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2013 Annual Report: Performance Highlights

Message from the Treasurer

It is a pleasure and a privilege to offer you this online Annual Report for 2013. I am very pleased to use a digital format for the first time. I hope that you will find this online version easy to follow, and that it will fully reflect the work the Law Society undertook in 2013 to serve the people of Ontario, the lawyers and paralegals, and indeed all those who make up the justice system in our province.

I would like to highlight in particular the progress the Law Society made in implementing the Pathways Project, the steps we took to engage the legal professions in considering the future of alternative business structures, and the ongoing commitment we made to facilitating access to justice for all Ontarians.

These and other initiatives are summarized below, and presented with more detail throughout this site.

The Pathways Project

It became increasingly clear over the last several years that the traditional Articling Program was becoming a barrier to entry to the legal profession in Ontario for many qualified candidates. Convocation created an Articling Task Force in 2008 to study the issues, consult with the profession, and then to bring recommendations back to the Law Society for review and consideration.

In October and November of 2012, the Task Force brought its report to Convocation with recommendations for the creation of two pathways to the profession: an enhanced Articling Program and a new Law Practice Program (LPP). In 2013, the Law Society issued a Request for Proposals, and subsequently engaged Ryerson University to provide the new LPP in English and the University of Ottawa to provide a French LPP. The LPP includes a four-month training course and a four-month work placement that will provide exposure to different practice contexts that are underrepresented in the traditional Articling Program. LPP will be implemented for the 2014-15 year. Pathways is a three-year pilot project and involves a significant evaluative component. Both the Articling Program and the LPP will be assessed on the basis of their effectiveness in delivering the Law Society’s required experiential competencies.

Alternative Business Structures

Advances in technology, the globalization of the business of law, and the pressure of client needs are all contributing to a transformation in the way legal services will be provided in the future. Other common law jurisdictions are already licensing and regulating a variety of new models of legal service providers. Law firms are being permitted to raise equity through share offerings, and multinational law firms are now opening their doors in Canada and other countries.

Through 2013, Convocation’s Working Group on Alternative Business Structures hosted a symposium for interested members of the professions and continued their review of the whole range of alternative business structures either in place or being contemplated.

In 2014, we look forward to continuing to engage lawyers and paralegals with the ABS Working Group to examine critically how Ontario can best move forward.

Access to Justice

You will find reference to access to justice throughout this site. It has been the principal focus of my term as Treasurer. The impetus stems from the Ontario Government’s 2006 amendment of the Law Society Act to include an obligation to facilitate access to justice for Ontarians.

As a regulator, there are a limited number of direct services we provide to the public to support access to justice — a free internet directory of lawyers and paralegals, the Law Society Referral Service, a series of videos that offer helpful advice, a family law website, and more. But beyond our direct services lie broader opportunities to make a difference to Ontarians seeking to resolve their legal needs.

As I prepare for the final months of my term as Treasurer, I am very pleased to have in place The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG). TAG is a standing forum whose membership includes representatives of the courts, government, legal associations, and the other key players who collectively comprise Ontario’s justice system. At TAG meetings, we have shared research, looked for ways to better use the resources each of us manage, and discussed strategies for moving forward to better serve all those with a legal need.

The Law Society is uniquely positioned to take on a meaningful role as collaborator and facilitative leader among all our partners in the legal system, which is why we are dedicated to facilitating access to justice through collaboration and leadership, as well as fostering reform and positive changes to the processes and institutions that control access to justice. There is already significant momentum toward reform. TAG takes advantage of that momentum and creates new ways to help Ontarians navigate their way through a justice system that is often complex and time-consuming.

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada

The Law Society continued to work closely with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada on national regulatory projects.

At the beginning of 2013, the Law Society’s board approved a key element in the first phase of the Federation’s National Admission Standards Project that is focused on developing and implementing consistent, transparent and high national standards for the regulation of the legal profession. Later in the year, in November, the Law Society submitted a response to the Federation’s consultation report on a suitability to practise national standard.

Amended lawyers’ Rules of Professional Conduct, based on the Federation’s Model Code of Professional Conduct, were approved at October 2013 Convocation and will come into effect in October 2014. The Paralegal Rules of Conduct will also be reviewed in relation to the Model Code.

Finally, the Law Society approved, in principle, the National Mobility Agreement in February 2013. When fully implemented, the agreement will provide for full, permanent mobility between the Barreau du Québec and the rest of Canada and replace the Canadian Legal Advisor regime set out in the Québec Mobility Agreement.

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