New to this profession as a second career. However, I have experience in labour mediation as a Union Stewart, WSIB investigations and workplace safety, Auxiliary OPP officer and Paramedic. My wide ranging careers lend itself well to the multi facetted work of being a Paralegal.
Candidates I support
Robert Burd and Cathy Corsetti and Paula Callaghan have been most gracious in their support towards my election and I would support them.
Something the LSO does that it should stop doing
There is question as to the number of lawyers and paralegals entering into the practice and providing of services in Ontario. As strictly a regulatory body, I am not sure if they should be setting how many licensees can pass the required testing. Having exams with floating pass marks with only a pass fail can appear to be setting a quota for number of new licensees.
Something the LSO doesn't do that it should start doing
There should be regional representation of Paralegals. The number of Paralegals is currently at 5 for the whole province. I feel that the LSO fails to maintain connection with parts of the province especially outside of the GTA and Golden Horseshoe. The LSO changed its name to reflect all of Ontario and now I think all Ontario licensees should feel represented and included.
The scope of a Paralegal must be broadened. It is a less expensive way for the average person to afford some type of legal representation. By increasing the monetary limit of Small Claims Court and introducing aspects of Family Law, more Ontarians can have some for of legal representation. Limited scope retainers and their increased use would allow for legal professionals to step in when they are needed at a reduced cost to the client.
As it has been suggested, there are too many voices at Convocation with the number of lawyer and paralegal and non legal benchers. However, we can not have democratic proceedings where not all of the interests are represented. Regional and diverse entities must be included to balance and maintain a true representation of the licensees in the LSO. Hopefully, we are not voting in 50 plus benchers with the same interests and goals but a more diverse group of individuals. It is really up to us to vote the people that we wish to have represent us and maximise the number of benchers we have.
I agree that the LSO does not have say in what law schools charge in fees. However when we are seeking EDI, it is apparent that some of the most promising people to our profession may never become lawyers or paralegals because it is too cost prohibitive. Universities have their place in the setting of fees, but it also hinges on the provincial and federal government in the grants given and funding to universities which drive up the cost of those fees.
The government has a role in our efforts of EDI to ensure the cost of university is affordable, not the LSO and the government should be making the effort to ensure a range of students are able to become lawyers of paralegals.
It is a yearly accounting to ourselves and to those around us about EDI. As such, I have no problem putting to paper a commitment to something that I do anyways. I believe that we are a caring understanding profession that abides by these principles.
A recent article where a lawyer was not awarded all of the costs in his litigation because the trial judge thought that the lawyer could have spent less time on the case with the assistance of legal software makes me think of how useful and time saving this tool is, for ourselves and for our clients. We can either save our clients money or be able to take on more clients by using this extra tool. Where I worked, there was more thought and time wasted on the proper font on an invoice than how much the invoice was. A generic invoice that is proper means more to me, than the prettiest invoice that took twice as long to prepare. And at the end of the day, did our client get any extra value out of the pretty invoice?
From a Paralegal prospective, I believe that there are so many paths that one can take that there is not the consistency of new licensees across the province. There are many programs offering Paralegal Studies, some private and some public all with varying programs and learning. Even with an 8 week placement at the college I went to, my classmates and I all received different work experiences. In placement as well as articling, we are not guaranteed the quality training to allow us to be successful on the other side. I believe that there needs to be strengthening of the placement experience so that core experiences are learned in each placement.
Unbundling of services appears to be a great cost saving to the client as they only hire you for what they need. there are inherent risks involved with providers that could go over and above what they are hired to do and are responsible for the outcome, clients that do not understand where and when the services start and stop as well as clients that being in documents that are not prepared well enough or usable such as pleadings and they have to be redone with extra costs involved. In certain cases a qualified person can be less expensive and more efficient right from the start.
As an aspiring sole practitioner, I believe my interaction with this would be limited, I can see for a larger practice, the need to have accountability for the clients beyond that actions of the licensee that you retained (actions of the firm in how your case was handled) would be important.
There is a duty to stream-line costs to the client and this can be assisted by online form preparation and online research tools. I believe that it is a licensees personal choice to pay for storage and print out paper and not embrace the cloud. Especially when it comes to compliance with the LSO, more members feel comfortable in the system they have then to try new ideas and or switch over to a cloud based system. Fear of lack of compliance or lack of understanding as to what the LSO would accept or reject goes a long way as to how firms are managed.
We have to look not just to our profession in regards to reconciliation but also work with the communities to accept concepts such as diversion in sentencing. the use of sentencing circles and to acknowledge that first nations peoples deserve to have their whole situation presented to the courts. The LSO should be educating and supporting licensees in these alternate court procedures, perhaps mandatory CPD on Gladue reports and sentencing circles and native customs would allow us to serve First Nations clients better. We have a high percentage of First Nations members in our prison system and it is time for a change.
Multi disciplinary organizations such as Lawyer/Paralegal and other support organizations such as family health teams have their place. However the care and control of the business should be in the hands of the legal practitioners as there is too much potential for conflict from outside sources and competing interests which coincides with the Entity based initiative.
We should treat the articling of lawyers and placement of paralegals as an apprenticeship much like the trades. Specific learning outcomes are designated as schooling outside school. There is a vast difference between experiences of students in different placements settings that a core curriculum should be developed.
Any CPD can be beneficial. I find that the LSO CPDs are scheduled during lunches and are easily accessible by a large amount of people. The LSO is in the CPD business even with private providers of courses, as the LSO evaluates and assigns the number of hours that the course is worth which takes up time and resources from the LSO. The LSO does have resources that other organizations do not have and I believe that it you learned it from the LSO it is the most accurate information available and possibly worth the extra cost.
The LSO changed its name to reflect what I believe to be all of Ontario. Although representation still weighs heavily towards the GTA. I believe not everyone feels the support of the LSO and most of the time fears rather than welcomes the LSO. The LSO could recognize support and “fly the flag” to all parts of the province to show we are all part of the same family of lawyers and paralegals. it would be part of my mandate to reach out as a bencher to these areas north of Barrie (where there is still lots of province left) and support our members.
Your mental health rarely is hurt by a one time big thing, but occurs over many years of smaller little things. It is difficult when client confidentiality and codes of silence make many feel that they suffer alone or not know that they are suffering at all. I believe that the LSO has made strides in awareness of the fact it happens and what the signs are if it is happening to you or someone around you. I have benefited from Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and would like to see more mentoring and reach out to more members if only to tell them it is ok and you are feeling the way that you are.
We must look at the core values of the LSO mandate and concentrate on those. The billboard and subway advertisement did not have the effect it was desired to have and did not go beyond the GTA.
It has been mentioned that part of the high cost of legal services is due in part to the expenses that lawyers and paralegals have to pay every year and these costs are recouped through fees to our clients. By decreasing or stabilizing these fees the savings would be passed to our clients.
We have the chance through this Bencher election to vote the change we want. There are many truly talented people in this election that bring new thoughts and ideas to the table. Perhaps the best way to ensure diversity and inclusion is to celebrate from within the people that make this profession great. No greater incentive to a young person is seeing that they can to by seeing someone else that has. We must all act as role models to the new generation so they can aspire to become lawyers or paralegals.
Scope of practice for paralegals and non-licensees
The scope of a Paralegal Practice should be increased. We have Paralegals able to, through experience or passion (or both) to be able to work in fields they currently cannot. Many worked in these fields successfully prior to regulation by the LSO. I believe that the public can benefit from Paralegals in Real Estate and simple Wills for example.
We need to tighten the “non licensees” in areas such as LTB and LRB. Paralegals are trained, insured and competent to appear in these forums. When the LSO requires our qualifications to be so high in an effort to protect the public, how can we allow union reps and property managers to appear before these tribunals with the same credentials. We have to look at the legislation as to who can appear in these tribunals and place penalties for those misrepresenting themselves. We can never discriminate against those that wish to self represent as it is their right.
FOLA asks: Thoughts on Funding Staffed Local Law Libraries