Lawyers at Town Hall Meeting Skeptical that ABS Will Benefit Consumers
The debate continues over whether law firms in Ontario should adopt alternative business structures. Because the ABS model allows lawyers to sell shares of their practice to non-lawyers, there is the risk that ABS would place the profit concerns of shareholders over the legal concerns of consumers. Gluckstein Lawyers are not alone in opposing the ABS model.
Members of the County of Carleton Law Association (CCLA) recently met in Ottawa for a town hall meeting in which Charles Gluckstein presented research into ABS. Gluckstein, the immediate past president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, noted the lack of evidence to indicate that ABS would benefit clients in Ontario. The courthouse meeting was attended by about 45 lawyers and paralegals, and those who spoke were highly skeptical about the efficacy of the ABS model.
ABS models have already been adopted in the United Kingdom and Australia. However, at the town hall meeting in Ottawa, Charles Gluckstein noted that lawyers for publicly traded firms in Australia reported having been pressured to sell particular products to clients. These reports raise serious concerns about whether ABS can effectively protect the interests of consumers. Other meeting attendees expressed the same concern.
Proponents of ABS claim that the model would provide consumers with greater access to justice, but, as Charles Gluckstein pointed out, there is no proof that access to justice has been increased by the ABS model, and there is a lack of proof that the model leads to relevant technological improvements. The town hall meeting was part of the CCLA's survey process in developing a report to the Law Society of Upper Canada.
You can read more about this debate in our recent post, " Protection of Public Interest at Issue in Upcoming Law Society Election."
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