Two of 4 goals are 'determining appropriate scope' and 'achieving proportionate regulation'
The Law Society of Ontario, which last year saw an unusual turnover in its board, has now revealed how that change will affect its direction over the coming years.
A Feb. 27 report of the LSO’s priority planning committee pulls back the curtain on its 2019-2023 Strategic Plan. It lists four priorities: proportionate regulation, scope of regulation, competence and quality of service and access to justice.
Although a 2019 election of board directors focused mainly on diversity and inclusion issues, some of the strategic plan echoes the initiatives that previous benchers vowed to work on in 2015. Those goals, set to be completed in 2019, were: to lead as a professional regulator, prioritize life-long competence for lawyers and paralegals, increase organizational effectiveness, engage stakeholders and the public with responsive communications, and enhance access to justice across Ontario.
The committee, which is chaired by incumbent Treasurer Malcolm Mercer but includes several first-time benchers, said in its report that the new goals are intended to work “in tandem” with the current initiatives.
The previous cohort of benchers prioritized a “review of governance methods” and for “efficiency and effectiveness,” that plan focused on better measurement and assessment, as well as costs. Benchers voted to trim the voting rights of Convocation members, for example, as a governance initiative, and reduced annual fees for licensees amid cost-cutting within the LSO staff.
The new plan emphasizes that regulation should be “sufficient to protect the public interest and not excessive so as to become an unnecessary burden on those who are regulated.” The LSO will focus on “activities that most directly protect the public.” The new proposals also suggest areas of regulation such as technology use, direct-to-consumer services, services provided by non-licensees and “limited licensing options” for certain practice areas.
The 2015 to 2019 plan also focussed on education “beyond traditional CPD formats,” formalized mentoring and higher licensing standards, and “concrete” collaboration with access to justice partners. During that time, the benchers took steps to approve a new law school, implement diversity and inclusion professional development, reform articling, work on paralegal scope and created Access to Justice week, among other things.
The new plan focuses on helping newer licensees, as well as addressing “risk of longer serving licensees providing services of diminished quality.” The plan also mentions “the potential to enhance competence through limited licensing/credentialing options, and suggests the law society must make sure it “does not unnecessarily restrict access to justice” through regulation.
A previous LSO goal — which is not emphasized in the new plan — focussed on communication, as the regulator moved to rename the law society, create a new website and advertise law society services.