Law Society to pursue civil society option, ABS Working Group wrapping up
The Alternative Business Structures (ABS) Working Group submitted a report to Convocation on April 26, recommending that the Law Society make no further changes to permitted business structures at this time.
The working group’s final ABS assessment follows a thorough exploration of potential business structure options over the past six years. Established in 2012, the group was mandated to monitor and assess changes in business structure regulation, and to identify models and regulatory changes which should be considered for potential implementation.
The group reported in September 2015, that it would not continue to consider majority non-licensee ownership of traditional Ontario law firms. Since that time, it continued to explore non-licensee minority ownership of law firms, changes to existing MDP structures and new franchise law firm models.
“When we looked at how alternative business structures have evolved where they are permitted, and considered input from the legal professions, we concluded that the expected benefits from changes to minority non-licensee ownership rules or existing MDP requirements would require significant regulatory inputs, but the benefits to the public would likely be limited,” says working group co-chair Malcolm Mercer.
The group also concluded that it is doubtful that there would be interest in a restricted non-licensee franchise model in Ontario.
Civil Society Organizations
The working group reported that work will continue on the development of a regulatory framework to enable lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services through civil society organizations (CSOs), such as charities and not-for-profit organizations — as approved in principle by Convocation last September.
The Law Society is currently working on the CSO framework and will continue to work with justice partners as it develops. Once drafted, there will be a comment period — likely in the fall.
The group plans to have the framework ready for implementation in 2019, subject to Convocation’s approval.
For more information see the Professional Regulation Committee report to Convocation and the Alternative Business Structures Working Group webpage.
April 2018 Convocation Newsletter