MacLean’s Article: “A Closed Society”

Kate Lunau of MacLean’s Magazine is doing a 5-part series on Canada’s legal system (specifically, it’s many flaws). She mentions in her most recent article (“A Closed Society”, February 23, 2009 at pp. 48-49) how the British have implemented significant changes to promote access to justice for the common person. Such changes have included having supermarket chains launching legal stores within their premises, allowing outside companies to own and run law firms, and allowing external investment to encourage growth and competition. These reforms were “hard-fought” and came with many safeguards (put there by lawyers). Interestingly, Canada has not followed suit with consumer reforms of its own. As Kate Lunau points out, low-cost legal service providers in Canada remain scarce and lawyers still have a monopoly on legal services. Restrictions on lawyer advertising and forming affiliations or multi-disciplinary partnerships (which are onerous from an administrative point of view for lawyers), for example, have tended to maintain the status quo for the way in which legal services are offered/provided here in Canada. Yet such regulations – which lawyers impose upon themselves in the name of the public good – stifle innovation and low-cost solutions for the common Canadian.

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