The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) governs Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct. Here are highlights of recent decisions and initiatives from the Law Society, which affect the more than 6,000 licensed paralegals in Ontario.
The move comes as the Law Society’s Integration Process is winding down. The process started in 2011. It offered members of exempted groups the opportunity to become licensed under a policy to reduce the number of exempt persons providing legal services. LSUC stats show that 312 candidates became licensed under the process.
The PSC report notes that a small number of Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP) members have been involved in workers’ compensation claims, representing employers and occasionally workers from the initial claim up to and including appeals at the WSIB. Twenty-nine BCRSP members applied under the Integration Process. A small number of Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC) members had developed a practice of appealing municipal assessments at the Assessment Review Board; 12 members applied under the Integration Process.
The 2012 Morris Report on Paralegal Regulation recommended that the Law Society review exemptions under the By-Law, where exclusions “cannot be justified in terms of facilitating access to justice and/or protection of the public interest.” In its report to Convocation, the PSC states that “there is no compelling argument for keeping the exemption for these associations.”
PSC Chair Cathy Corsetti said that Convocation has been looking into reducing the number of exemptions under By-Law 4 since 2009. The committee met with the organizations affected. They are “well-established associations, most of whose members do not provide any advocacy services.”
“The Law Society’s policy is that it’s generally in the public interest for anyone providing advocacy services to the public, including potentially vulnerable clients, to be licensed by the Law Society, insured and required to observe the Rules of Conduct,” Corsetti said.
If the motion is approved, Subparagraph 30 (1) 7 i of By-Law 4 (Licensing) will be changed to provide a licensing exemption for members of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario in the Certified Human Resources Professional category.
Ali Amiri, of Oakville, will get a new hearing before a new panel of the Hearing Division.
Amiri had been suspended for 180 days and ordered to pay more than $18,000 in costs to the Law Society. He had been found to have engaged in professional misconduct by: practising beyond the scope of his licence, failing to conduct himself in a way that maintained the integrity of the profession, marketing his legal services in a manner that was misleading and/or confusing, and failing to maintain the proper books and records of his paralegal practice.
- Katharine Melissa Brooks, of Ajax, has been ordered to pay costs of $2,881.75 to the Law Society.
Law Society of Upper Canada v. Brooks, 2015 ONLSTH 5 (CanLII)
Law Society of Upper Canada v. Brooks, 2014 ONLSTH 183 (CanLII)
Artem Djukic, of Brampton, has been suspended on an interlocutory basis starting Jan. 9, 2015.
- Adrienne Denise Garth, of Toronto, has had her licence revoked for professional misconduct, effective Jan. 19, 2015. She is also to pay the Law Society $50,000 in costs by 2020. A Hearing Panel found that the paralegal had acted without integrity in such matters as her dealings with other licensees and with clients; failing to serve clients; and misappropriating funds. She had also failed to apply for a Certificate of Approval from the Law Society of Upper Canada for her Paralegal firm TLC Law Corporation.
- Diane Lynn Smith, of Barrie, has had her licence revoked. She had been found to have failed to complete work for a client, not return messages, failed to file a statement of claim, missed deadlines, misled client, failed to respond and be candid with a client, failed to account for funds, or provide an account, and other issues. A Hearing Panel found: “Given the nature, duration, and repetition of the misconduct, the Paralegal’s previous suspension for similar misconduct, the number of clients adversely affected, the likelihood of future misconduct, and her complete lack of co-operation with the Law Society, revocation was the only appropriate penalty – The Paralegal’s licence to provide legal services was revoked and she was ordered to pay costs of $12,000 to the Law Society.”
Zenon Stephen Spyrc, of Flamborough, has been suspended. The Law Society brought a motion for an interlocutory order under s. 49.27 of the Law Society Act. Effective Dec. 5, 2014, the Order includes $7,000 in costs to the LSUC.
Toronto paralegal Benito Antonio Zappia has been found to have engaged in professional misconduct. He was reprimanded and ordered to pay the LSUC $2,500.
Tighter auditing of schools, and a more rigorous licensing examination, is well under way. These changes had been approved last February. The Professional Development & Competence Committee presented information to update Convocation Jan. 29. More than 80 people attended an information session held to explain the changes, and colleges have been kept informed, the committee report shows.
More than 400 substantive, procedural and practice management questions have been developed for the new licensing exam. These will be incorporated into the August exam — the first sitting. Materials for the exam include 50 new chapters and self-study supports, to help Candidates prepare.
Last year, 1,768 Candidates registered for the licensing process; of those, 1414 became licensed. As of year-end 2014, 28 paralegal college programs had been approved, for 45 campuses. LSUC staff audited 32 college programs by the end of 2014.
In 2014, the LSUC audited 141 paralegal practices. Of those audited, 98% found it a useful and constructive exercise. The goal is to provide targeted advice to achieve effective and efficient practices, the PD&C report to Convocation notes. Overall, between 2008 and 2014, just over half of the 528 paralegals audited were found not to be meeting standards of professional competence, and follow-ups were needed.
Convocation heard Jan. 29 that progress continues on the Alternative Business Structures (ABS) initiative through the work of the Working Group on ABS. Last February, Convocation approved consultation on various ABS models. Meetings and presentations have already been held across Ontario and a discussion paper released. Responses are due by year’s end.
Benefits to the Law Society include:
- Improved security in processing Law Society revenues and fund transfers
- Improved efficiency in processing Law Society revenues and less risk of errors
- Faster processing of Law Society revenues
- Replaces cumbersome and expensive mailing process
- Draws licensees to the Law Society Portal as part of their “one-stop shopping.”
Benefits for licensees include on-line access to their financial transactions and improved security and efficiency, both in paying the annual fee and in any subsequent status changes.
Increasingly, the Law Society Portal is becoming a primary tool for two-way communication between the Society and licensees.
Created in 2011, past recipients are: Brian Lawrie, Elaine Page and Paula Stamp.
The nominations deadline is Jan. 30, 2015. Nominations are reviewed by a selection committee that includes paralegal members of the Paralegal Standing Committee, the Vice-Chair of the Paralegal Standing Committee, a lay bencher member of the Paralegal Standing Committee and the Treasurer of the Law Society or designate. The selection committee reports its recommendation to Convocation in-camera and its recommendation must be approved by Convocation.
- Convocation webcast – On Thurs., Jan. 29, the first of three Convocations has been streamed live online. Check the LSUC site for the link. The huge popularity of the live webcasts last spring for delegations and deliberations over accrediting grads from a proposed faith-based law school helped to spur these webcasts.
- The Law Society invites paralegals to help come up with ideas to improve access to justice by using limited scope retainers. This Feb. 3 event will be webcast. It is sponsored jointly by TAG (The Action Group on Access to Justice), Social Justice Tribunals Ontario and the Law Society. Paralegals can also use the Twitter hashtag #TAGA2J to provide input on limited scope retainers in various practice areas.