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There have been significant amendments to The Legal Profession Act, which was proclaimed into force January 1, 2020. The overall effect of these amendments is to assist the Law Society shift towards a more modern approach to regulation. These effects are two pronged:
First, the new Act allows greater flexibility for the Law Society to control its own processes. This allows the Society to respond more effectively and quickly to the shifting landscape of the provision of legal services.
For example, with the amendments, the Law Society Benchers may establish any committees they feel are necessary to meet the needs of the profession and the public. This can be achieved through the implementation of new Rules rather than the cumbersome process of amending the Act.
Another substantial change is removal of regulatory processes from the Act and placing them in the Law Society Rules. This liberalizes the Law Society’s ability to manage professional responsibility processes in a way that best meet the public and our members’ needs.
Finally, the amendments to the Act enable the Society to develop rules with respect to the board/Bencher composition, and amend electoral processes, as appropriate. This allows the Law Society to adopt and create various good governance measures that the Benchers may determine will create efficiencies for the board, enhance fairness and transparency, and allow for considerations of whether specific skills or perspectives are needed on the board.
Second, the new Act enables the Law Society to implement the recommendations of the Legal Services Task Team. As we previously reported, the Task Team was appointed to explore the possibility of allowing non-lawyers to provide some legal services. The Task Team released its Final Report in August 2018.
The Task Team recommended that the ‘practice of law’ be defined in the legislation and provide that only lawyers and those otherwise authorized by the legislation and the Law Society Rules may practice law. This definition can be found here.
The Task Team also recommended the expansion of the list of exceptions to the unauthorized practice of law in areas where there is already some form of oversight and do not pose much risk to the public. These exceptions will be moved from the Act to the Rules to allow for more flexibility to amend or expand the list to meet future needs.
Finally, it is important to note that the Task Team did not recommend the creation of a new regulated professional group, such as the regulation of paralegals in Ontario. Instead, the Task Team recommended that the Law Society be granted licensing authority in the Act to allow non-lawyer legal service providers to practice law with a limited license on a case-by-case basis. The Law Society is currently exploring pilot projects to assist with the development of a new limited license framework. Once the framework is developed, this section of the Act will be proclaimed.