Imagine going into Walmart, Superstore or Loblaws to buy Halloween candy and being offered the chance to make a will or get summary legal advice on some issue. This might sound spooky or even scary to many Canadian lawyers but could become a reality in England and Wales with the launch of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) under the UK Legal Services Act. The New York Times has a great article today on non-lawyer ownership of legal services. Australia has permitted non-lawyer ownership of law firms for several years and the US is seriously considering it with the American Bar Association’s Ethics 20/20 Commission. The ABA’s Discussion Paper on ABS is available here. So far most Canadian lawyers and Law Societies are cool to these ideas, as the Globe and Mail’s Jeff Gray reported earlier this month. With ABS a reality in Australia, coming to the UK and being mooted in the US, I don’t think that Canadian Law Societies can keep their heads in the sand about this issue. To its credit, the Law Society of British Columbia released a preliminary report on ABS this month. At this time, the LSBC decided that no changes were warranted. However, all lawyers and Law Societies in Canada would be wise to heed the warnings in the last paragraph of that report: “where benefits to the consumer can be attained with proper regulation to ensure that professional values are not lost, the Law Society must develop proper regulation to allow for changes to the profession through which improved access to legal services can be attained.” Happy Halloween!