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The Slater & Gordon advantage

Canadian law firms are privately held organizations owned by the partners. But that’s not the way it works everywhere in the world.

Take Australia, which has allowed its law firms to tap the capital markets and raise money from investors. One of those firms is Slater & Gordon. It has shareholders and trades on the Australian Stock Exchange.

On February 6, 2012, the firm made a notable move. It announced that it was “acquiring” a UK law firm, its first overseas move.

By tapping the capital markets, Slater has been able to acquire capital and begin to build out a world-class law firm. Granted, Slater & Gordon is far from a corporate law firm. It’s a class action plaintiff firm.

That is neither here nor there. The point is that Canada, by preventing its law firms from being able to raise capital in a similar fashion, puts its law firms at a competitive disadvantage to their global counterparts. Why can’t a Siskinds or a Koskie Minsky be allowed to pursue a similar strategy in pursuit of justice for their clients. (Class action practices require hefty capital to carry cases.)

Other jurisdictions, such as England, are loosening restrictions on who can own a law firm and now supermarkets are entering the legal game. Canada is falling behind and needs to reconsider who can own a law firm. Access to justice is too precious to let stodgy concepts or regulation and old ways of doing business get in the way.