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Time to expand paralegal rights?

|Written By Yamri Taddese
Time to expand paralegal rights?
‘This isn’t about lawyers making money or paralegals making money. This isn’t about turf. This is about protecting the public,’ says Victoria Starr. Photo: Robin Kuniski

As law associations have begun welcoming them into their ranks, paralegals are yet again seeking to expand the scope of their practice in a new motion that’s stirring up controversy ahead of its discussion at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s annual general meeting in May.

The motion will ask the law society to create a task force to research the possibility of an expanded scope of practice for paralegals in areas including, but not limited to, immigration and family law as well as construction liens. The task force would look into “establishing the education, training, experience, and other necessary qualifications” that would allow paralegals to practise in those areas with a broader capacity.

Paralegals have proposed similar motions in the past. Toronto paralegal Marshall Yarmus, who’s again spearheading the motion, says the law society had previously expressed a commitment to study the matter but has so far done little to address it.

Family and immigration law groups are already expressing their vehement opposition to a motion they say will dilute the standards in their practice areas. “We’re really, seriously concerned about public protection,” says Victoria Starr, chairwoman of the Family Lawyers Association, who’s expressing alarm about the quality of family law services paralegals would provide.

“Often, family law cases are far more complex than they look at first blush and so there is a tendency to oversimplify the issues, the rights, and everything involved in the case,” she says.

She adds: “This isn’t about lawyers making money or paralegals making money. This isn’t about turf. This is about protecting the public.”

Prior to regulation by the law society, paralegals were able to act in uncontested divorces. Now, all family law work they do has to be under the supervision of a lawyer, something Yarmus says needs to change.

“I still get a lot of requests from people for different family law matters,” he says. “Some of those things paralegals were able to do prior to regulation.”

When it comes to immigration law, “the law society still takes the position that paralegals should be restricted to tribunals” despite a federal amendment that allows licensed paralegals to prepare documents for cases outside the jurisdiction of tribunals, says Yarmus.

“Really, what we’re asking them to do is to review . . . what has to be done to allow us to expand into these areas of practice . . . to allow us to fully practise in them,” says Yarmus.

“This motion wouldn’t be brought had the law society followed through with its commitment three years ago to study these areas of practice,” he says.

Lawyer Raoul Boulakia, a member of the executive of the Refugee Lawyers Association, says it’s “disturbing” that the law society would consider a motion like this one.

“It really trivializes what we do,” says Boulakia.

“Having refugees represented at the refugee board or the Refugee Appeal Division by non-lawyers is very risky for the refugee claimants. It basically means they’re being represented by someone who is not going to be able to assert their procedural rights or even many of the legal concepts.”

Asked if any training could equip paralegals to practise immigration law, Boulakia replies: “Yeah, that would be law school.”

Lawyers, he adds, “don’t just take a refresher course and go out and represent people.”

The federal government’s green light for paralegals to handle immigration matters deserves some scrutiny, Boulakia continues, noting authorities don’t necessarily want refugees to succeed in their applications.

The Ontario Bar Association’s citizenship and immigration law section also has concerns. Immigration clients are a vulnerable group who deserve stringent protection, says Lainie Appleby, chairwoman of the OBA group.

“Immigration and refugee law is deceivingly complex,” she said last week.

“There is sometimes a false impression that it is a pro forma process when, in fact, a high degree of expertise and careful judgment is required to complete the paperwork in the best interests of clients. For example, preparing immigration applications requires analytical and forward-looking strategic thinking as is acquired in law school.”

When it comes to ensuring the quality of practice, “the law society should not be a less stringent option to the federal regulator,” she added. “We are confident that the law society may eventually catch up, but the focus must be on putting the current house in order rather than expansion.”

The new motion references the 2012 report by David Morris that raised the idea of training paralegals to work in areas of the law that now fall outside their scope of practice.

But according to the Family Lawyers Association, such a move would do little to advance the cause of access to justice.

“There is no reason to believe that paralegals will charge a whole lot less than lawyers,” says Starr, who argues the real solution is to increase legal aid funding.

The motion calls on the law society to create a committee within 30 days. While Starr calls the time frame unrealistic, John Tzanis, president of the Paralegal Society of Ontario, says it shows the urgency of the matter. Questions related to paralegals languished on the backburner last year when the articling debate took the spotlight, he says.

“This has to move a little quicker, it has be a priority,” he says. In addition to the law society, the Paralegal Society of Ontario will also be talking to Legal Aid Ontario about the possibility of giving certificates to paralegals for immigration matters, says Tzanis.

“If you take a look at the budget crunches that are occurring within legal aid, this is, I think, a very, very good solution.”

Allowing paralegals to practise more broadly will also create opportunities for graduates facing limited job opportunities, Tzanis adds.

“We have 700 to 800 students graduating every single year and where are we going to provide areas of practice for these people? Are they just going to be coming out and competing with paralegals that are already struggling?”

The debate arises as paralegals can now rub shoulders with lawyers at two more Ontario law associations. The Halton County Law Association and the Waterloo Law Association both amended their bylaws recently to allow paralegals to become members and join the board of directors.

Halton association president Laura Oliver says the move makes sense as paralegals are now subject to law society regulation. But their inclusion, she adds, is also about creating a more harmonious relationship between lawyers and paralegals.

“I think there should be some amount of collegiality between the two professions,” she says.

“We are regulated by the same body and we are two different professions, but that doesn’t mean that we have to be in competition with one another.”

Not all lawyers have been keen on sharing their law association with paralegals, notes Oliver, who calls the issue a controversial one.

“Suffice it to say, I’ve seen some debates that have been quite offensive,” she says.

“There appears to be some perception about ethics that I don’t necessarily think is restricted to paralegals,” she adds.

Some of the tension between lawyers and paralegals stems from the adversarial relationship that’s been building up between the two professions, says Tzanis. He calls the law associations’ moves the first step in breaking down a culture of mutual animosity. “For years since we’ve been licensed, it’s almost like we’ve been adversaries,” he says.

“There’s been suspicion and there’s been acrimony with respect to the two professions whether or not they’re in competition with each other, whether they’re colleagues or not.”

Part of the problem is also “a matter of respect,” he adds.

From where they can put their coats and stretch their legs to how the courts treat them, paralegals feel slighted by a culture of privilege that constantly puts them beneath lawyers, he says.

“I think what happens is lawyers feel there is a certain privilege in being a lawyer that paralegals don’t have and that’s something that I think irks paralegals, bothers paralegals,” says Tzanis.

Paralegals’ inclusion in law associations is the first step to breaking down some of the relationship issues that exist between the two professions, he adds.

Both the Halton and Waterloo associations will each reserve one seat on the board of directors for a paralegal. Ottawa’s County of Carleton Law Association has already given paralegals full membership rights.

So far, only a handful of paralegals are members of the Waterloo association, says president Clarke Melville.

Lawyers in the region “have embraced” paralegals’ inclusion, he notes. Paralegals have full membership rights, he says, adding that creating different privileges for the two professions is “a ridiculous, complicated, and unnecessary exercise.”

For more, see "Paralegals call truce over law society motion."

  • Jason Wang
    The ultimate difference between lawyers and paralegals is the former's law school education. As that is the only thing that paralegals don’t have, some lawyers tend to put their law school education on a pedestal and sanctify it.

    I cannot really see why it should take a law school education to develop the “high degree of expertise and careful judgment ... to complete the (immigration) paperwork”, as many of us have successfully completed our own immigration applications, immigrated ourselves, or even sponsored our spouses long before we even attended our paralegal programs! I cannot really see why law school is the only place where people can gain the “analytical and forward-looking strategic thinking” required for immigration applications. Too many law schools promise that you can develop this and that but I just don’t see these qualities in their graduates.
  • Julie Floyd
    I believe paralegals should be able to practice law under certain crimes like Speeding Tickets, D.U.I.'s and other traffic offenses as well as other minor crimes like shop lifting, under age drinking,barking dogs etc. That way it frees up attorneys to handle the more srious crimes like Homicide, Drugs Violations etc. Besides isn't it the paralegals who does all of the investigative work on all cases for the attoneys. I also believe that Paralegals/ Notary Publics should be able to preform marriages and do other work in all Fifty States in the U.S.A.
  • David Rudd Morton
    [quote name="Julie Floyd"]I believe paralegals should be able to practice law under certain crimes like Speeding Tickets, D.U.I.'s and other traffic offenses as well as other minor crimes like shop lifting, under age drinking,barking dogs etc. That way it frees up attorneys to handle the more srious crimes like Homicide, Drugs Violations etc. Besides isn't it the paralegals who does all of the investigative work on all cases for the attoneys. I also believe that Paralegals/ Notary Publics should be able to preform marriages and do other work in all Fifty States in the U.S.A.[/quote]

    Yes Julie, I agree that qualified paralegals, (by virtue of good moral character, ethical behavior, and accredited paralegal training courses should be able to aspire to legal "self-employment" like they will have in Washington State as LLLT's--Limited Legal licensed Technicians. The public deserves it!
    Ssg. David R. Morton (Retired US Army)
  • Rochelle
    @ Mary It is quite ironic that you use health care as an anology. Here in Ontario, nurse practitioners have many of the same responsibilites and even have their own family practices where they take on patients and provide more than adequate care in place of doctors especially in underserved and rural areas all in the interests of increasing access to health care. Further to this, midwives in Ontario are in high demand and provide even better care (in my own opinion) than obstetricians with respect to low risk pregnancies and the model is as such in order to increase access to exceptional health care services for pregnant women and offer them a choice of birthplace. Seems to me the health care model in Ontario is a perfect analogy. Not everyone has access to a lawyer(monetarily or otherwise) and they should be given the choice. Furthermore, there are many practice areas that are not quite analogous to 'surgery' per se that paralegals should be able to specialize in.
  • Mary
    By the same analogy we can solve the health care crisis in the United States by making nurses all authorized surgeons. Access to heath care!! It's ok if the nurse does not know how to operate....they will die anyway.

    This is sooo crazy. If you want to be a lawyer go to law school.
  • Ryan Hendry
    It is worth pointing out that should the Paralegals of Ontario withdraw themselves from the LSUC and choose to regulate themselves, by themselves, the opinions discussed here will all be moot.

    Doctors don't regulate nurses and dentists don't regulate hygenists, so why should lawyers regulate paralegals?
  • Marc
    Ryan, the horse has left the barn. The LSUC regulates paralegals. That's the way it is. There's no sense in continuing to fight it.

    Withdrawing from regulation is simply not an option as this is not just a function of policy and would require a change in legislation.
  • Scott Carswell
    [quote name="Marc"]Ryan, the horse has left the barn. The LSUC regulates paralegals. That's the way it is. There's no sense in continuing to fight it.

    Withdrawing from regulation is simply not an option as this is not just a function of policy and would require a change in legislation.[/quote]

    Because legislation never changes...
  • Mark
    There is no point in beating a dead horse. And as it stands, changes to legislation continue to move to their favor not against. Good luck trying to push that back.
  • Trevor
    That would be largely...er...illegal...
  • Tara
    Perhaps my earlier comment with respect to the professional abilities of “the average Paralegal” was unfair, however, we need to remember that there was a legitimate reason why the LSUC intervened and began licencing Paralegals. I would suggest to you that Rochelle (and her experience) is not average.
    Personally, it is my belief that in order to increase access to justice we need to start with refurbishing Legal Aid and then, subsequent to that, contend with who is able to adroitly provide the services required. As with access to justice, the competency of the services being provided must be upheld and defended as well. This is a complex issue and should be discussed, however (as this thread demonstrates), I feel that it sadly will only exacerbate the colossal divide between Lawyers and Paralegals. What a shame.
  • Marc
    [quote name="Tara"]Personally, it is my belief that in order to increase access to justice we need to start with refurbishing Legal Aid and then, subsequent to that, contend with who is able to adroitly provide the services required. [/quote]
    I agree that Legal Aid needs to be expanded, but I don't see why this can't be done in parallel with deciding if paralegals should be allowed to accept Legal Aid certificates (which is already in the works, and LAO already has paralegals on staff).
  • Mark
    Marc, there seems to be more pilot projects on the way, I think the LAO has definitely warmed to paras in Ontario. it will still take 1-2 years but I suspect they will be able to accept certificates within their scope of practice.
  • Gerry Laarakker
    I agree, Provision of legal services should not be a competition. For that reason I prefer the BC model over the Ontario one.
  • James
    [quote name="Gerry Laarakker"]I agree, Provision of legal services should not be a competition. For that reason I prefer the BC model over the Ontario one.[/quote]
    And so, Gerry, there is no competition amongst lawyers?
  • Deb
    If this is in fact about money, expanding the scope of paralegals will likely not impact lawyers. We are currently living with a system which works very well for those who can afford it. It doesn't work for those who can't. There are thousands of people who live with difficult situations because they can't afford lawyer's fees....so the lawyers won't lose anything if these people were able to approach paralegals. Isn't is sad that the first thing a citizen has to think of when they need legal representation is "Can I afford it?"
  • Gerry Laarakker
    And that is exactly what I am arguing. This creates a two-tiered justice system. I am not saying that Paralegals have no place, but only in a law office and directly supervised by a lawyer as is the case in BC.
  • Mark
    That may be the case in B.C but those days are long gone in Ontario. And of late B.C is reviewing the system in Ontario so I think that change could be coming. I am not sure yet if it is good or bad - but I see no likelihood of going back to the "old" way.
  • Marc
    [quote name="Gerry Laarakker"]I am not saying that Paralegals have no place, but only in a law office and directly supervised by a lawyer as is the case in BC.[/quote]
    My understanding is that the pilot project in BC allows lawyers to designate paralegals to have expanded powers. How can quality be controlled?

    I submit that education and licensing is the best way to do that properly. And, if paralegals are to be educated and licensed, why should they not be able to practice independently with a scope of practice commensurate with their education?

    Both paralegals and lawyers have a professional responsibility to refuse work in areas of law where they are not competent, or cannot become competent in a reasonable time. One may argue that there are some areas of law for which paralegals cannot be properly educated under the current licensing conditions. However, to refuse the very notion of expansion of paralegal practice is unjust.
  • Trevor
    Yes...

    because so may lawyers are willing to take on POA and small claims?
  • Kyle McKinnon
    What access to justice does a minimum wage earner have when they can't afford the hundreds of dollars an hour a lawyer would charge and earn too much to qualify for Legal Aid?

    Paralegals are the way.
  • Mike
    Paralegals charge the same prices pal.

    I often go up against paralegals who are doing a complete disservice to their client because of a lack of knowledge. And they bill and the same rate I do.

    That being said, I have gone up against a few paralegals that know what's up and are good. Normally if I am up against a paralegal I can expect a win.

    Advise for the public, there are some good paralegals out there and a lot of subpar. Do your research on the individual prior to hiring.
  • Gerry Laarakker
    Mike:

    That is exactly the situation in BC with notaries. They take a 10 months course and are now "Masters of Notarial Sciences" People assume they charge less than lawyers, but frequently the opposite is true. They are limited in their practice areas, but are now seeking to expand into "Simple" corporate law, family law and probates. That was my point - why did I bother with becoming a lawyer?
  • Gerry Laarakker
    On the off-chance of repeating myself, Why do we need lawyers, or are we content to have a two-tiered system of legal representation. One for the rich, one for the poor.
  • Denise
    [quote name="Gerry Laarakker"]On the off-chance of repeating myself, Why do we need lawyers, or are we content to have a two-tiered system of legal representation. One for the rich, one for the poor.[/quote]

    Isn't that how self represented and lawyers are distinguished now?
  • JF
    "we" DON'T need lawyers!! lawyers have created a system that only they can understand so that they can justify their ridiculous salaries. it's not just about expanding the scope of paralegal practice, the whole legal system needs to be revamped. the ideal would be to get rid of lawyers completely, they are bloodsuckers, nothing more or less.
  • Denise
    [quote name="JF"]"we" DON'T need lawyers!! lawyers have created a system that only they can understand so that they can justify their ridiculous salaries. it's not just about expanding the scope of paralegal practice, the whole legal system needs to be revamped. the ideal would be to get rid of lawyers completely, they are bloodsuckers, nothing more or less.[/quote]

    I wouldn't say that. Lawyers go to school and deserve the money that they make--but what about the people who simply cannot afford? We all went to school to make money, but this isn't about that. They aren't blood suckers, people do not give people who legal knowledge enough credit.
  • Gerry Laarakker
    I think you have no idea what a lawyer outside of the big law firms earns. Even teachers earn more!
  • Dena
    This motion is a step in the right direction. Canada is one of the leading countries in the world that provide a safe haven for refugees. In addition, Canada on a humanitarian level provides numerous ways and means for new immigrants to blend successfully in our country. So, why not expand on what paralegals can do, within reason. In my view, every practice area will have complex legal issues and this is where both the barrister and paralegal can blend their skills together to provide the best and affordable legal representation. In other words, have both a lawyer and paralegal work together on a file. In a win-win situation, all parties come out ahead. Understand?
  • Rochelle
    I am a licensed paralegal who holds an Honours BA in Criminology and a post-grad in ADR. In addition to this, I spent 10 years as a Registry Officer at the Federal Courts and am a former Refugee Proctection Officer with the IRB who currently sits on a provincial board/agency. To paint all paralegals with the same brush and assume incompetence and an inability to understand, interpret and apply legal principles, and effectively represent clients in areas of family law or immigration is completely unfair and egregious. The motion that is being tabled will simply begin a much needed conversation that will determine the appropriate educational needs, aptitudes and continuing education necessary to practice in these new areas. I can speak from experience and say that going to law school and becoming a lawyer does not equate to competence/expertise. As long as standards are met, many paralegals have the ability to handle complex issues and provide effective representation.
  • Denise
    @Trevor, it's funny you bring up the requirement of having a B.A. from a Canadian university. I am a paralegal (with a graduate degree, and an Hons. B.A in a legal related field), and was just speaking to a colleague of mine who is a lawyer. We both teach the paralegal program at a private college, and wholeheartedly agree with this concept.

    No one is stating that paralegals with the present education could or should expand, but we have to at least look at how to diversify legal services in order to help fix what is going on right now in the court system. At the end of the day, one must look at what is best for the public, not what is best for our pockets. The system the way it is set now cannot service the public. Wait times, unrepresented parties, and parties with no access to justice are screaming for help! Someone in Ontario making $11.00 an hour cannot get Legal Aid. Let's look at Access to Justice!
  • Trevor
    It'd be naive to presume that there is no elitism present amongst some members. Be that as it may.

    However, there is also some truth in the argument that some members of society are being denied access to justice. Rather than taking a bland, "passed buck" approach that solely relies on government funding for that access, can the LSUC fulfill its mandate in providing justice equitably?

    If services can be distributed, a good start, before moving on, would be the requirement, of at least a Bachelor of Arts from a recognized Canadian University.

    Further, a commentator suggested that there is no compelling evidence that paralegals would not charge as much as lawyers. However, this does comment does not seem to fully absorb the issue. At issue is the clients that are turned away by lawyers because of revenue.If lawyers needed that revenue...well...
  • Angela Browne
    I am a licensed paralegal that has practised for many years. I do not see anything wrong with this Motion. There are additional areas of practice that Paralegals can work effectively. We are trying to see what additional training might be required for some of the other areas, such as immigration, family, etc. Personally, I had extensive training in family law procedure in my law clerk days, and in university level law as well. I do not practice it now, as I stick to the licensing requirements, but I do receive between 3 - 5 calls a day for family law matters that I cannot take. If I had a dollar for every one of those calls, and the time I have to spend with them, only to send them elsewhere, I would be enjoying a fine retirement in the Dominican Republic! I say, let this Motion go ahead! People can always give their input into this committee.
  • Jane
    Gerry: I would say the same reason why there are teachers graduating from Teacher's college and ending up for years as bank tellers, not even able to get on the supply list or the reason why there are Anesthesiologists graduating every year and not able to find work - BECAUSE THE SCHOOLS make a sizeable profit from each student!!!
  • Jane
    (Currently a Paralegal candidate.) What the lawyers don't understand is that many people cannot AFFORD to hire them, so they self-represent. From my perspective Immigration and Family law is not something that far exceeds a Paralegal's professional abilities. Prior to my Paralegal education, I have dealt with my husband's refugee and then spousal sponsorship all myself for several years (Refugee hearings, Humanitarian and Compassionate plea, Pre-Risk Removal Asssessment etc) and also helped my friend with her divorce and subsequent motions. I learned as I went along without any legal education - I educated myself on the legalities - and I saved thousands of dollars in being self-represented. I have the aptitude, some people do not and try to self-represent, failing themselves and wasting time in the legal system. A Paralegal offering the legal services at a less expensive rate would allow access to the justice system for everyone. This is simply lawyers not wanting their pie taken.
  • Denise
    Access to Justice is the key--let's be honest, it has always been about turf, no matter what lawyers claim. I have seen many competant lawyers, and paralegals, and many of both category that should go back to school. Anyone ever read the End Of Lawyering? Legal services are changing, it's time to accept that.

    I believe you should have to take a test in the areas you practice no matter who you are--then we could really see who is competant and who is not.

    The answer is not for lawyers to claim what they believe is theirs, but answer is what is best for the public. And if what is best for the public is allowing paralegals in more areas because the reality is most people simply cannot afford legal services. then Access to Justice is what is best. The alternative is more and more unrepresented parties, and neither group benefits from that.

    Errors and Omissions insurance exists for a reason--anyone can screw up a file.
  • Vishal
    "I believe you should have to take a test in the areas you practice no matter who you are--then we could really see who is competant and who is not."

    Yes, it's called the "bar" exam.
  • Denise
    [quote name="Vishal"]"I believe you should have to take a test in the areas you practice no matter who you are--then we could really see who is competant and who is not."

    Yes, it's called the "bar" exam.[/quote]

    You are totally missing my point--if the concern is really about Access to Justice, make each topic testable with paralegals (LIKE LAW SCHOOL). Then this whole thing wouldn't be an issue
  • Gerry Laarakker
    This still begs the question, why are we openings more and more law schools when the legal work does not expand?
  • Gen
    Why are we opening more and more paralegal study programs in colleges across Ontario?
    Why are we paying fees to the Law Society?
    Why are lawyers so expensive?
    All questions we can't answer
  • Denise
    [quote name="Gerry Laarakker"]This still begs the question, why are we openings more and more law schools when the legal work does not expand?[/quote]

    Unfortunately schools are a business. Paralegals are having a hard time finding internships just like lawyers are having a hard time finding places to article. Schools are in the business to make money.
  • Trevor
    This argument seems well outside of the scope of the argument.

    (1) A moratorium on graduation rates will never happen.

    (2) WHO CARES how many lawyers/paralegals flood the system? None of that is new.

    (3) What this is about IS providing access to justice for people who lawyers would turn away for lack of revenue...yet could be serviced by paralegals.

    Look...not EVERYTHING requires a law degree, and those things that don't...lawyers don't touch ANYHOW.

    . Consider a "home divorce kit" that costs $195.00, and then court fees of $400.00+. Would someone not benefit paying a paralegal $150.00 to help with those papers, thus minimizing the risk that their application will not be rejected.

    I don't think anyone is suggesting that paralegals suddenly start defending Omar Khadr here.

    This discussion thread seems to be much about everything it's not about.
  • Raina
    Without access to justice our society is dying.
  • mukhtiar dahiya
    Disband law society to restore public trust in legal profession. It is sad to see what is going on in law society.
  • Tara
    As a licensed Paralegal, I feel that the paralegal profession greatly benefited from our inclusion into the LSUC by legitimizing the profession as a whole and ensuring much needed professional standards/ethics. The push by some Paralegals to practice outside of the scope permitted by the LSUC is worrisome. We did not graduate from law school and we are not lawyers. The complexity of family and immigration law far exceeds the professional abilities of the average Paralegal. Example: The fact that you are an excellent nurse practitioner does not mean that you have the ability to hold yourself out to be a surgeon. Same goes with Paralegals and Lawyers.
    Increasing access to legal services is admirable; doing so at the risk to clients is deplorable.
  • Paul
    Well said Tara, however, while I agree with you I think the study should be done. Many times most of the work from start to finish is done by the Paralegals and the Lawyers present in court. I think they should allow they to get additional training for the areas they would like to expend in after they have gained adequate experience in the relevant areas
  • JM
    Tara...you know as well as I do...all you have to do is go to court one day, and listen to case after case, and you will be appalled at the number of ill-prepared,unorganized, and lame lawyers.
  • Gen
    Yes, this is true BUT! I have worked under lawyers and guess who does all the work? Certainly not the lawyer! So, if I am capable of doing the work while I receive a pay cheque from a lawyer well why am I not entitled to receive a pay cheque from a client...why do I need the middle man????
  • Marc
    The practice of law and providing legal services, like the law itself, is evolving. It's a natural process that should be allowed to continue. To reject even the idea of studying the desirability and feasibility of expanding the paralegal scope of practice in Ontario is beneath the standard of curiosity and fairness that the LSUC and lawyers ought to embrace.

    The committee should be formed, and the necessary inquiries should be made. If individuals or associations have input, I am sure that the LSUC will want to hear what they have to say. To reject the very notion of is unjust, denies the public an option that they are already seeking, and only serves ti perpetuate a negative impression of the legal peofessions, both from without and within.
  • Gerry Laarakker
    Why did I bother becoming a lawyer? Here in BC we have notaries and now paralegals. Meanwhile both naotaries and paralegals are chipping away at lawyers practice areas, while the universities are building more law schools!

    The present cohort of young lawyers is unable to find articles and employment, what will it be like in a few years?

    Some sanity, please.
  • Mark b
    Gerry you have made a very good point. Human nature is to circumvent the ranks with very minimal efforts. Paralegals wants the same status, wealth, opportunities as a lawyer when they only have marginal education and intellect.

    Are you kidding me that paralegals can handle family matters! On the surface everything looks simplified and could be characterized as uncontested and stuff. It is not until u have the ability to deeply understand, evaluate your client's standing that you formulate further measures.

    Paralegals were introduced to help the lawyers by assisting them in reducing the work load, in effect, allowing the lawyers to handle more work at lesser costs. One can discuss changes within the same framework, but entertaining anything more would be atrocious disservice to the public at large.
  • Gary Taylor
    Gerry, I think unfortunately you were born a little too late. The legal profession is one of the few remaining careers in which an arrogant, entitled attitude is condoned. As Bob Dylan observed, "the times they are a changin". I graduated from the University of Toronto and spent a lot of money earning that degree. Job opportunities? Yeah, right. At one time, a university degree from a good school would almost certainly enable someone to get a decent first job, but that is no longer true. I guess times are tough all over and I share some of your frustration. I do share concerns about the competency of paralegals to perform certain functions given the current level of training. Therefore, perhaps more extensive training should be required if paralegals' scope of practice is to be expanded. Alternatively, increasing enrollment in existing laws schools and establishing new schools would ultimately serve the interests of society by making access to legal services more affordable.
  • EG
    Gerry,

    It's about introducing competition into the legal market, which is long overdue. In turn, it will provide consumers with options.

    Inter alia, paralegals are studying the same substantive and procedural law, as lawyers; including legal analysis, research, writing and advocacy.

    Lawyers as a group have largely been insulated from competition, but those days are over.

    In short, lawyers are no longer the only game in town.
  • JM
    Perfectly said. That is the bottom line. Paralegals are perfectly capable to do most legal works. Lawyers continue to stiff clients with huge unecessary bills, that is why they are among the unemployed also. I am an accountant and paralegal. I feel a lot more qualified in many areas than many lawyers. It is time for lawyers to accept the fact, that they are not the only game in town.
  • Paul
    Hi, I totally agree with what you have said. I have a few friends who are Paralegals and they do the bulk of the work many times.

    I am a certified General Accountant (CGA) with a degree and diploma in accounting and business administration. I have been thinking of changing careers for a few years not and just signed up to do the Paralegal program early next year (2014). I am thinking I can merge my accounting and finance background with the legal skills. Though I will be taking a large pay cut, I think I will be more satisfied by helping people more directly in this field.
  • Sharen Skelly
    I see this as lawyers feeling threatened. Paralegals can do and already do a lot of things in Family Law cases that I do not believe require the supervision of a lawyer. But with the supervision of a lawyer the price is elevated for the client. What about "access to justice for the middle class?" Was that all just a waste of time and money?

    You have paralegals in the spot you want them. They cannot venture out on their own in these areas because they cannot get licensing to do so.

    They are perfectly capable of a straight forward family law or immigration case.

    Time to allow the changes or the changes will happen on their own. If that happens lawyers won't like it because the middle class will take charge of the changes as they see fit.
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