More than 200 licensees tuned-in to the Law Society’s webinar for people considering running in next March’s historic paralegal election.
Roy Thomas, LSUC Communications Director, moderated the webcast, Nov. 25. Jim Varro, the Law Society’s Elections Officer, and Julia Bass, Policy Counsel and Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC) secretary, explained the process and answered questions.
Several viewers asked about the amount of time a PSC member should expect to spend on official Law Society business. Bass said that depends largely on how many committees and working groups a member belongs to, but it is not uncommon for a PSC member to devote more than 60 days a year. PSC members sit on all committees, task forces and working groups — including the hearing panel.
PSC members are expected to contribute 26 days to their LSUC duties, before they qualify for remuneration. Staff help to orient new PSC members, the presenters noted. Bass said that elected paralegals make “a tremendous contribution to the law society” and have made an “outstanding impression.”
From Two Benchers to Five
Among the recent developments outlined during the webinar, the critical one is that the five PSC members will almost certainly become benchers at Convocation. “That is important to keep in mind,” Varro pointed out.
Attorney General John Gerretsen introduced legislation in October, which would effect an LSUC reform and make elected PSC members, benchers. They will serve at Convocation, sometimes called the “board of governors” of the Law Society. Treasurer Tom Conway’s policy has been that all PSC members may attend Convocation, but only two have voting rights.
Bass told the online audience that transitional provisions in the legislation mean that “in due course,” the PSC members will be benchers. Committee members elected in March will serve four-year terms. There are no limits on the number of terms a PSC member may serve.
Role of PSC at the Law Society
The PSC, which also has five lawyer bencher members and three lay bencher members, develops and recommends policies related to the governance and regulation of licensed paralegals. Varro reiterated that the Law Society acts in the best interests of the public. It governs lawyers and paralegals on behalf of Ontario citizens.
PSC members and benchers must avoid conflicts of interest between their roles as legal services providers and their roles in Convocation. These don’t preclude a potential candidate from running, Bass said, but it is something to keep in mind.
For example, paralegals who are in leadership roles with professional associations may feel a “divided loyalty” if they also sit on the PSC. Similarly, someone who works for an accredited school may find themselves in a conflict during their term; educational requirements and the licensing exam are being reviewed. Members with a conflict would need to recuse themselves from discussions and votes on those issues.
Practical Advice for Candidates
Try to get all the nomination material in well before the deadline of 5 p.m. Jan. 17, Thomas said. That way, if anything needs to be changed, updated or resubmitted, there will be time to do so. Besides the nomination form, candidates must submit information that will be used in the online Voting Guide. The Law Society sets up the site and posts information to help paralegals to make informed decisions.
Some material specifications are based on technical requirements and must not be ignored. For instance, the 120-word biographical information and 350-word election statement must be submitted in text format and not as a PDF. The colour photos must fit the required size and format, for proper resolution on the website. Candidate pages are uniformly formatted by staff.
It’s a good idea to name all files in a way that includes the candidate’s name. That way, staff know to which person the material belongs.
Paralegal Rules of Conduct should guide candidates in their election material and any other activity related to their campaign, the presenters said. There is no time-frame for the campaign period and no restrictions on spending or marketing methods, beyond common sense and the Rules.
Just over 800 paralegals voted in the 2010 election, or roughly one-quarter of the membership. There could be about 5,600 eligible voters in 2014. The voters’ list is frozen in March. The election will be conducted entirely online, over a two-week period.
- Any licensed paralegal who is not suspended at the time they are nominated, and who has a business address in Ontario, may run
- Nomination forms must be received by the Law Society by 5 p.m. Jan. 17, 2014
- Nominees need signatures of at least five and up to seven paralegals whose licences are not suspended at the time they sign the nomination form
- Election statements must contain no more than 350 words, including headings
- Election material and statements must not be libellous, must be in good taste, and comply with the Paralegal Rules of Conduct
Watch the archived Paralegal Election webinar
History-making PSC Election period begins
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