The Canadian province of Ontario has taken a step closer to approving alternative business structures, with a consultation opening this week.
The local regulator, the Law Society of Upper Canada, yesterday approved the move following the recommendations of a working group set up to look into ABS models of ownership.
Regulators have come under pressure from some firms to liberalise the legal market in a similar way to the UK and Australia.
The US has consistently rejected any such reform, but Canada appears to be more receptive to accepting non-lawyer ownership.
Law Society of Upper Canada treasurer Thomas G Conway said: ‘ABSs may be able to provide more options and choices for consumers, thereby improving access to justice. These alternative structures may also lead to more innovation for the profession.
‘Investments in information technology, for example, could create more convenient public access to legal services – and at the same time help lawyers and paralegals develop efficiencies that would enable them to provide services at a lower cost.’
The working group was set up in 2012 to look into the legal market in Ontario, which is home to Canada’s capital Ottawa and most populous city Toronto.
Their proposed models include allowing non-law firms to offer legal services and to wholly own law firms – although other watered-down proposals are also put forward.
The working group has also recommended a new framework for the regulation of law and paralegal firms which would include a process in place to respond to complaints.
The province already has in place regulation for multidisciplinary practices (MDPs) and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) beyond traditional partnership and sole practice models.