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Diana Miles, LSO CEO

LSO launches five-year Access to Innovation pilot project

Wednesday, November 03, 2021 @ 1:44 PM | By Amanda Jerome

On Nov. 3 the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) launched the Access to Innovation (A2I) pilot project, which will allow “providers of innovative technological legal services (ITLS) to serve consumers while complying with risk-based public protection requirements.”

According to the LSO’s website, ITLS providers can apply to participate in the project and “must demonstrate that they provide a sufficient quality of service while mitigating risks of harm to consumers.”

“Once approved,” the LSO explained, “an A2I participant can provide services in Ontario for a defined time period. During that period, the participant must comply with operating conditions designed and supervised by the law society to protect the public.”

Project participants that “meet expectations during their operating period,” the website noted, “can receive permits from the law society to continue providing legal services in Ontario on an ongoing basis.”

LSO’s CEO, Diana Miles

The LSO’s CEO, Diana Miles, told The Lawyer’s Daily that the project was inspired by “three key things.”

Firstly, she noted that in Ontario, and throughout the world, there is an “ongoing need for improving access to legal services and legal supports,” which are “efficient and effective” for users.

Secondly, she added that the LSO has noted “there have been many recent innovations in direct-to- public legal technology application.”

Miles stressed that there is a “need to ensure that we’re able to address regulatory matters that protect the public in relation to these legal technology applications.”

“There’s quite an evolution in offerings,” she added, stressing that “regulatory uncertainty” is a concern and the LSO needs to “ensure that there are protections for consumers related to all those offerings, otherwise it will be detrimental, not just to consumers, but also to the people who are innovating those products.”

And finally, “one of the important things we want to make sure that we’re doing is actually addressing this as an opportunity for our licensees, for lawyers and paralegals, to really understand and benefit from some of the ideas and concepts that are out there in the legal tech world now, looking at how they can enhance their own legal work to provide services to clients and also to support their own strong business models for the provision of legal services,” she added.

Miles believes that the legal profession is going to “move forward and everyone’s going to benefit” from the use of new tools and services.

Miles also believes that the A2I project will “highlight the potential for lawyers and paralegals to be able to enhance their work, either by using their own direct-to-public technology tools, or just enhancing or adopting other tools that people have created.”

She noted that the pandemic has shown that the administration of justice is “moving forward quickly” and it’s “incumbent upon all legal services providers to start to adapt their processes.”

“The public is going to have new demands and new expectations in that regard, and I think legal providers are well placed to actually start to create new opportunities for themselves internally as a lawyer or a paralegal,” she said, stressing the efficiency aspect of tech related tools and the possibility of “passing along” savings to consumers who are seeking access to justice.

“There are a lot of really bright lawyers and paralegals out there who are interested in the tech space and I think once we open up the regulatory platform, and we show that we’re open to seeing new developments that will help consumers, I think they can be really creative about engaging in new tools. So, I hope to see that from the profession as we move forward. Hopefully this will prompt some new vision in the group,” she added.

Miles said the LSO has “been advised by a number of legal innovators that they are interested in applying and utilizing the platform to seek our assistance and for us to learn from them as well.”

“We know we have so many legal professionals who have such fantastic and fresh ideas for delivering their services and innovation can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Right now, our sandbox is focused on technological innovation, but there are so many ways to innovate, and I think all legal professionals can learn a lot from just watching where these innovations are coming from and not being afraid to move forward,” she explained, adding that the legal profession doesn’t “want to be back in the Stone Age.”

“Our clients and consumers have much higher expectations of us than that and I think our lawyers and our paralegals can … easily address those expectations,” she noted.

Miles also said that if the LSO’s “sandbox and our innovative technological innovative services project can help our legal providers to create new opportunities, we would like to be part of that, we would like to support them and help them and hear from them about what concerns or issues they may have.”

“We’ll be listening to members of the public too as they identify new opportunities,” she said, noting that legal professionals “would really benefit from observing consumers’ interest in this area because the consumers will dictate where we’re going with our professional work in the future, and it behooves us all to pay attention.”

According to the LSO’s website, the A2I project is “open to any type of legal service provider — licensed lawyer or paralegal, non-licensed person, law firm, business or not-for-profit organization.”

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