The Law Society of Upper Canada’s governing body (Convocation) has voted to change the regulator’s name from the Law Society of Upper Canada to the Law Society of Ontario, despite it being popular with practitioners, a statement from the Law Society says.
The vote follows a passionate discussion at September’s Convocation where benchers requested further research into potential names and suggested testing them with Law Society licensees and the public. The name change motion was passed with a strong majority.
Upper Canada was the name for what is roughly Ontario when the Law Society was created; Quebec was called Lower Canada. There has been talk of changing the name of the Law Society on a number of occasions over the years.
Four names were put forward by the Law Society’s Strategic Communications Steering Group and tested: Law Society of Ontario, Ontario Law Society, Legal Regulator of Ontario, and Legal Professionals of Ontario. Over 17,000 licensees responded, with 83% in favour of Law Society of Ontario. Of the nearly 1,000 members of the public who cast their preference, more members of the public (41%) preferred Law Society of Ontario than the other options.
The Law Society also commissioned independent research which showed that most members of the public are not familiar with the Society and its regulatory role, and that the name contributes to communications challenges and barriers to inclusion.
“Our role at the Law Society is to act in the public interest and serve the public, which means we need to be more visible and establish ourselves as the place to turn for legal help and information,” said Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas.
“It had become apparent that the ‘Upper Canada’ part of our name, while liked by many in the profession, was not only confusing for the public, but actually was a barrier to people contacting us, or knowing who we are and what we do.”
The Law Society of Upper Canada, the largest of all Canadian law societies, was founded in 1797, almost 20 years before the earliest such association in any other province or territory. The creation of this self-governing body by an Act of the Legislative Assembly was an innovation in the English-speaking world and it became the model for law societies across Canada.