Several years ago on this site, Mitch Kowalski posed a question that merits another look. In his post “What if the western provinces saved the profession?”, Mitch asked:
What would happen if a group of western provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba for example) decided to strike out on their own and allow ABS-type structures in their jurisdictions?
His conclusion was that “…once the snowball starts rolling in any province it will be unstoppable.”
Well, it’s winter on the prairies and guess what? It’s snowing.
The law societies in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have recently released a discussion paper on a number of potential innovations in the regulation of lawyers in these jurisdictions. The paper, Innovating Regulation, tackles three main topics: entity regulation, compliance based regulation and regulation of alternate business structures.
The release of the discussion paper is interesting but hardly newsworthy of itself, given similar discussions are already ongoing across the country.
What is worth taking notice of here is the collaborative approach. Three law societies are working together because, in their view:
…these complex issues are best tackled collaboratively.
National lawyer mobility, combined with the proliferation of national and global law firms, drives the need to ensure consistency in approach to legal regulation across Canada. It is impractical to have different regimes across provinces and remain effective.
We are a large geographic country with a small population and, compared to other jurisdictions where regulatory reform is occurring, we have relatively few lawyers. This reality means that our resources are limited and it is strategically wise to share them. It is also our view that a diversity of perspectives from different jurisdictions will achieve better, more effective outcomes.
For these reasons, the law societies of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are doing this work together. We are also keeping a close eye on developments across the country, particularly in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia where work is ongoing.
…This is not a revolution in regulation, but rather an evolution that will be guided by our duty to protect the public interest.
It’s not unheard of for these law societies to collaborate. The CPLED program is an excellent example of the good work that can be accomplished through such an approach.
This leaves me feeling rather optimistic about the possibilities in terms of the future of legal profession regulation in the prairie provinces. At the very least, it gives me a reason to hope the snow doesn’t melt too soon.