Alternative Business Structures

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 Rebecca Bromwich

Again, we should be cautious but embrace change.

Janis Criger

I am in favour of the Civil Society initiative passed by Convocation. I am not in favour of law practice ownership by non-lawyers. Too many potential conflicts of interest.

 

Quinn Ross

Once entity based regulation is in place, consideration of new ways to allow lawyers to organize their businesses should be considered.  ABS writ large with coca-cola owning a mega firm is not a good model for the profession, but attracting and keeping non-licensee talent with an interest in a firm, might be.

 

E Patrick Shea, LSM

Provided that practical control of the entity remains with lawyers and they are ultimately responsible for the legal services provided, lawyers ought to be free to chose their own business structure.  There is no public interest reason to, for example, prevent non-lawyers from being a shareholder of a PC provided that the majority of the voting shares are held by lawyer and the directors are lawyers.

Addison Cameron-Huff

Any structure that can enable lawyers to do a better job of serving their clients ought to be explored, but I would only support a major reform of permitted structures with extensive public consultation and/or a referendum. 

Jerry B. Udell

I agree with the present policy regarding ABS. We need to ensure the integrity and independence of the practicing Bar.

 

Claire Wilkinson

I do not support alternative business structures (ABS) or non lawyer ownership being introduced into private practice.  In the personal injury field, non lawyer ownership creates a far greater risk that cases will be settled prematurely to satisfy the financial demands of non lawyer owners, with a resulting failure to put the needs of the client first.    I do support Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) which provide legal services to vulnerable populations on a not for profit basis.    

 

Andrew Spurgeon

I am completely against non-lawyer owned law firms.  I support Civil Society Organizations which provide legal services to under-served and marginalized communities on a non-profit basis.  The real long-term concern we should focus on is how technology commodifies legal services and diminishes or eliminates the role of trusted intermediaries like lawyers in transactions.  I actively support initiatives which aid lawyers in addressing this challenge.

 

Antoine L Collins

ABS is one of the new realities of practising law. I expect a lot of new firms will look at setting up such structures, but what I don’t want to see is practitioners becoming business people first, and lawyers second. More discussions will have to take place on this issue, particularly regarding regulation.

 

Atrisha Lewis

I am open-minded and would consult with stakeholders and others prior to making any decision on the issue.

 

John F. Fagan

This is a danger area. I’d have to hear much more about the reasons why we should even consider going down the road of alternative business structures in the practice of law, before approving any budging in this area.

 

Gina Papageorgiou

I support allowing not-for-profits who serve particular communities the ability to hire lawyers to serve their clients (which we have already passed). I also support allowing them to charge fees to their clients for the use of this lawyer. This would assist them in defraying the costs associated with hiring the lawyers.

 

Caryma Sa’d

I do not have a firm position on this issue. In some circumstances, it makes sense to open ownership to include family members and key employees. I think this can be done without compromising the integrity or independence of the legal profession, particularly if clear rules or guidelines are established. The Rules of Professional Conduct would have to apply regardless of the business structure.

 

D. Jared Brown

Freeing the profession up to provide legal services in new and different ways should be encouraged from both an access to justice and relevancy standpoint. So long as individual Licensees remain in regulatory compliance, the manner in which they deploy their services should be beyond the scope and purview of the LSO.

 

Deepa Tailor

I do not support alternative business structures and non-lawyer owned law firms. There are serious concerns regarding conflicts of interest that may arise and how lawyers can continue to maintain their professional obligations to the profession. I also don’t believe it will result in advancing access to justice initiatives.

 

Robert Besunder

I am opposed to the notion of alternative business structures.

 

Joseph Groia

I am in favour of them as long as they are properly structured and regulated.

 

John Arkelian

I need to learn more about this issue before commenting.

Sylvie Patenaude

Several years ago, I wrote to the LSO Treasurer and pointed out that Ontario is the ONLY province (including Quebec) where family members cannot be shareholders in my professional corporation. I campaigned for this to be changed. Something more wonderful is coming I was told… Then came the budget changes that affected everyone. And the famous debate on ABS was launched. Now, we have accounting firms competing with us and creating law departments.

 

 

Orlando Da Silva, LSM

Despite the debate prior to the 2015 Bencher election, I believe there is still room to consider alternative business structures in Ontario.  Rather than rejecting ABS out of hand, I think they should be considered with entity based regulation as a means to reduce complaints against lawyers, but also as a means of increasing access to justice.  I can see a successful ABS model where non-lawyer managers of lawyers and their practices are (a) educated on the lawyers’ duty of good faith, confidentiality, fidelity, competence, and privilege ) and (b) are compelled to ensure these duties are prioritized and upheld.  If they fail to do so, the LSO should be empowered to revoke their ABS license.

 

Cheryl Siran

I am not convinced, but haven’t kept up with recent developments in the area.

 

Ian Speers

I have yet to see or envisage a scenario in which I would support them.  Ultimately, I do not see the client being well served by yet another hand in their pockets.   

 

Robert Shawyer

I would support alternative business structures that would allow licensees to enter into partnerships or other types of arrangements with other professionals such as accountants, etc…

 

Michael B Lesage

ABS will be good for the profession in much the same way that Uber has been good for cab drivers. Ultimately, it will also likely affect who seeks to enter the profession, along with how much time and money are devoted to matters. Ultimately, I believe this could have a perverse impact on access to justice. Given the hesitancy by the LSO to embrace other innovations (i.e. technology), I wonder what’s driving this? 

 

Malcolm M. Mercer

With the adoption of the Civil Society project which permits charities and not-for-profits to deliver free legal services to their clients, the ABS Working Group has completed its work. Based on the evidence to date, I doubt that there is material advantage in allowing non-lawyer ownership in traditional law firms and think that allowing such ownership would require a substantial change to our regulatory processes. But I also think that new ways of providing legal services, including by technology, are required to address unmet legal needs. I think that we will have to be open-minded about new ways of providing services beyond our professional paradigm.

 

Mitchell Kowalski

We need to re-open this discussion based on the regulatory success that Australia has enjoyed since 2001.

I’ve studied it, written about it, taught it and seen it in action.

ABS will help, not hurt, the profession.

 

M. Steven Rastin

I am opposed to alternative business structures which I view as an existential threat to the legal profession. A close review of other jurisdictions where ABS has been approved shows that this step is not in the best interests of the profession or the public. It creates clear risk for conflict of interest.

 

David Milosevic

We have a thriving Bar in this province, made up of many small firms, especially in the personal injury field. I am concerned that ABS as we have seen in the U.K., could have a negative impact on the quality and diversity of choices of legal service providers available to the public.

 

Michael Allan Brown

Multi disciplinary organizations such as Lawyer/Paralegal and other support organizations such as family health teams have their place. However the care and control of the business should be in the hands of the legal practitioners as there is too much potential for conflict from outside sources and competing interests which coincides with the Entity based initiative.

 

Robert Burd

I am not convinced at this time that this benefits the public and that there wouldn’t be regulatory risk

 

Jeff Cowan

The Civil Society Initiative passed by Convocation was an acceptable compromise. The independence of the profession and lawyers’ duties to their clients should not be compromised by potential conflicts of interest. Third party litigation funding agreements are an example of how alternative financing models can be incorporated into the practice of law

 

Jonathan Rosenthal

The only place I want to see ABS is on my car. Non-lawyer ownership of law firms is terrible for both the profession and more importantly the public. Based on the studies to date and jurisdictions that allowed for ABS there was no improvement in ensuring access to justice through ABS. All of the empirical evidence suggests that we should be strongly against expanding non-lawyer ownership of law firms in Ontario.

 

Teresa Donnelly

I do not support ABS.

 

Paul M. Cooper

We have adopted an exception for civil society organizations. Beyond this, I am against ABS.

Selwyn A Pieters

Alternative business structures is the way to go.

 

Peter Wardle

I do not support the kind of broad ABS we considered in 2012-14. I would support allowing some limited form of share ownership in professional corporations.

Kristin Hutton

No issue.

 

Yavar Hameed

The legal profession needs to adapt. Development of flexible structures that may permit the delivery of competent, cost effective and timely legal services is a reflection of rising costs of law service delivery that has surpassed the threshold many clients can afford. Innovations that permit paralegals and non-legal agents to provide legal services under the direct supervision and in conjunction with lawyers is appropriate. Here again, the scrutiny and oversight over ABS by the LSO will be necessary to ensure the the quality of service is not compromised.

 

 

 

 

Nathan Baker

They tend to not serve clients or lawyers well and should be limited.

Rene Larson

I do not believe in non-member ownership of law firms.  Lawyers can finance their own business finances  We do not need large accounting firms taking over and dominating legal business.  If we want to support the independence of the legal profession, we do not need alternative business structures that are run by not-for-profit organizations to suck away business from hard working private lawyers.  Evidence from other countries seems to indicate failure of this ABS business models for legal profession.

 

Ryan Alford

It is quite telling that despite the clear rejection of ABS everywhere but on Bay Street, the issue is almost certain to come before Convocation again in the near future.  Before that time, I encourage every lawyer to look carefully at what happened in Australia, particularly in the area of Insurance Defence, and ask themselves whether that is what we want for Ontario.

 

Douglas W. Judson

The LSO should be continuously monitoring developments in other jurisdictions in respect of whether alternative business structures can facilitate improvements in the delivery of legal services, access to justice, or drive investment and process improvements in the justice sector – particularly where those structures help non-licensees to add value. That said, I do not think the fact that an alternative structure does not readily present evidence of improvements in those areas is a reason to outlaw it outright. The LSO’s approach to this topic should not be one guided by protectionism, but one informed by its statutory duties to the people of Ontario.

 

 

Sean Robichaud

In the last election I ran, I was against this as a general rule.  As it stands now, I still am. However, there is no doubt that this needs to be looked at again and reevaluated in certain areas of the law. If we are to do so, we must be highly cognizant and protective of ethical issues, particularly those relating to insurance companies funding firms and the effect it would have upon Ontarians. While I have not ruled out ABS, I would need to be convinced that it does not cause more harm than good. I believe that the issue of ABS would also have to be addressed by practice area and not as a general rule applying to all areas of law where the potential for conflict is high (i.e., insurance and personal injury). 

 

 

Stephen Parker

Other countries have given up on ABS as unworkable. The LSO should follow.

 

Isfahan Merali

The Law Society has an obligation to carefully and thoughtfully consider all ideas that may promote access to legal services and justice, and address gaps in the provision of legal services. Having said this, I believe that we must act carefully and thoughtfully on the idea of non-lawyer ownership structures. There are real and serious concerns about ABS: how will it impact the reputation of our profession; how would conflicts of interest be avoided; how can lawyers still meet their professional obligations of our profession; how will it impact on the independence of the bar; how will our duties to our clients be affected; how will the solicitor-client relationship be affected by external interests; will ABS genuinely protect the public interest and promote broad access to justice (for vulnerable communities in particular) and ensure quality and ethical legal services? None of these questions are clear. We must proceed with great care.

At this point, I am not persuaded that typical non-lawyer ownership would benefit increased access to justice to those who most need it, nor that it comes without significant concerns relating to the administration of justice and our professional responsibilities in providing legal services. However, I believe that the Law Society must carefully review the issues and questions above, as they have an obligation to the profession and the public to do so.

 

Etienne Esquega

We must proceed very cautiously on this matter. I am currently not in favour of the ideal of non-licensee ownership of legal practices. This is a tremendous risk to the public interests and the existence of small law offices and sole practitioners.

 

Jayashree Goswami

This requires careful consideration as more non-lawyers (such as accountants, social workers, paralegals, consultants etc.) are and will be providing services that were traditionally the exclusive domain of lawyers as a means of enhancing access to justice but also in response to emerging business needs. In regulating alternate business structures, the LSO should be mindful of the implications of conflict of interest and limits of liability with a view to protecting the public and ensuring delivery of competent legal services.

In my view, alternate legal service providers will be a part of the future whether the legal profession agrees or not. The LSO should be proactive and at the forefront of regulating alternate business services.

 

Paul Le Vay

I agree with the adoption of the Civil Society project which permits charities and not-for-profits to deliver legal services to their clients. I am satisfied that the LSO has adequately addressed this issue and do not see a need to revisit it in the near term.
Je suis d`accord avec l`adoption du projet de sociétés civils qui permet aux organisations à but non-lucratif de fournir des services à leurs clients. Sinon, je suis d`accord que le Barreau à gérer cette question correctement et je ne vois pas de raison à revenir sur la question à court terme.

 

James Mays

Generally – no.

 

Gerard Paul Charette

Another catchy LSO title means ‘Watch out’! LSO thinks its a good idea for Corporate charities to hang out a shingle and practice law. It the result, non-lawyers will have too much dominance and influence via Corporate charities. It plans to allow incorporated charities – so-called Civil Society Organizations (CSO’s) – take over practice. Not a good idea. I will vote against this.

 

 

 

 

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