On February 28, 2013, the Law Society of Upper Canada became the first Canadian law society to ratify the national mobility provisions allowing for full and permanent mobility of lawyers between Ontario and Quebec.
Most Canadians will be forgiven for failing to be as joyful as the Benchers were that day, as the agreement does much to enhance lawyer mobility (and hence fee-earning capability), but does nothing to address access to justice.
How much better it would have been if Benchers had dealt with a matter that is of actual importance to every-day Canadians. Something that would create a jubilant mood across the entire province, not just in Osgoode Hall.
I envision a Law Times article written about the Bencher vote allowing outside investment in law firms; a piece that could the track the Law Times wording for mobility with only minor adjustments.
Something like this:
The mood was jubilant at Convocation after Benchers unanimously voted to allow outside investment into Ontario law firms. Currently, the prohibition against outside investment means limited access to justice for Ontarians.
The new arrangement will allow Ontario lawyers to attract capital that will allow them to become more innovative, efficient and cost-effective in delivering legal services to their clients.
LSUC Treasurer Thomas Conway says the unanimous ratification was “the proudest moment” during his time in his current role at Convocation.
Conway is touting the change as the “last piece of the access to justice puzzle.”
“I think there is a recognition by all of us that legal history has shown that more and more, fears of outside investment are less significant than they once were,” he says.
Conway emphasizes, however, that all lawyers have an ethical obligation to follow the rules of professional conduct and that outside investment does not change this.
Officials from Australia and the UK were the guests of honour at Convocation at the historic meeting. They congratulated Benchers on their decision and called the old fears “more apparent than real.”
By this vote, the law society “has sent a strong message that the train of full and total commitment to improving access to justice has left the station and that it will not stop until all Canadian law societies have embarked upon the journey,” said one official.
“We need, more than ever, to work together to find common solutions and foster our regulatory standards. This is crucial if we wish to further earn and maintain public trust and also be ready to meet the challenges that we face ahead with globalization.”
“These barriers, I am told, were introduced several years ago based on concerns that lawyers would be manipulated by investors. I am not saying that these things could not happen, but I believe that they no longer justify these barriers,” said another official.
He added: “The benefits to Canadians that will result from the innovations that will flow from outside investment, outweigh the risks.”
Bencher Vern Krishna recalled the uncertainty and fear that followed the first consideration of allowing multi-disciplinary practice over a decade ago.
“The alarm signals and the bells that went off — the legal profession was about to collapse,” he said in recalling the talk at the time. “We were going to do something so radical that it was going to . . . alter the nature of the profession and expose the public to grave danger.
“It just tells us that sometimes you have to bite the bullet and make radical solutions and only time will teach you very quickly how what was radical a decade ago is now considered completely passé.”
Will we see such an article before 2015?
Canadians will demand it!