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About A2I

The Access to Innovation (A2I) project allows providers of innovative technological legal services (ITLS) to serve consumers while complying with risk-based public protection requirements. A2I is a five-year pilot project that commenced in November 2021.

ITLS providers apply to participate in the A2I project. Providers must demonstrate that they provide a sufficient quality of service while mitigating risks of harm to consumers.

Once approved, 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.

A2I participants that meet expectations during their operating period can receive permits from the Law Society to continue providing legal services in Ontario on an ongoing basis.

Learn more:

  • The need for the A2I project

    Legal problems are a fact of everyday life in Ontario. Research shows that, over any three-year period, nearly half of all Canadian adults will experience at least one legal problem that they consider serious and difficult to resolve.

    Despite concerted efforts across the justice system, however, access to legal assistance remains elusive for many people. Research shows that Canadians do not seek professional assistance for more than 80% of their legal issues. A legal problem can affect a person’s physical, mental, social and financial well-being.

    Innovative technological legal services (ITLS) can increase access to effective legal assistance. Advancements in technological capabilities have contributed to the rapid rise of ITLS. Through websites, apps and software, ITLS providers can help people understand, navigate and address their legal issues. There is growing consumer demand for these supports.

    The Access to Innovation project responds to regulatory issues that innovators and consumers have faced in developing and using ITLS. It is designed to provide greater certainty about the rules and standards that will apply to ITLS providers and to provide consumers with increased choice and confidence that the assistance they receive is effective and safe.

  • The development of the A2I project

    Since 2018, the Law Society’s Technology Task Force (composed of members of the Law Society’s board of directors) has been studying the role of technologies in the delivery of legal services, and the Law Society’s role as a regulator in this changing environment. The Task Force is examining these issues with a view to recommending regulatory approaches that will appropriately facilitate access to justice and protect the public from risks of harm.

    Following extensive study, the Task Force recommended the creation of a regulatory sandbox for innovative technological legal services (now called the Access to Innovation project). (Read the full report.)

    In April 2021, the Law Society’s board of directors approved this recommendation. Access to Innovation was launched in November 2021.

    The “regulatory sandbox” model is a popular policy tool used by regulators to engage with innovative new market entrants that do not fit well within the existing regulatory framework. First popularized in the financial services sector, regulatory sandboxes are “safe spaces” in which potentially beneficial products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms can be test-run, subject to tailored operating conditions and under regulatory supervision. This approach offers service providers innovation opportunities and access to markets through more appropriate regulation than is otherwise available and offers regulators the opportunity to gather data and develop effective, sustainable policies in these emerging areas.

    Legal regulators in the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, the state of Utah, as well as England and Wales have all adopted regulatory sandboxes for similar purposes. Legal regulators in other Canadian and foreign jurisdictions are also working on implementing regulatory sandboxes. 

  • How the A2I project works

    Summary:

    The Access to Innovation (A2I) project allows approved providers of innovative technological legal services (ITLS) to operate in a regulatory “safe space” in Ontario. Approved ITLS providers deliver services to consumers while complying with risk-based public protection requirements. Participants that have satisfied their performance objectives at the end of their operating period in the A2I project can receive permits to continue providing services in Ontario. The A2I project also allows the Law Society to gather critical information about the operation of ITLS, to inform policy decisions about the regulation of legal services.

    Steps involved: 

    • ITLS providers apply to participate in the A2I project. 
    • Applications are reviewed by the A2I team, including the independent advisory council.
    • Applicants that demonstrate that their ITLS is sufficiently effective and beneficial to consumers, and appropriately mitigates any risks involved, receive approval to participate in the A2I project.
    • Approved applicants enter into a participation agreement with the Law Society, which establishes: 
      • the length of the operating period,
      • operating requirements such as data to be reported,
      • information to be communicated to consumers, and
      • complaint resolution and audit processes.
    • The A2I team publishes a written decision for each completed application.
    • Approved participants provide services to the public and comply with operating and reporting requirements for the duration of their operating period.
    • The A2I team monitors the participant during the operating period and takes action if serious problems emerge.
    • At the conclusion of a participant’s operating period in the A2I project, the A2I team evaluates its performance. The participant may be issued a permit to continue providing legal services in Ontario.
    • The A2I team periodically reports its analyses and observations to the Law Society’s board of directors, to inform regulatory policy making.
  • Benefits of the A2I project

    The Access to Innovation (A2I) project benefits Ontarians, legal service providers and the Law Society. 

    Facilitating access to justice: By safely removing and adjusting regulatory barriers, the A2I project encourages the development and operation of innovative technological legal services (ITLS) that can reach new legal consumers in new ways, especially in areas of high unmet legal need.

    Protecting the public: By carefully assessing and supervising ITLS providers, the A2I project ensures that ITLS consumers feel confident that they can make informed choices about the services they receive, are protected from risks of incompetent or unethical services and have recourse available, if necessary.

    Spurring innovation: By reducing regulatory uncertainty and offering routes to approved service provision, the A2I project gives ITLS providers confidence that they can grow sustainable operations and encourages them to continue developing innovative new legal solutions for Ontarians. By establishing operating criteria and parameters, the A2I project can also help give ITLS providers targets for the features and protections they need to build into their service models. This helps shape the responsible development of innovative tools.

    Supporting regulatory re-evaluation: By gathering real, detailed evidence about ITLS operations, the A2I project helps inform decision-making about the appropriate scope of the Law Society’s regulatory framework.

    Educating legal professionals and the public: By highlighting new and innovative ways of providing legal services, the A2I project helps legal professionals understand the opportunities and challenges associated with ITLS and helps members of the public identify new opportunities to access legal help. Legal professionals can observe consumer interest in these new service models and can enhance their work by using, adapting to, or developing their own ITLS tools.

  • Support for the A2I project

    Part of the funding for the Access to Innovation (A2I) project is generously provided by a grant from The Law Foundation of Ontario. Through granting and collaboration, the Foundation invests in knowledge and services that help people understand the law and use it to improve their lives. The Law Society is grateful for its support.

  • Contact us
    Access to Innovation (A2I)
    Law Society of Ontario
    130 Queen St. W.
    Toronto, ON  M5H 2N6
    Email: accesstoinnovation@lso.ca
    Phone: 416-947-3300
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