Editorial: Tentative steps at reform

The Law Society of Upper Canada took a tentative step at reform of the legal profession recently with a move to allow lawyers to form multidisciplinary practices with someone from another profession through a professional corporation.

It’s a small change given that lawyers have been able to set up such practices with individuals from other professions since the late 1990s.

At the time, lawyers couldn’t incorporate their practices, something that changed with amendments to the Ontario Business Corporations Act in 2001 that led to corresponding provisions in the Law Society Act. As a result, lawyers have since been able to set up professional corporations.

But the restrictions on multidisciplinary practices to include individuals only have remained in place.

At Convocation last month, benchers considered a proposal to remove that restriction. The move comes as the law society faces increasing calls to allow new types of business structures that will lower costs and make more services available (see page 4).

Ontario, of course, has been slow to move on that issue in comparison to other jurisdictions such as Australia and Britain. So it’s welcome news that the law society is taking this small step, but it should obviously pick up the pace.

Lawyers, of course, will likely be happy with a change that provides them with new business opportunities. But while the broader discussions around alternative business structures will likely be more difficult, it’s a conversation that needs to happen.

The law society has long touted its commitment to access to justice. But truly making progress on that issue will involve tackling the tough issues around reforms to the legal profession. Let’s hope the law society under new Treasurer Thomas Conway is up to the challenge.
Glenn Kauth

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