On September 28, 2017, the Law Society of Ontario, the self-governing regulator for the legal profession, approved in principle, the provision of legal services by civil society organizations – charities and non-profits. These services will need to be provided for free by licensed members of the Law Society. Approval in principle is to be followed by a consultation that will result in new specific rules. For more details, see this article.
The impetus for the change seems to have been to permit social service organizations to integrate legal services into the other services that they provide to vulnerable clients. However, it appears that it may be possible for a civil society organization to provide legal services to other charities and non-profits. This could be a very desirable development as it could permit better legal advice to be obtained by smaller charities and non-profits. That said, there are lots of details to be worked out through the regulatory consultation process being undertaken by the Law Society. Any organization considering the provision of legal services should consider participating in the consultation. Once the regulatory environment clarifies, we would also be pleased to advise civil society organizations wishing to begin providing legal services as part of their existing other programing or as a service to the charitable sector.