Ontario lawyers and paralegals in Ontario are self-governing. This means that lawyers and paralegals oversee their own regulation through the Law Society in accordance with the Law Society Act and its regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada is governed by a board of directors. Known as benchers, the board includes lawyers, paralegals and lay persons (non-lawyers and non-paralegals), who meet most months in a meeting called Convocation to make policy decisions and to deal with other matters related to the governance of Ontario’s paralegals and lawyers.
Here are some decisions and information from the Law Society and Convocation, that affect paralegals:
As regulator of Ontario’s lawyers and paralegals, the Law Society investigates complaints and other matters where a lawyer or paralegal may have failed to meet standards of learning, professional competence and conduct. Some matters proceed to a hearing and result in an order by the Tribunal. Recent decisions and orders include:
Toronto paralegal Benito Antonio Zappia has been found to have engaged in professional misconduct for:
- Receiving money from clients on account of fees and disbursements for services not yet rendered and disbursements for services not yet rendered and disbursements not yet payable, without depositing the said money into his trust account
- Entering into agreements with his clients where his legal fees respecting criminal matters were contingent on the successful disposition or completion of the matters for which his services were to be provided
- Having advertising for his paralegal services and fees that was misleading
In a Nov. 26 Decision and Order, the Law Society Tribunal – Hearing Division ordered that Zappia be reprimanded and pay $2,500 costs to the Law Society.
Toronto paralegal Victor Manuel Castillo Garcia has been suspended by the Law Society of Upper Canada, and ordered to pay costs of $10,000. The Law Society Tribunal – Hearing Division ordered the interim interlocutory suspension under s. 49.27 of the Law Society Act, after an Oct. 23 hearing.
Gianluca Latina, of Maple, has been suspended for two months, been ordered to pay $1,200 restitution to a client, and is to take CPD programs related to practice management and record-keeping. A costs order of $2,000 is also made.
In an Order and Decision from Nov. 20, the Tribunal — Hearing Division found that Latina failed to keep a client apprised of the status of his matter, and failed to advance or complete the work for which he was retained. The panel found he failed to return his client’s file to him, and to account to his client for the funds provided to him; and had received money in trust from his client but failed to deposit those funds into a trust account.
The Report covering the period from July to September, was presented to Convocation Nov. 28.
Professional Regulation is responsible for responding to complaints against licensees, including
the resolution, investigation and prosecution of complaints which are within the jurisdiction
provided under the Law Society Act. This division also provides trusteeship services and oversees the Compensation Fund, which compensates clients for losses suffered as a result of the wrongful acts of licensees.
Paralegal Applicant cases, for good character and Unauthorized Practice (UAP), were down for the third quarter, with 20 complaints filed, compared to 118 in the second quarter of 2014. Fifty-one complaints against non-licensees were filed. The investigations inventory for the quarter involving paralegals remained consistent with the same quarter from 2013, at 196.
Five complaints alleging practicing outside the scope of licence were received in Q3. The inventory of UAP cases in Investigations was reduced from 82 cases at the end of Q2 2014 to 74 cases at the end of Q3 2014. In September, the Division was seeking two permanent injunctions; in one matter a non-licensee filed an appeal of an injunction, and in one matter, the Division brought a motion for breach of an injunction.
During the quarter, the Discipline Department received complaints against three paralegals, in relation to six matters, from various departments. Six discipline hearings involving paralegals were heard.
According to the Audit and Finance Committee’s report, in 2014, approximately 3,100 paralegals – about 60% – made payment by credit card. In terms of bulk credit card payments, paralegals the vast majority of credit card payments were by individual; only 5 bulk payments of 5 or more paralegals were made in a single transaction.
According to the report, the move to paperless invoicing, will significantly change in the way credit card payments are accepted – the Society will no longer accept credit card payment via fax, email, mail or by phone. Credit card payments account for about 40% of all payments.
The expanded use of the Law Society Portal presents the opportunity for secure delivery and payment of the annual fee.
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.