which represents all lawyers in the country, said the profession is looking closely at the UK and Australia as it decides whether to back non-lawyer ownership of firms.

Headon is currently leading a team that will report in February on the future of the legal sector and make firm recommendations next August.

He was keen to stress no decisions have been made, but said the report will not emulate the resistance to change that has been adopted by the American Bar Association.

‘The market for legal services is not being fully served by lawyers today,’ said Headon. ‘There are opportunities for lawyers to do a better job of meeting the needs of clients.

‘There is more openness to at least exploring the idea of moving down that [non-lawyer ownership] path.’

According to the terms of the report, it will consider what some lawyers fear could lead to a conflict of interest if shareholders are allowed to impact on their work. It will also look at the argument that alternative business structure-style corporations could force small firms out of business.

Some Canadian provincial regulators are also actively investigating the idea of liberalisation.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates professionals in Ontario, will report in the new year.