Innovation in Regulation Task Force Update

February 9, 2017

The Law Society has been talking about proactive regulation for a number of years and it is integral to our new 2017-2019 Strategic Plan. Traditionally, we have been reactive to changes within the profession as well as to pressures in the marketplace. Going forward, we are continuing this shift to be more proactive in how we regulate to protect the public interest.

There are many steps required to make this shift and part of it means continuing our work in innovating regulation. Some of the initial steps we have already taken included consulting with the profession last spring. We want to provide you with an update on our progress from those discussions.

Last week, the Innovation in Regulation Task Force brought forward the following resolution regarding the Law Society’s mandate to explore changes in the way the legal profession is regulated in Alberta:

Changes are needed in our regulatory framework in order to move beyond the regulation of individual lawyers and enable the regulation of entities through which lawyers deliver legal services, and

The Law Society of Alberta is committed to proactive consultation with the legal profession as these innovative changes in regulation are considered.

The resolution was approved by the Benchers and is intended to identify the work ahead and to highlight our ongoing commitment to working with the profession as we continue to explore these important issues.

We want to ensure the profession understands that this resolution is not a decision to apply entity regulation across the board, and it is not a decision to invite non-lawyer investment in legal service providers. It is a decision that acknowledges our responsibility as the regulator to facilitate innovation as opposed to hindering progress. An example of this is the University of Calgary Incubator Project where an incubator is being set up to provide affordable family law services to Albertans who may otherwise not have access.

As the regulator, we need to be thoughtful in our approach and enable the types of innovation that support accessibility to legal services while protecting the public interest.

The legal profession, like other professions, has had to change with the times. As we can see, the marketplace is showing demand for innovative ways to access legal services. Companies like LegalZoom are already in the market and other ideas like the family law incubator are on the horizon. We know from news reports that within the court system many judges are frustrated and spend a great deal of time dealing with family law issues that could be settled before they reach a courtroom. These are just a few of the examples of what is happening all around us.

The Law Society is concerned about access to legal services for all Albertans. We want to make it easier for the profession to try out new ideas and deliver legal services in creative ways that could benefit Albertans from all walks of life. We understand that if the profession doesn’t give Albertans legal services they can access and use, they will get them in other ways.

Ultimately, our goal is to have the profession and the Law Society working together to guide this work in innovating regulation as it evolves. There will be opportunities for your continued input.