Scope of practice should be informed solely with an eye to competency. If the training required to be licensed finds the licensee competent to practice, the test has been met. to this end, serious consideration of the opinions of those currently practicing the protected areas as well as the courts and the public should be given. While the panacea of an end to access to justice is an attractive siren call, it should not be heeded to the detriment of the very, often marginalized, public it seeks to assist.
I see paralegals and lawyers as partners. We are both committed to providing high quality legal services to Ontarians. I believe that there is opportunity for these two professionals to work more effectively together. I believe that if paralegals have the competencies and training to provide a wider scope of practice in a safe manner then their scope should be widened. This will ensure that Ontarians have further choice in their legal matter.
It is incumbent upon our regulator to continue to engage in dialogue and reflection on what degree of competency and training is required to provide various types of legal services – and how that should be reflected in our license and credentialing structure. As a regulator tasked with brokering access to justice in Ontario, we must be mindful of the need to provide cost-effective alternatives to some of the most basic legal needs and problems, without compromising public confidence or jeopardizing the interests of the (often) marginalized individuals in need of more economical services.
I support the decision made by Convocation to develop a scope of practice for paralegals in family law that is carefully based on an assessment and training of required competencies to establish a special license. When the majority of family law litigants do not use lawyers, it is no answer to say that they should have no other alternative. We should be open to new legal service providers in areas that are not served by lawyers. It makes little sense to prohibit others from providing that which lawyers do not effectively provide. Whether the better approach is to “”unreserve””/deregulate certain areas as the English have done, to expand the scope of trusted intermediaries who now provide legal information, to encourage or license navigators and form-fillers, or to expand paralegal scope is not so clear.
Paralegal practice is different to non-licensee practice. Non-licensees should not be practicing law or delivering legal services. They’re not insured and that harms the customer when something goes wrong. Paralegals should be supplementing what lawyers do, within a clearly defined scope, in the same way that paramedics supplement doctors.
There is room to enhance the scope of practice of paralegals provided they are well trained. a thoughtful consideration of the role of paralegals is a necessary step in dealing with access to justice issues.
Expansion of the paralegal scope should be based on unmet legal needs, education and competency
Paralegal practice should not be expanded and paralegals should be closely supervised.
Paralegals provide an important component of access to justice. However, their role should be complimentary to that of lawyers, and not simply a cheaper alternative. Expanding current scope of practice without careful examination, consultation and competency testing should be avoided, particularly for more complicated criminal, family or immigration matters where there is no lawyer supervision.
Any expanding of the scope of paralegal practice must be done with the public interest in mind. Competency must be the paramount consideration for the licencing of lawyers and paralegal to ensure that the public interest is protected. There are many remote areas of the province that are underserviced by lawyers and are areas where paralegals may be able to assist in facilitating Access to Justice.
I am in favour of expanding paralegal scope of service in family law matters, and against expanding paralegal scope of service in complex criminal matters.
I think the most important concern should be ensuring that all paralegals and lawyers possess the requisite competencies to fulfill their obligations and protect the public.
The proposed expansion of the scope of paralegal and non-licensee practice addresses symptoms rather than an underlying systemic illness. It offers a tantalizing promise of quick delivery of lower-cost legal services to foster increased access to justice. But it does not seek to address underlying contributors to this deficit: the high cost of legal education (and resultant debt servicing), the cost of operating a practice, an over-saturated market of lawyers competing for diminishing business (which business would in turn be further diluted by increased competition), and court processes that are inefficient and archaic. Expanding the scope of paralegal and non-licensee practice as a first line of attack merely defers addressing systemic issues. I do not see it as a lasting solution, as key underlying problems remain unaddressed.
I do not support any expansion of scope of practice for paralegals or other non-licensees. The Law Society must protect and promote the public interest by ensuring that the competency levels are enhanced from the present standard. There continues to exist a significant number of paralegals who were never subject to any testing of their competency and were “grandparented” in. The issue is not about competition between lawyers and paralegals. The issue is rather one of competency, access to justice, and the protection of the public. There is no evidence-based argument that expanding the scope of services of paralegals and other non-licensees will in any way assist in remedying the access to justice crisis. In addition, there are certain areas such as criminal law, where the stakes are so high and the penalties are increasingly severe, that the public is not being protected by permitting non-lawyers to defend individuals’ rights and liberties as protected under our Charter. I will continue to be a strong voice against any non-evidence-based endeavours to expand the scope of practice of paralegals and other non-licensees into family law and/or criminal law.
I believe that if there are to be increases in what paralegals and non-licensees can do in terms of legal services, there must be lawyer supervision.
This will be an ongoing issue into the future for LSO. Entrance and educational achievement requirements for paralegals are lower than lawyers, and paralegals should recognize that their scope of practice cannot match that of lawyers. The Law Society’s legislated function is to set the standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct for lawyers and for paralegals. Expansion of paralegal practice into current lawyer areas must be carefully reviewed and debated well in advance of any expansion. There will always be tension.
Practice by non-licensees is difficult to imagine how this can legally occur. LSO must vigilantly monitor and prosecute offenders. How LSO deals with internet providers outside of Ontario offering and providing legal services to the public of Ontario will be a major issue, and might require legislative changes of the laws of Ontario and Canada. LSO must monitor and provide briefings to Ontario and Canada as required in particular circumstances.
The burden of proof on the expansion of paralegal practice lies squarely with those who would seek to expand it. Here, I think the opinion of life benchers and former Attorneys-General would have been of particular interest.
As the scope of paralegal practice expands, the justification for the existence of law schools decline….
I do not support the expansion of independent paralegal practice into family law. However, I do support family lawyers who wish to contract with, or employ paralegals to work in this area under their supervision. Some family lawyers in Ontario are already working with paralegals effectively in a manner that brings legal representation to people who would otherwise be unrepresented.
I am against expanding the scope of independent paralegal practice into family law. Paralegals may be useful within family law if and only if they were under the supervision and in the employ of a lawyer with carriage of the matter.
Scope of practice must be limited by education and competence as required by the public interest. Any expansion, even to provide A2J, must serve the public interest in having access to competent legal assistance.
The permitted scope of paralegal practice is currently about right. Nothing should be done to encourage practice by non-licensees. Getting more money into the Legal Aid system, and reducing the costs of legal education and practice, should be the questions of prime focus, not expanding permitted areas of practice by non-lawyers.
We approved in principle the establishment of a limited licence for paralegals and others in the area of family law, in particular with respect to the preparation of forms. This did not include court room attendances. I reserve my opinion on whether this will be in the public interest until I see the program which is developed.
Before contemplating the expansion of paralegal scope of service, the LSO should focus on testing and ensuring competence. My work at the Landlord and Tenant Board puts me in regular contact with paralegals, some of whom have become friends and mentors. I have observed a wide range of legal ability among paralegals, which signals the need for ongoing testing and support. Properly equipped, I believe paralegals are part of the solution to improving access to justice.
It is baffling to me that the LSO has not considered the obvious conflict of interest that will frequently arise if paralegals are allowed to practice in family law unsupervised and with limited appearance privileges. Couples who are separating do not get along. You will not always obtain a negotiated settlement, even if this is the outcome that both parties want. Negotiations frequently fail and as a professional you have to advise your client that they should file an application, sometimes on an emergency basis. A conflict of interest arises if the paralegal is not able to take the matter to court. While we hope that all licensees would act ethically, why create a licensing structure that would create this conflict of interest? In this situation, the client would have to pay twice – once for the paralegal to manage negotiations and once for a lawyer to take the matter to court. It impedes rather than helps access to justice.
Expansion of scope and practice by non-licensees is NOT the answer to access to justice. If there is an area of practice that lawyers do NOT effectively provide service in AND paralegals or others can competently provide such service I would not be opposed to such expansion. I would support expanding what law students, articling students, paralegals and other non-licensees can do under the direct supervision of a lawyer.
Proper paralegal scope of practice is a meaningful way to reduce barriers to access, but expansion must be incremental and carefully regulated to ensure that proper standards are maintained to protect the public. L`exerce des parajuristes contribue à l`accès à la justice mais doit avancer avec soin et doit être bien réglementer afin d`assurer les normes requis sont en place pour protéger le public.
This is a hot button issue. See the Bonkalo report in Family Law. We need to ensure that if paralegals gain access to new areas, especially work that may lead to litigation, that they must do so under the direct supervision of a lawyer.
It is unclear why one regulatory body should be responsible for two separate categories of members – lawyers and paralegals. Doctors, nurses, and paramedics all provide health care services (as, in a broader sense, do pharmacists and dentists); but doctors, nurses, and paramedics are not governed by the same regulatory body. Combining lawyers and paralegals under one regulatory roof seems rife with the potential for conflicts of interest.
Surely, no one contends that the services provided by paralegals and by lawyers are interchangeable. It may be tempting to expand the remit of paralegals to address the critical lack of access to justice crisis. But, doing so may only mean consigning many people to second-rate or inadequate service. There’s a place for paralegals, but it cannot come at the expense of lawyers struggling to stay afloat (by robbing them of clients) or at the expense of people who aren’t getting the level of legal advice they need.
I believe that paralegals have an important role to play in alleviating barriers faced by litigants in Ontario in terms of accessing the courts and other administrative/ regulatory procedures to seek justice. The current scope of paralegal authority is not unreasonable; however, expansion of paralegal inputs should be considered where doing so does not overstep the quality of service, competency of delivery and responds to a clear problem in access to justice.
As an instructor in a college paralegal program, I understand the significant problems with competence in our junior profession. While paralegals provide useful service in certain areas, we have a responsibility to the public to better delineate the difference between paralegals and lawyers just as the medical profession has educated the difference between a paramedic and a doctor. I am against an expansion of the scope of paralegals without significant consultation with lawyers. At the very least, a strict review of the “special credential” being considered in family law to rename it, educate the public about what a paralegal cannot do and making sure that scope of practice matches education provided is needed. Many paralegals graduate from programs without the skills necessary to perform basic functions yet still become credentialed. This needs to stop.
Lawyers and paralegals each have a place in providing legal services. The issue is where the line in drawn between the two modern branches of the profession. I do not think that we can ignore the fact that we require that lawyers obtain high level (and expensive) training in the law because we believe that is in the public interest and we must ensure that this is recognized when defining paralegals’ scope of practice.
Paralegals have allowed access to justice for many who otherwise couldn’t afford it. As long as they are properly regulated by the LSO I endorse the role they play in the current system
Allow paralegals to become Notaries; At the very least maintain the status quo with summary offences but ideally, designate Ontario’s paralegals under s.802.1 of the Criminal Code as permitting representation on all summary offences. Expanding eligible Legal Aid offences to include provincial offences where incarceration is likely.
eliminate practice by non-licensees.
The public comes first. The public is entitled to competent legal services by whatever means possible.
LSO should exercise extreme caution in expanding the scope of paralegal practice in the areas of criminal or family law. In my own experience, in the field of personal injury law, the expansion of paralegal services has not resulted in savings to the public, increased access to justice, or benefit to the system as a whole.
Generally, I believe any expansion or change of any legal services, whether it is within the scope of paralegal practice or by non-licensees must be carefully considered in light of the LSO’s mandate to protect and promote the public interest.
I do not support proposals for increasing the scope of practice of paralegals and non-licensees. Access to justice is a concern, and methods to address it such as rules changes and increased support for pro bono are important tools. But I do not believe that permitting paralegals and non-licensees to practice in areas for which they do not have training are appropriate for the public in Ontario.
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.
In my work as a deputy judge in Small Claims Court, I have had the opportunity to see paralegals at work in the court system. To be entirely frank, the quality of legal representation in the courts is less dependant on the title given to those performing services, and is more dependant on the general level of competence of an individual, often dictated by their experience, and the availability of mentorship and CPD. This is one area where the LSO needs to be actively involved – if the scope of paralegal practice is to be expanded, then the LSO needs to ensure that basic minimum educational requirements are met. The current exams involved in licencing, for both lawyers and paralegals alike, are not adequately screening this level of competency. As a general proposition, however, I am very supportive of seeing paralegals as equal partners (with different and important skills) in the overall provision of legal services to the public.
I support provision of legal services through registered civil society organizations, such as charities and not-for-profit organizations.
Convocation needs to seek meaningful feedback from the profession on important initiatives or changes to practice. This occurs often, but the publication of the Family Law Action Plan (creating a new license for non-lawyers to provide certain family law services) the day before it was approved by Convocation in December 2017 was a low point. The benchers need to work with the family bar to ensure that the activities permitted under the license are suitable to non-lawyers and meet A2J goals.
The expansion of paralegal scope of service is a divisive issue in the profession. I have there can be a meeting of the mind.
Paralegals and lawyers can co-exist. It has taken a long time for some to accept that paralegals have their place in the legal community to ensure that a broader range of client have access to justice. The training and scope of their services, just like that of lawyers, needs to be properly thought out and laid out for all to follow.