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Tackling giant problems

Editorial Obiter

The unusual aspect of tackling problems is that we usually do not engage with them unless we have a self interest to do so or we’re told why the issue needs to change and understand it on a deeper level. 

That is, to some, the point of some journalism (or consuming it) — learning about the perceived threats on the horizon, harkening to our evolutionary impulses for self-protection. This brings me in a roundabout way to the law and different approaches by lawyers to areas that need new thinking and could potentially drive significant growth.

Take this week’s story on family law and the ongoing debate between family lawyers and paralegals on how the provision of services by paralegals could help with Ontario’s sizable access to justice issue.

As Law Times reporter Anita Balakrishnan notes, the upcoming election for benchers on April 30 will be the first to elect lawyers and paralegals at the same time, with a total of 44 remaining seats available (39 for lawyers and five for paralegals). Her story notes that the number of paralegals in the province has nearly quadrupled since they were first regulated and that some say a larger scope of practice for paralegals in family law could be a momentous move.

“I’ve been a bencher for nine years and I’ve been hearing about family law being a crisis situation. And this makes sense to me,” says Cathy Corsetti, a paralegal who is running for re-election.

But this move would be one that would certainly be opposed by some family lawyers.

Take Murray Maltz, one lawyer who has proposed other alternatives in the past that he said could help.

“Bringing paralegals into a broken court system is not the solution to providing efficient, cost-effective access to the legal system,” said Maltz in a 2017 column. “The court system is complicated and arduous. There are too many rules, steps and delays, leading litigants to feel they are simply involved in a jumble of procedures without dealing with the substance of the problem.”

With complex problems, there is no single solution. What is important to keep in mind is that the mandate of the Law Society of Ontario is to protect the public interest, which means any steps forward need to have that ultimate goal in mind.     

Law Times Poll

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has announced that real estate lawyer Doug Downey will be Ontario’s new attorney general. Do you expect Downey to take a substantially different approach to his portfolio than his predecessor in the role?