Legal Advice Services Cannot Be Automated by Alternative Business Structures
6 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2014
Date Written: October 15, 2014
It is proposed that Ontario lawyers adopt an “alternative business structure” (ABS) having three parts: (1) law firms can be invested in (owned — up to 49% or 100%) by non-lawyer people and entities; (2) legal services be enabled to be provided with related non-legal services; and, (3) routine legal services be automated by software applications. The theme of these ABS proposals is that in order to have (2) and (3), the legal profession must accept (1). That is disagreed with. And, what is not dealt with is how they are going to make legal advice services affordable, given that legal advice services cannot be automated. Such proposals do not take advantage of the economic forces that enable support services to greatly lower the cost of legal services. Therefore, although such proposals will make legal services more attractive to clients who can still afford legal services, they will do nothing to solve the problem that the majority of population cannot afford legal advice services. The theme of this article is that the legal profession can itself make available to clients all that ABS proposals allege that they can provide. Such solution does not put law society authority at risk, nor impose an increased “profit duty” that would conflict with the fiduciary duty owed to clients.
Keywords: alternative business structures, automating legal advice services, legal advice, ABS proposals, support services, handcraftsman’s method, CanLII, LAO LAW, Law Society of Upper Canada, routine legal services, law firm ownership, investors owning law firms
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