Perhaps after 3 trips to Oz in the last 6 months I’ve become too attached to that “sun-burned country.”
Or perhaps, it’s the deliberate myopia of many lawyers and Benchers in Canada that raises my ire.
Anyone who has an informed interest in alternative business structures (ABS) – structures that permit outside investment in law firms – will know that Australia, not the UK, was the first country to allow outside investment into law firms.
A reasonably informed person will know that the state of New South Wales (population of about 7 million and whose capital is Sydney) permitted this structure in 2001.
A reasonably informed person will also know that other states in Oz soon followed suit.
In other words, Australia has not only pioneered outside investment in law firms, it has the longest and most robust track record with these structures.
Yet, Australia remains a black hole when it comes to discussions in Canada about outside investment in law firms. The country is mentioned here and there, but the prime focus continues to be on the UK and the fact that with only 2.5 years of experience with ABS, there is not enough data to ascertain if ABS is right for Canada.
Canadians forget that Australia is as near as one gets to having a twin country.
We have similar a population size, similar land mass size, similar economy, similar legal systems, and similar legal market, similar over-supply of law students, similar access to justice issues, and similar lawyer depression issues.
So, if we are looking for a jurisdiction that will foreshadow what could likely happen in Canada if ABS was adopted, Australia is the obvious choice.
So, why would Canadian law societies choose to focus so intently on the UK – which is nothing like Canada at all – in determining whether or not ABS is a “fit” for Canada?
Why do those who raise the unsubstantiated issue that outside investment will erode the core values of Canadian lawyers, ignore the fact that nothing of the sort has happened in the 13 years that ABS has been permitted in Australia?
Surely 13 years is robust enough experience to clearly show that ABSs do not repeal the rule of law, nor herald the decline of civilized society, nor decimate any of the values and ethics of the legal profession.
If 13 years is not long enough, then good gosh, how long is enough?
If lawyers are slaves to precedent, then surely the precedent is there – staring at us from Down Under.
Why has the Law Society of Upper Canada come up with 4 possible options for ABS, only one of which mirrors the Australian (and UK) models?
What makes Canada so unique that the Australian ABS model can’t be imported to Canada with only minor administrative tweaks?
Why would we even consider a new and untested form of ABS?
Why – in the face of 13 years of experience – is it a good idea to reinvent the wheel on ABS?
On Tuesday, March 25, 2014 I am hosting the CBA Futures Tweet Chat.
The chat will deal with these questions and I will share my experience with how Australian lawyers are “coping” in an ABS-friendly environment.
Tweet starts at 1 pm Eastern.
Hashtag is #cbafutureschat
I’ll be tweeting from my secret University of Calgary Law School perch at 11 am Mountain.