The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) has committed to expanding the paralegal scope of practice over the next four years.
Presented to Convocation Dec. 4, the Priority Planning Committee strategic plan report to Convocation outlines significant changes that will have a dramatic effect on the future of legal services in Ontario. The changes are “robust and ambitious,” affecting paralegal education entry standards, mentoring, professional development, and competence assurance, in addition to expanding the scope of practice.
Paralegal-specific measures in the Strategic Plan 2015–2019 include:
- Working to ensure that high quality instruction is being offered by the accredited institutions that educate paralegal licensee candidates
- Examining enhancements to the paralegal licensing requirements, including possible additional education and training prior to entering an accredited paralegal program
- Exploring the expansion of areas of practice and delivery of services by paralegal licensees
Under the heading of “lifelong competence” for licensees, the report suggests post-licensing testing may go hand-in-hand with any expanded practice. Paralegal education, including setting entry-level standards for students, is also set to change. The four-year priorities include CPD changes, beefed-up formal mentoring and mental-health supports for all licensees.
Measures in the plan include increased services in “un-served and underserved” areas. Reasons for the changes include ensuring that all licensing applicants, “regardless of where they are educated or trained,” have comparable competence at licensing. This will signal that the public “has assured, competent, honest practitioners who are supplying legal services efficiently,” and reduce the number of complaints from the public about licensee service issues, according to the report.
The plan includes a proposal to enhance entry-level standards testing, which could include looking at entry-level examinations and skills testing. Post-licensing “competence assurance” activities are also on the table. Practice restrictions for new licensees will be considered.
This report is for information. It comes out of a strategic planning session the Law Society held in October. Moving forward, Convocation’s Priority Planning Committee will consider any new policy issues that may be added to the Plan. Annual reports will update benchers on the status of the priorities.
To learn more about paralegals and the current work we are licensed to provide to the public, see: “Do I Need a Paralegal?”
Can’t make it to court? There’s an app for that. No, really.
Every day in Ontario courts, paralegals find themselves scrambling to find a replacement for an appearance. Car trouble, illness and scheduling conflicts wreak havoc with the best-laid plans. Paralegals are too-often left running through their lists of colleagues who can make an appearance in their place. In the meantime, others find themselves with unexpected downtime on their hands. New paralegals struggle to get court experience under their belts. City-based paralegals try to find someone reliable to handle referrals for out-of-town matters they can’t tend to personally.
Connecting those who need a matter covered with those who want subcontract work — this is where a new legal app comes in.
StandIn provides a smoother, more reliable alternative to the hit-and-miss appearance solutions cobbled together by paralegals. The legal minds behind the app are Peter Carayiannis, a Toronto lawyer, and Andrew Johnston, a law school graduate. The pair launched StandIn last July, and it has gained wide attention for bringing “sharing economy” technology to the legal community.
StandIn tackles the all-too-common scheduling problem, with an agile solution. Its motto: “Connecting Legal Professionals.”
The location-based app that matches lawyers and paralegals with other legal professionals for court appearances. StandIn processes payment in the application and allows users to leave reviews based on their experience in the transaction. StandIn has proven particularly beneficial for the paralegal community. For new licensees, it offers an inexpensive way to find work, gain experience, and build a reputation as a reliable legal professional. The app is well-suited to procedural and administrative appearances, where paralegals have traditionally made agent appearances.
All-In or Stand-Alone — the Choice is Yours. Osgoode PD’s “The Practitioners’ Guide to the POA” is a one-day segment within a new, five-session certificate program. In February, “The Practitioner’s Guide to the POA Trial, Sentencing and Appeals” is also available as a separate course.
Led by The Hon. Justice Rick Libman, the Nov. 14 session drills down key Provincial Offences Court matters, with updated and practical information. Follow a file from the outset, including devising a defence plan and discussing early resolution with your client, as well as practical strategies for navigating key pre-trial issues. This stand-alone session contains the full Law Society of Upper Canada professionalism CPD requirement for 2015. “The Osgoode Certificate in Provincial Offences Court Practice” contains full professionalism hours for this year and 2016. It blends core-skill lectures with group activities and individual work, to put theory into practice.
Suitable for lawyers and paralegals who are new to Provincial Offences work, as well as those who practice in this wide-ranging area, the intensive one-day session topics include:
Paralegal Simon Brown’s Favourite Marketing & Management Resources for the Pod-Curious
“Don’t Let Law Schooling Get In the Way of Your Legal Education”
~ Bastardization of a quote attributed to Mark Twain.
We live in a wonderful age of information. Access to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses and legal research can be done at the touch of a button or screen. Substantive law and professionalism are offered by our colleges, associations, societies, and the regulator. But there is precious little about advocacy, legal marketing, and practice management out there to help you sharpen your skills.
Fortunately, the gap has been bridged by entrepreneurial lawyers and legal educators through the use of blogs and podcasts. I’ve assembled a list of them that I use on a regular basis. Most of these are based in the United States, but there is a universality that cannot be denied.
CanLII and CanLII Connects are free Canadian legal information sources. They reach a wide audience of legal services providers, law students and the general public. Recent content particularly relevant for Ontario paralegals:
- Duty to Accommodate – Being “right” in the end isn’t enough; it matters how you get there 2009 HRTO 1641
- Unfavourable ruling does not signal bias at the HRTO – Velegjanin v. Toronto Police Services Board, 2015 HRTO 912 (CanLII)
- Establishing discrimination with circumstantial evidence – 2009 HRTO 1242
- Human Rights general damages on the rise – $75,000 awarded in British Columbia
- What do the words “we have an agreement” mean?
- BCCA clarifies McKinley: “contextual approach” and prior discipline
- Interest Act protection applied to promissory note – P.A.R.C.E.L. Inc. v. Acquaviva, 2015 ONCA 331
- Wrongful dismissal twitter comments – social media in the spotlight”
- HRTO misapplies the de minimis doctrine – “A square peg in a round hole?”
- New research add-on for CanLii – test-drive the “LexBox” beta
- Paralegal firm and agent “used the defendant’s 11(b) rights as an offensive weapon” – Mississauga (City) v. Ciocan, 2015 ONCJ 293 (CanLII)
- “Boiler-plate” disclosure requests contribute to s. 11(b) denial in Toronto OCJ; R. v. Ghobrial, 2015 ONCJ 288 (CanLII)
See more paralegal-specific cases at the Scope publisher page.