The Law Society of Upper Canada is the regulatory body which governs lawyers in Ontario. They are considering some changes with respect to how lawyers do business, and administer services throughout the province.
Currently, lawyers can provide legal services to the PUBLIC in a wide variety or ways:
- A sole practitioner: a lawyer operating alone or with other non lawyer employees (lawyer owned personally)
- A Professional Corporation: a lawyer operating a law firm through that lawyers professional corporation (lawyer owned through the PC)
- A Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): Lawyers in partnership running a law firm (lawyer owned)
- A Limited Partnership (LP): A lawyer partnering with another lawyer or a non lawyer to form a parnership (lawyer owned)
- A Multi-Disciplinary Practice (MDP): A lawyer partnering with another business professional to provide a variety of legal and non-legal services (lawyer owned with others)
Those are the basic models of business associations for Ontario Law Firms. The LSUC is considering allowing non-lawyer ownership of law firms in the form of Alternative Business Structures.
This would allow non-lawyer investment and ownership of law firms. The LSUC is considering whether or not to allow non-lawyers minority ownership or whether or not there should be unlimited restrictions on who can own the law firm.
Australia and the United Kingdom have permitted UNRESTRICTED ownership by non-lawyers of law firms. Spain, Italy, Denmark and Singapore allow minority non-lawyer ownership.
The question is, what should Ontario do; and how will it impact the legal landscape?