Lexpert: Funding Legal Innovation in Canada

Canadian law societies are big flirts, at least when it comes to alternative business structures (ABS) and allowing non-lawyers to own stakes in legal-services delivery companies. But what they’re flirting with is irrelevancy.

Last year, the Law Society of Upper Canada dropped the idea of allowing non-lawyers to hold majority ownership of law firms, as in England and Australia where firms can list shares on an exchange or raise capital from private-equity funds instead of relying solely on funds raised through debt.

But the working group has continued to examine the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to hold a minority stake in areas of legal services not well served by traditional practices in the name of fostering innovation.

The exercise has largely been met with a collective yawn.

Has innovation been sitting on its hands while Ontario’s law society decides whether to bless non-lawyer minority ownership of innovative structures? In-house lawyers are increasingly insistent legal fees be reined in and law firms are increasingly desperate to find ways to do that. Is that all on hold?

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