Paralegals in British Columbia will come under the same regulatory umbrella as lawyers, with the approval in principle of an access-to-justice based regulatory framework for paralegals and notaries public.
At its Dec. 9 meeting, Law Society of British Columbia benchers unanimously approved in principle three recommendations:
- The Law Society and the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia seek to merge regulatory operations
- That a program be created by which the legal regulator provide paralegals who have met specific, prescribed education and/or training standards with a certificate that would allow them to be held out as “certified paralegals”
- That the Law Society develop a regulatory framework by which other providers of legal services could provide credentialed and regulated legal services in the public interest.
The change will transform the regulation and delivery of legal services in B.C.
Bruce LeRose had chaired the Legal Service Providers Task Force for the society. Its final report was presented Dec. 6. LeRose said approving the recommendations in principle is an important move toward increasing legal services access in the province.
“Access to justice is slipping out of reach for many British Columbians,” LeRose said. “It is critical that the Law Society look for ways to reverse that trend, and these ideas could be a big part of that.”
Paralegal Association Involvement Continues
Carmen Marolla, Director of the B.C. Paralegal Association, said the association will work with the law society to implement the changes. “We look forward to continuing to work with the Law Society to develop the criteria for certification for paralegals, and to consider how best to create the regulatory framework to be developed for stand-alone legal service providers.”
B.C. Law Society President Art Vertlieb called the benchers’ unanimous support for the motion a “watershed moment in the Law Society’s history.”
Vertlieb attended the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Welcome Reception for new licensees in November, and spoke to Convocation the next day. He came to learn more about how paralegal licensing affected access to justice in Ontario.
“Ultimately, we will move to regulation, like Ontario,” Vertlieb said in November. “We need to get on board and bring in a program of licensing that addresses access to justice issues.”
Changing Face of Legal Services in Canada
Law societies in British Columbia and Quebec are looking to the Ontario licensing model, with a view to licensing the profession in their jurisdictions. The moves are seen as meeting access-to-justice principles, and protecting the public from untrained renegades.
The Law Society of British Columbia regulates the more than 11,000 lawyers in the province. It sets and enforces standards of professional conduct, to ensure the public is served by a “competent, honourable legal profession.”
Read the BCLS press release