FAQs & glossary


What is legal services regulation?
What’s driving regulatory change in Nova Scotia?
Why is the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society introducing legal services regulation?
Who is responsible for implementing legal services regulation? 
What exactly is a legal entity?
What’s the difference between legal practice and delivery of legal services

More questions coming soon. See the Glossary of terms for more information. 

Also see Entity Regulation - Frequently Asked Questions, a resource developed by the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC).  

What is legal services regulation?
Traditionally, legal regulation in common law countries is characterized by a “complaints-based” reactionary approach. Ethical standards are set by regulators, and practitioners who fail to meet the articulated standards are disciplined but only if there is enough evidence to indicate the standards have not been met. This approach is therefore, by and large, a pass/fail system: either the rules are found to have been broken or they are not.

Modern legal services regulation differs considerably. It embodies a shift of focus from individual lawyer conduct to firm culture and behaviour, and from discipline to process improvement. It evolves beyond the traditional “one-size-fits-all” model of regulation to one that reflects strengths and risks relating to varying types and sizes of practice.

What’s driving regulatory change in Nova Scotia?
The factors creating a sense of urgency for regulatory reform are wide-ranging – and undeniable. They include demographic shifts, like the aging of the profession and depopulation of rural lawyers; disruptions, like advances in technology and competition from non-legal entities; and a well-documented crisis of access to legal services and the justice system. Our model was created when almost all lawyers practised alone; that is no longer the case.
Before embarking on its regulatory transformation initiative, the Society identified 10 trends and issues facing legal practice today:
  1. The impact of technology on the profession – access to legal information and products online, virtual law practices, non-lawyer provision of legal information and services;
  2. Client empowerment arising from the unbundling of legal services, and demands for increased value from legal services at lower cost;
  3. Changes in law firm structures and ownership around the world, such as multidisciplinary practices and alternate business structures;
  4. Changes in regulation of the legal profession around the world, with the focus shifting to risk-based, proactive and appropriate management systems rather than one-size-fits-all, rules-based models;
  5. Increasing numbers of corporate and in-house counsel as an alternative to outsourcing legal work;
  6. Globalization of the legal services market;
  7. Legal process outsourcing, such as document production to firms outside the country in order to reduce costs;
  8. Significant focus on the crisis in access to justice and access to affordable legal services;
  9. Changing demographics and an aging population, including lawyers; and
  10. A likely change in legal education now made obvious by the decline in the number of law school applicants.
These drivers of change were outlined in Transforming Regulation and Governance in the Public Interest, a research paper prepared in 2013 by Victoria Rees, Director of Professional Responsibility.
The Society’s regulatory reform work is addressing these trends with a “made in Nova Scotia” solution that reflects the unique needs of the public and the legal profession here. Other jurisdictions in Canada, the United States and beyond are watching this work closely. Nova Scotia is leading the way for other law societies across Canada to “walk the talk” on issues of innovation and access to justice.

Why is the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society developing a new model of legal services regulation?
The Society’s Strategic Framework for 2013-2016 calls for action on two specific priorities: transforming regulation and governance in the public interest, and enhancing access to legal services and the justice system for all Nova Scotians.

A comprehensive research paper, published by the Society in October 2013, set out key objectives for a regulatory model that is responsive to current legal practice trends and issues. It recommended developing a new framework that is proactive; principle-based and outcomes-focused; risk-based; able to encourage and accommodate new business models; able to enhance access to justice and affordable legal services; one that involves new ways of engaging law firms to achieve outcomes. Entity regulation was recommended as a key element of such a model.

If developed and implemented appropriately, entity regulation is extremely beneficial for law firms and the public. In Australia, where it has existed for more than a decade, research found a two-thirds reduction in complaints against legal entities. Australian law firms subject to entity regulation believe it has improved and strengthened their management systems, thereby assisting them to improve service delivery.

Who is responsible for implementing legal services regulation?
In December 2013, the Society engaged Creative Consequences, an Australian international consultancy, to assist with design and implementation of a regime to regulate legal services in Nova Scotia. This approach involves six phases:

  • review of the present regulatory and ethical requirements for lawyers in Nova Scotia, including an analysis of complaints data and professional indemnity claims;
  • design a set of ‘regulatory objectives’ deemed necessary to encompass the findings of Phase 1;
  • consult with stakeholders throughout the entire process but specifically on the Society’s Regulatory Objectives;
  • design a ‘self-assessment’ process to enable legal service entities to address the ‘objectives’;
  • further consultation; and
  • implementation, including design of an ‘audit’ or ‘review’ function.

The Society also established a Legal Services Regulation Steering Committee and three working groups to oversee this work (see Committees page for their mandates and responsibilities):

  • Legal Services Regulation Solo & Small Firm Working Group;
  • Legal Services Regulation Legislation and Regulation Working Group; and
  • Legal Services Regulation Communications and Engagement Working Group.

What exactly is a legal entity?

Currently a ‘legal entity’ is defined as a lawyer or group that carries out work that is supervised by a lawyer, whether the work is done by a lawyer or non-lawyer, including but not limited to law firms, in-house counsel and department/team, government lawyer and department/team, and Legal Aid. 

What’s the difference between legal practice and delivery of legal services?

Subsection 16(1) of the Legal Profession Act defines the practice of law as “the application of legal principles and judgment that requires the knowledge and skill of a person trained in the law ...”

The Society’s definition for delivery of legal services is still a work in progress, but Policy 5 approved by Council on Nov. 20 defines it as follows:

The delivery of legal services involves the provision of services in circumstances where the application of legal principles and judgment with regard to those circumstances or the objectives of a person requires the service provider to have the knowledge and skill of a person trained in the law.   

If you have a question about legal services regulation, email it to communications@nsbs.org