Message from the Treasurer
It is my privilege to present to you the Law Society’s 2014 Annual Report. You will see in this report that the Law Society continues to lead as a professional regulator, with progressive initiatives and a growing emphasis on transparency, consultation and collaboration.
We set a series of priorities for our four-year term, in 2011. We are coming to the end of that term and I am delighted to report that we have made great progress in all areas.
In 2014, for the first time, five paralegals were elected as benchers. Previously, only two of the five elected paralegals were benchers with voting rights in Convocation. The number of paralegals in Ontario is growing rapidly and I am pleased we have reflected this in our governance structure.
I touch on some of our other key priorities in the sections below. I invite you to read more about these and additional initiatives, including the Pathways Pilot Project, Tribunal Reforms, Key Regulatory Activities and the renewal of our Aboriginal Initiatives Strategy, in the other sections of this report.
Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees
The Law Society is leading the way for systemic change to help the legal professions better reflect the diverse public they serve. In collaboration with lawyers, paralegals and partner organizations, including our own Equity Advisory Group, we are working to identify and reduce barriers faced by racialized lawyers and paralegals through the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees initiative.
We held a very successful and well-attended series of consultations across the province at the end of 2014 and into 2015. It is clear that the professions are engaged, concerned and eager to work together on this issue.
Access to Justice
The justice system continues to be inaccessible to far too many. Early in 2014, the Law Society adopted a new forward-looking framework to refocus our access to justice mandate and incorporate a collaborative approach. In implementing the framework, we dedicated staff and resources to ensure access to justice and equity principles are fully integrated into our core business functions.
We recognize, however, that no one organization can solve the problems with access to justice. Collaboration, innovation and wide participation are required, which is why in June, together with our justice partners, we launched TAG – The Action Group on Access to Justice. Through TAG, organizations and individuals come together to share knowledge and resources and work together to find new solutions to access to justice challenges.
Alternative Business Structures
The Law Society began a study of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) in 2012 in the face of emerging factors such as innovations in technology, the evolving expectations of clients and changes to legal business structures taking place in other commonwealth countries. While the Law Society has not made any decision on ABS, we are taking a measured and consultative approach to this important issue. We began a dialogue with the professions and other stakeholders in 2014, which we plan to continue in the coming year. Given the evolving legal landscape, it is essential that we continue to study whether or not implementing some form of ABS might better serve the public interest.
To maintain our high standards as a regulator in the public interest, the Law Society must continually examine its regulatory structures. To this end, we began an examination of compliance-based entity regulation in 2014.
In a compliance-based regulatory scheme, the regulator sets out expected outcomes for entities and provides flexibility as to how those outcomes are achieved.
Preliminary evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that compliance-based entities regulation may be an effective and efficient regulatory model that could enhance our ability protect the public.
The Law Society’s work in this area is in its preliminary stages. As with ABS, no decisions have been made. We are taking a proactive and considered approach. We plan to continue to study the issue and expect to engage with the profession on the topic in the coming year.