New study by Windsor Law Professor finds evidence lacking that Non-lawyer Ownership Increases Access to Justice or reduced costs for consumers
A study by a Windsor Law Professor concludes that there is no data to support the argument that non-lawyer ownership (NLO) of law firms results in improved legal services, reduced legal fees or lower rates of self-representation in areas of law where needs are most acute in Ontario.
The study, prepared by Jasminka Kalajdzic, Associate Professor with the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor, was commissioned by the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA) to assist the profession with a thorough review of literature available on non-lawyer ownership of law firms in various jurisdictions throughout the world.
“OTLA welcomes this new study on the experience of ABS in other countries,” Charles Gluckstein, immediate Past-President, OTLA. “Clearly, Professor Kalajdzic underscores that the evidence in support of ABS is just not there,” Gluckstein added.
Proponents of ABS in Ontario have claimed that non-lawyer ownership could be an important way to facilitate access to justice. Professor Kalajdzic’s research focuses on whether non-lawyer ownership of law firms actually leads to any appreciable benefits for individuals seeking access to justice. According to her research, there is no data supporting a solid connection between the two.
“There is a dearth of empirical evidence to support any of the contentions made by proponents that NLO leads, directly or indirectly, to an increase in access to justice,” stated Professor Kalajdzic.
“In places like Australia, there’s been considerable consolidation in personal injury litigation but relatively little uptake in other areas such as family law. It’s not surprising to hear for example that the number of self-represented litigants in family law remains high in Australia,” Gluckstein added.
The study notes that the most prevalent and acute access to civil justice needs in Ontario fall into the areas of family law, employment law, and debt and consumer issues.
“Even if technology and economies of scale can be achieved through non-lawyer ownership, the question remains whether this will lead to reduced cost of legal services for the public. Professor Kalajdzic did not find any evidence that non-lawyer ownership results in reduced legal costs for consumers,” Gluckstein said.
Before any deregulation of legal services is commenced, the profession and the public at large must determine whether this will provide any appreciable improvement for those seeking access to justice.
All potential candidates for the upcoming Bencher Election at the Law Society must carefully consider the ramifications of non-lawyer ownership. The Ontario Trial Lawyers Association and all members of the bar expect potential Bencher candidates to declare their position on non-lawyer ownership well in advance of voting in April 2015.
For more information, please contact:
John Karapita at OTLA
Faculty of Law
University of Windsor
Tel: 519-253-3000 ext. 4225