Law Times

January 19, 2015

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Why is personal injury bar so against ABS? By yamri Taddese Law Times ith alternative busi- ness structures promising to be a key focus of debate for the legal profession this year, it's clear significant opposition will be coming from at least one part of the bar: personal injury lawyers. But what is it about the idea that has them so worried? Charles Gluckstein, a personal injury lawyer and a former presi- dent of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, disagrees with the idea that alternative business structures would bring down prices for legal services. "That's highly f lawed and especially true in terms of its f laws when it comes to personal injury," he says, suggesting the personal injury bar doesn't have a problem when it comes to access to justice. The vast majority of personal in- jury lawyers work on a contingency- fee basis, Gluckstein notes, some- thing he says is "probably the ulti- mate message for access to justice." For personal injury law, alter- native business structures can only have negative outcomes, es- pecially given what would happen if insurance companies owned law firms, according to Gluckstein. "Imagine the circle of care the insurance company is looking to control when persons injured in an accident are insured with them," he says. "They control the lawyers' fees, they control the rehabilitation costs, the award the individual is going to get, and the whole problem is covered under their umbrella. That's what's happening in the U.K. It's allowed to occur. Insurance companies own law firms and they own the insurance companies." Brian Cameron of Oatley Vig- mond Personal Injury Lawyers LLP says the idea that alternative business structures would im- prove innovation in the legal in- dustry is "utter nonsense." "In fact, I think it's going to re- tard innovation because there is no longer an incentive [to inno- vate]," he says. "For me as a lawyer, if I'm part of a big corporation that's doing things and making money on vol- ume, I personally have no reason to innovate, I have no reason to 2015 ONTARIO LAWYER'S PHONE BOOK THE MOST COMPLETE DIRECTORY OF ONTARIO LAWYERS, LAW FIRMS, JUDGES AND COURTS Perfectbound Published December each year On subscription $77 One time purchase $80 L88804-677 Multiple copy discounts available . Plus applicable taxes and shipping & handling. (prices subject to change without notice) With more than 1,400 pages of essential legal references, Ontario Lawyer's Phone Book is your best connection to legal services in Ontario. Subscribers can depend on the credibility, accuracy and currency of this directory year after year. More detail and a wider scope of legal contact information for Ontario than any other source: ȕ 0WFS27,000 lawyers listedȕ0WFS9,000 law firms and corporate offices listed ȕ 'BYBOEUFMFQIPOFOVNCFSTFNBJMBEESFTTFTPGȮDFMPDBUJPOTBOEQPTUBMDPEFT 7JTJUDBSTXFMMDPNPSDBMMGPSBEBZOPSJTLFWBMVBUJPO OLPB_LT_Dec8_14.indd 1 2014-12-03 11:56 AM Guarded optimism for 2015 Amid falling oil prices, firms say they can adapt By yamri Taddese Law Times s falling oil prices add another wrinkle to al- ready-uncertain economic conditions, several law firms are expressing guarded optimism that they'll be able to weather the storm and continue to adapt to changing markets this year. Lower oil prices will "undoubtedly" mean challenges for some oil and gas producers but they also present opportuni- ties for clients in other sectors, says Brock Gibson, chairman of Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP. "Oil prices have been volatile in the past and are clearly volatile over the last few months," says Gibson. "They are generally priced in U.S. dollars, so the drop in the Canadian dollar mitigates some of that. It will undoubt- edly create some challenges for some of the oil and gas and en- ergy producers and it will create opportunities for others who are looking to acquire." He adds: "There will be changes in capital expenditure and undoubtedly consolidation opportunities for some of the clients and so we're here to serve all of the clients both in seizing the opportunities that it creates and dealing with any challenges." A weaker Canadian dollar could also benefit export-ori- ented clients, according to Gibson, who also notes the cur- rency drop will help attract more foreign investment. The optimism, of course, follows a year that saw major concern about the future of legal business given the collapse of Heenan Blaikie LLP in February. While there was rampant speculation about which firm would be next, Gibson says the last year turned out to be a good one. "I do feel that 2014 was a good year for Blakes. It was one of our best years and I expect 2015 will continue to be robust for us. Our strat- egy has been to assist our clients in the leading indus- tries, markets, and practice areas that are most active in Canada. Those areas vary from year to year," he says. "Some industries, markets, and practice areas are more robust in any given year than others, but our strategy is to be positioned for our clients in all of those market cycles and so we anticipate 2015 will be similar to 2014 adjusted for where market activity is," he adds. For some small- and mid-size law firms, the focus for 2015 is less on global economic trends and more on the business of law. "Our business is litigation and from a litigation per- spective, we're always optimistic that people will still have reason to litigate," says Brian Grant, managing partner of Lerners LLP's Toronto office. "My own view of what's ahead for us is less to do with broad economic factors and more with respect to the business of law." There will be "huge implications" should the Law Society of Upper Canada move towards allowing al- ternative business structures and public ownership of law firms, according to Grant. "That is a real con- versation that's going to have to take place across a broad spectrum in the coming year. It has huge im- plications. I think the [Canadian Bar Association] believes it has implications for access to justice. That may be so, but it has huge implications for legal cul- ture, accountability, independence, and solicitor-cli- ent privilege. It has a potentially large impact on how law firms organize themselves. That conversation BIG YEAR FOR LAO McCamus reflects on slew of changes P5 CIVIL JURIES Columnist responds to lawyers' criticisms P7 FOCUS ON Real Estate Law P8 'The most significant challenge we could possibly foresee is if the law society decided to do something drastic and unnecessary to the structure that we have,' says David Levy. See Response, page 4 See Firms, page 4 Non-lawyer owners of law firms wouldn't be keen to fill the gap in access to justice where it hurts the public the most, says Steve Rastin. PM #40762529 BIG YEAR FOR LAO McCamus reflects on slew of changes & $#&!&jmmm$cYa[bbWh$Yec ntitled-4 1 12-03-20 10:44 AM $5.00 • Vol. 26, No. 2 January 19, 2015 Follow LAW TIMES on www.twitter.com/lawtimes L aw TIMEs A W Photo: Robin Kuniski

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