The Law Society of Upper Canada''s paralegal standing committee is now in place, following the government appointment of five members to the committee from the paralegal profession.
The 13-member committee is made up of eight law society benchers, including five lawyers and three lay benchers as well as the five government appointed paralegals. Now that the committee has been formed, it will begin work on the details of the regulatory framework for the profession, according to the law society.
Joining the committee from the paralegal side are:
• Paul Dray, a former police officer and paralegal, who for 15 years has been providing prosecutorial services through his company;
• Brian Lawrie, a former police constable and the founder and president of POINTTS, which represents people charged with Highway Traffic act offences;
• Michelle Haigh, an independent paralegal who for the last 10 years has handled landlord-tenant matters, provincial offences, and small claims;
• Margaret Louter, a former executive of both the Professional Paralegal Association of Ontario and the Institute of Law Clerks of Ontario; and
• Stephen Parker, a former police officer who has been a traffic court agent since 1986.
Dray, who will serve as chairman of the committee, and Lawrie have also been appointed paralegal benchers to the law society.
Law society benchers Andrea Alexander, James Caskey, Anne Marie Doyle, Thomas Heintzman, William Simpson and Bonnie Warkentin were appointed to the committee at last month's convocation. Abraham Feinstein was named to the committee last Thursday to replace Lawrence Patillo, who is now a judge on the Ontario Superior Court. An eighth non-lawyer bencher will be appointed to the committee at a later date.
The new by-law establishing the standing committee was presented to Convocation last week, outlining the fact that the committee will be responsible for developing policy options on several issues. These include classes of license for the provision of legal services in Ontario, licensing and regulation of paralegals, rules of professional conduct for paralegals, continuing legal education requirements, professional competency requirements, and guidelines.
Dray tells Law Times that the committee met last week and is already working with LawPro to have a proposal from them regarding professional liability insurance.
Dray says the classes of licenses for paralegals will likely be the most challenging area, but he says, "I believe the framework has been set now with regard to where we are going. We just have to put the details in place for those."
He also says while they are not formal discussions at this stage, he has already spoken with a few paralegal groups in the areas of permitted practice.
"I've already spoken to the presidents of at least a couple of associations. There's nothing formally set at this point, but yes, we will be taking that input. I think input from the paralegals out there is really important," he says.
"I'm excited because this is really leading edge, the first in Canada and we believe it to be the first in North America, where independent paralegals or a para-profession is actually recognized and able to practice independently," says Dray.
"These are exciting developments for the justice system in Ontario," says LSUC Treasurer Gavin MacKenzie.
The creation of the committee is a direct result of the Access to Justice Act being passed last month. The act provides for regulation of paralegals by the law society. Regulation of the paralegal profession comes into effect on May 1.