Alternative business structures are on course to cross the Atlantic following the publication of a report urging that Canada’s lawyers be ‘freed to work differently’.

In recommending change, The Canadian Bar Association’s Legal Futures Initiative has concluded that the profession needs to remain ‘relevant, viable and confident’ in a rapidly evolving commercial environment. It points, however, to several ‘impediments’ to reform, including lawyers’ lack of access to business models that would ‘support more innovative practices’.

One such business model, the report says, comprises alternative business structures, which allow investment by non-lawyers.

The report asserts that Canadian lawyers need to be ‘freed to work differently through new business structures, in any form that they desire, as long as they can be appropriately regulated’, with the same ethical obligations as traditional law firms.

CBA Legal Futures Initiative chair Fred Headon, in his foreword to the report, says: ‘The legal profession to date has been, in large part, conservative in dealing with change. There has been some resistance to the idea that it is necessary to make significant changes now.

‘But the work of the Futures Initiative over the past two years confirms that a changing legal profession holds significant opportunity for lawyers who are willing to innovate, as well as for the thousands of Canadians who currently are not accessing legal services, either by choice, lack of funds, or the absence of channels that meet their needs.

‘One size will not fit all. It will be important to build flexibility and choice into any recommendations or strategies for the future.’