Lawyers throughout Ontario have good reason to want to modernize the legal profession to better serve clients, but there is debate over how this should be done.
What is clear is that a growing number of lawyers agree that alternative business structures (ABS) are not the answer. ABS would allow for non-lawyers to purchase majority stakes in law firms, and Charles Gluckstein, who co-chairs the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association's ABS committee, has spoken on numerous occasions in opposition to the adoption of ABS in Ontario.
Gluckstein recently told the County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA) that, if ABS were adopted, there would be a significant risk that smaller law firms would be consolidated into much larger corporations, and the focus would switch from clients to profits.
As we've discussed in previous posts, there is a lack of valid evidence to suggest that ABS would benefit clients. Rather, there is a risk that clients' options could be significantly reduced under an ABS model.
Referring to law firms that are already publicly traded in other countries, Charles Gluckstein had this to say: "Really their focus is return on equity, and if you go into some of their statements [of] these publicly traded law firms it's all about...what their returns are, and how they're going to do growth in the future, because that's who they're responsible to -- their shareholders."
The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) has cancelled a vote on ABS until more lawyers are consulted about the proposed reforms. Since the cancellation, the law society does not expect a decision on ABS until 2016.
Readers of the Gluckstein Lawyers blog may want to check back for updates.
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