Paralegal George Brown, founder of the Ontario Paralegal Network (OPN), has a plea for the paralegal community, now that the Standing Committee election is in full-swing.
It is that time again, for the Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC) Elections. The entire paralegal community seems to be up arms.
It seems that many are out to settle old scores, under the guise of holding committee members “responsible” for perceived shortcomings over the years. It is suggested that the Law Society somehow covertly tainted the minds of some of the incumbents who are running for re-election. Warning shots have been fired and it appears that this PSC election has the potential to be the nastiest and most divisive election In the short history of our profession.
I know that the candidates and the voters share one common interest: advancing a prosperous paralegal profession. We share the common risk that divisiveness could erode the gains that took 10 years to achieve. Now more than ever, we must remind ourselves of our oath and duty to be civil. We bear an obligation to act in the best interest of the profession and of the public and not give the perception that paralegals are not governable.
Civility and Professional Conduct
Civility and professional conduct are not measures the Law Society forced upon us. The Law Society does not own our professionalism. We do. We may be required to take an oath to abide by the Law Society’s rules, by-laws and regulations, but at some point, these rules become us and we become them.
I comply with the Rules because I believe that, as a professional, I have to rise to a level of confidence higher than the Law Society’s expectations of me or my firm. I wear my professionalism in the same way I wear a suit and tie to court.
Chief Justice of Ontario, Warren Winkler, once stated: “Professionalism as a personal characteristic is revealed in an attitude and approach to an occupation that is commonly characterized by intelligence, integrity, maturity and thoughtfulness”. We have all of these elements in this profession and we need to show the entire world that paralegals in Ontario are relevant.
Not to show the incumbents respect and appreciation for their years of service is to do harm to this profession. The Candidates in this election are fortunate to be considered by the profession. They should never lose site of the fact that it is the profession they have chosen to serve, not their own self-interest. Therefore, to attack incumbents as feckless and not serving the interest of the profession is disingenuous at best and flagrantly misleading at most.
In the last 10 years, we have accomplished so much and we must therefore appreciate those who gave their time and effort to advance us to this point in time.
It is unfair to say that Cathy Corsetti, Michelle Haigh, Robert Burd, and Ken Mitchell did nothing for this profession. I know for a fact that this is not true. I recall when OPN asked the Law Society for assistance in promoting the profession. Cathy Corsetti and Michelle Haigh negotiated for a meeting with the Law Society’s Marketing Department. They sat in on the meeting. I was proud of the way they advocated for paralegals. We did not get money from the Law Society but we made them understand how important promotion of the profession is to paralegals, new and old. Ken Mitchell and Robert Burd always made themselves available to anyone who wanted information or to bring an issue to the attention of the PSC.
It is a privilege to serve on the PSC. I am certain, however, that no Candidate looks forward to serving a paralegal profession that is divided into many different factions. This profession is an extremely young profession, so young that my son is its senior. A divided and divisive profession is not efficacious. It serves no one well.
I call on all the associations and networks and groups: the PSO, LPA, OPN, WPAO and OPOAG, to band together and insist that the Candidates and their supporters keep this election about the issues and the advancement of the paralegal profession — not about mudslinging, lack of civility, or settling of scores.
The candidates must also be candid and honest with the profession and not make unrealistic promises. When I hear some of the things that are being advocated, they strike me as misleading, unrealistic and disingenuous. Candidates are making promises that they have no chance of making a reality.
In reality, the Standing Committee includes just five paralegal members who, for the first time in 10 years, will all be benchers — an accomplishment for the current PSC.
There are 40 lawyer benchers. In order for paralegals to influence the legal profession, we must negotiate. This is not a defeatist position; we do it every day for our clients. So the talk of expansion of practice, amendments to various legislations and more, will not come from five members holding 40 members hostage. It will be accomplished through civility and good, honest negotiations. For this reason, the five people we send to the Standing Committee must be negotiators, people who are experts at forming relationships and influencing minds.
I wish the best of luck to each and every Candidate in this election. This campaign is significant for the paralegal profession. Your contributions are valuable.
The Bottom Line
This profession belongs to every single licensee. We own it. We each have a duty and an obligation to each other to “do no harm.” Let us all make the Standing Committee election a proud moment for the paralegal profession.
George Brown has been a practising paralegal since 1990.
George has considerable experience defending individuals and companies in Small Claims Court, Landlord and Tenant Board, Human Rights Tribunal, Condominium Law and Judgment Enforcement. George is also the Founder and Secretary of the Ontario Paralegal Network (OPN). George’s efforts to enhance and elevate the paralegal profession have triggered a movement to introduce Ontarians to the paralegal profession.
George is a valued contributor to the professional development of Ontario paralegals. He has taught, and assisted in, numerous continuing education courses for OPN.
George Brown Professional Corporation