Candidates’ Webinar for Historic Election

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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.

Election Highlights:

  • 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

More Information:

Watch the archived Paralegal Election webinar

History-making PSC Election period begins

Election logo:
Copyright 2013 — The Law Society of Upper Canada.
The Law Society of Upper Canada logo is a trademark owned by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Link established with the permission of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

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4 comments

  1. Robert Burd · · Reply

    As A PSC member, I can say that the role of a PSC member is more then just being present. In preparation of committee meetings you generally are required to read volumes of literature but to be diligent you should also be reading the material of the other committees also to get the big picture. Thus the preparation is more then just the day of the committee meetings. Then in addition you are an adjudicator and can be assigned to hearing that are multiple straight days. My entire family are paralegals and thus I am totally committed to the paralegal profession and fortunately I have their support to commit the time required.

  2. Angela Browne · · Reply

    I simply cannot see sole practitioners partaking in this role effectively, especially if the first 26 days are uncompensated. One would need to have a firm in town or close to town where the meetings are, or have such a busy practice that others can keep up the work to make up for this missing person who must take so many days out of their business to act. Sole practitioners of either paralegal or lawyer stripe would have this difficulty and it should be addressed, especially if there is an attempt to address the needs of the smaller firms.

  3. Tracey Gauley · · Reply

    I hope that all candidates read this article, or attended that webinar. Sixty (60) days per year is not uncommon for a PSC member to devote to the committee? That is over two MONTHS of the year. And the term is for FOUR years. That would take an awful lot of pre-planning and a massive commitment out of one’s life for this very important leadership position.

    Hopefully all candidates are able to really imagine what this means – the sacrifice to their own practice (in terms of business development & revenue over a 4-year span), the sacrifice of having to plan vacations around LSUC commitments, family events being re-organized around the LSUC calendar etc., because one cannot just ‘skip a meeting’ in this role.

    While it would be a tremendous professional opportunity and great position to hold, when one considers the reality of the responsibility and commitment expected, it would take a very special individual with probably a currently thriving practice, or at least one whom has a business partner whom is able and willing to shoulder the extra weight for the 4 year term, to be able to meet those LSUC expectations would it not?

    A great article – very eye-opening as to what the position really entails. There is much to think about for candidates and also for us the voters. We need to vote people in place that have not only a wealth of practical experience, but those whom are known to be astute business persons, meaning they are known to be organized, effective and clearly understand that planning the 4 year term well in advance is critical to their success in the role. Finally, that they will be able to meet the heavy commitments in order to properly represent us.

  4. Cathy Corsetti · · Reply

    Great Article again!

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