Alternative Business Structures Proposals or Solving the Unaffordable Legal Services Problem
7 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 25, 2015
Alternative business structures (ABS’s) are proposals: (1) to allow law firms to be owned by non-lawyer investors; (2) to automate routine legal services; and, (3) to allow legal services to be provided with related non-legal services. They have no capacity to solve the national problem of unaffordable legal services which is afflicting the majority of the population and jamming the courts with self-represented litigants, and therefore impairing Canada’s constitutional democracy. ABS’s are investment proposals to buy-up strings of law firms and enfranchise them for the purpose of competing to obtain control of the legal services market.
The legal profession, being very short of clients, is vulnerable to accepting these proposals without adequately evaluating their impact upon the economic future of the legal profession and upon its professionalism and independence. The fiduciary duty owed to clients would be in danger of being suppressed as a result of the greater pressure to produce profits for such investors.
Therefore, this article sets out the multiple reasons why a new management structure is needed for law societies. They are a non-politically accountable regulator of an important public service. Law society managers (benchers) are elected by the lawyer-members of each law society, usually for a 4-year term. As a result, the public has insufficient opportunity to influence the making of law society policy and practice.
The theme of this article is that the practice of law is not a business, and business is not the only agency that can make the providing of legal services as cost-efficient as necessary, and legal services as affordable as needed.
Keywords: law society, affordability of legal services, constitutional democracy, alternative business structures, law firms, independence of the legal profession, management structure of law societies, benchers
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