Today is the first day of the serious part of the 2014 Paralegal Election. It is time to face some hard questions and difficult truths, as voting begins.
What is the purpose of the election?
To choose five paralegal members of the Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC). The chosen paralegals will sit at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Convocation, the “board of governors” of the oldest and largest law society in Canada.
It would be easy to forget that simple fact, amid the fury that has characterized much of what has been termed “campaigning” over the past few months. Just getting elected — no matter what the cost — seems to have gripped a few Candidates.
Twenty-five Candidates put their names forward, ending up on the official list the Law Society drew up. All 25 claim to have entered the race with the best of intentions. Time has told that cannot possibly be true.
Nine names on the Candidates’ list have either not campaigned at all, or stopped communicating about the election after a few short weeks. Of the remaining “active” Candidates, some appear disinterested in actually getting elected. Some seem to be in the race for other, unstated purposes.
Whether you vote for one, or five, names on the ballot; whether you vote today or March 31; do not squander your votes. Carefully consider each Candidate, and examine why they deserve to sit at Convocation.
I suggest that you give your vote or votes to paralegals who have consistently demonstrated the characteristics we all strive for, and which the public hopes for, in a legal services provider.
Commitment to the Profession
The Candidates represent a range of experience in legal services, and as licensees. Still, some of those whose licenses are new are able to point to activities and commitments that demonstrate their ability to lead, to co-ordinate, to mentor, to work “across the aisle” with other licensees.
While some Candidates have devoted time and effort behind the scenes, quietly yet passionately, others have laid claim to group projects, spoken loudly and often about what they say they have done for the profession, and prevaricated about their own contributions and the contributions of organizations they represent.
Who among the Candidates made time for their fellow paralegals before the election, responding to phone calls, emails, requests? Which Candidates found time to meet their volunteer and professional obligations?
Take a look at whose words are backed by action. Vote for those who support new paralegal businesses, who mentor new paralegals, hire new paralegals — not because it is politically expedient, but because that is in their nature.
Integrity and Civility
Take a look at the campaigns. Which Candidates ran campaigns that focused on their own contributions to the profession, their own realistic suggestions for moving forward? Which devoted their time to tearing down and splitting apart the paralegal community, and belittling a few targets who are fellow licensees, deserving of basic respect?
You may have heard and read some disturbing things during this election, some rumours and theories that should never have been uttered publicly. Ask yourself: was this done in the best interest of the profession? Of the public, who want to rely on paralegals? Of the justice system, in which each of these Candidates works?
A few Candidates have exaggerated their accomplishments, and put political spin on events. Take a close look at the claims Candidates have made. Do they add up? Does the Candidate consistently demonstrate integrity, in all that they do?
Which Candidates have lived up to the oath we all swore: “… in all things I shall conduct myself honestly and with integrity and civility.”
Ability to Reason and be Reasonable
A handful of Candidates and their supporters have striven to create an impression of impending crisis, of “collusion” between the PSC and the “lawyers who oppose paralegals.” They speak of scope areas being clawed back, and of conspiracies to undermine paralegal independence.
Where do these ideas come from? Misreading, not reading, or misapprehending Law Society reports accounts for too much of this. As members of the PSC, and other committees, the five paralegal benchers will need to be able to read and understand, vast amounts of information.
If a Candidate cannot comprehend Law Society staff reports and recommendations now, as they make pronouncements in the hope of being elected, when will they? If a Candidate says they don’t have time to read reports now, how will they deal with the volume of reports during those first 26 meeting-days, of uncompensated work for Convocation?
Convocation and its Committees are not the place for bullies. Aggressive, foot-stomping insistence and haranguing will not advance the paralegal agenda. It takes consistent finesse, personal behind-the-scenes manoeuvring and profound respect for the rules and mandate of the PSC and the Law Society, to continue moving forward.
Ask yourself: Which Candidates have shown an ability to “play well with others”?
Trust, Honesty, Candour
Which Candidates have shown that they can be trusted with confidential information? Trusted to uphold rules for in-camera meetings? Trusted to ask respectful and logical questions, after reviewing necessary documents, so they are prepared to fulfill their obligations?
As in real politics, it’s usually not the commission of an act, or failure to fulfill an obligation, that leads to trouble — it’s the way the facts are handled afterward, especially if there is a hint of a cover-up.
A few Candidates have minimized the influence they have with organizations that sponsored Candidates’ events. A few have engaged in extreme and inexplicable censorship at social media controlled by their organizations. A couple have made unfortunate and unsupportable accusations, not just about other Candidates, but about fellow licensees who are not their competitors.
Take a hard look at the Candidates who have demanded “openness,” while engaging in censorship themselves; who have demanded access to private information, while themselves refusing to provide details that are mandated to be public; who have accused others of being secretive, while failing to answer simple questions, forthrightly.
Conflicts of Interest
Given the opportunity to declare conflicts of interest that would affect their ability to speak to, and vote on, certain issues at Convocation, a few Candidates chose to say nothing. Others have minimized their apparent current conflicts.
Ask yourself: Would this Candidate behave differently at Convocation, than they do during an election campaign? Than they do with organizations they represent? Whom would they truly represent if elected: all paralegals, a few individuals, or the interests of an association that represents a minority of paralegals?
Bottom-Line: Tune-In, Log-In and Vote!
This election matters. Your deliberate vote, or votes, matter. When you take a few minutes to vote online this month, don’t squander the opportunity. Seize this moment. Vote rationally. Use your head and heart, both.
This election is not a popularity contest. It is not “Let’s Make a Deal.” It is not “Survivor: Convocation.”
It is about moving forward, with five paralegal benchers who will make us all proud to say: “I am a paralegal.”
Paralegal SCOPE Home Page
Media 101: The Truth About Advertising and Journalistic Integrity
This is a condensed version of an article about “media awareness” for paralegals. From time to time, I will explain some aspect of news media, so that paralegals who may not be familiar with the media landscape can gain a better understanding.
Content at SCOPE is well-researched, vigorous and focused. It sets, and meets, a high standard. Articles elevate professionalism and encourage access to justice. They demonstrate good writing and news sense.
Anyone who runs a business — whether a lemon-aid stand or a Multi-Discipline Practice — wants to earn an income from the venture. Pro bono and volunteer efforts have their place, but even the non-profits within the paralegal community generate revenue in various ways.
In addition to the ads that run in the right-hand sidebar at each page of SCOPE, I run occasional articles that have been sponsored. These are related to events or products that provide a direct benefit to paralegals. These articles bear the tag line “So-and-so is a proud sponsor of SCOPE,” although I am not obligated to do so.
Consider the source, when you hear claims that SCOPE fees have been kept secret, or that only a “select group” of Candidates have access to the service. Consider the source when you see links to “news articles” about a Candidate.
One Candidate has posted the link to an article that was paid for — lock stock and barrel — without identifying the source. The “election article” is presented as a news story, despite that not being the case. The article was written by a paid publicity service — which is fine, but that should be explained, not covered-up or denied.
There is a difference between paid publicity, bona fide news sources and sponsored content. There is a difference between saying you support the paralegal community, and actually doing it. There’s a difference between being proud to openly support a new licensee’s professional service, and hiding the facts about using a publicity firm to write friendly articles and scripts.
SCOPE, on the other hand, provides a paralegal-specific service to sponsors and advertisers interested in integrity. They know that they are buying an ad or a service; they are not buying me, and they are not buying special treatment. News value and service drive content at SCOPE.
SCOPE’s weekly Candidate Q&As are identified as sponsored. Every Candidate was invited to participate. Whether to use the listing service and Q&A is a decision each Candidate makes for themselves. Of those actively campaigning, most have chosen to support SCOPE.
Integrity and honesty are important, both in news media and at Convocation.
PSC Election Articles and Information:
- LSUC Voting Guide
- Voting information and details
- Meet the Candidates – PSC Election 2014
- Candidates’ Q&A: Well-crafted questions that provide Candidates an opportunity to tell voters where they stand on issues within the PSC mandate
Paralegal SCOPE Home Page
What Does the Paralegal Standing Committee Do?
PSC members have been active in Law Society deliberations concerning matters that affect all licensees, such as:
- New rules on mandatory Continuing Professional Development
- Introduction of the new Law Society Tribunal structure
- Treasurer’s Access to Justice initiative
- Changes to the Paralegal Rules from time to time to improve their effectiveness and usefulness
- Development of rules governing limited scope retainers, and
Consideration of Alternative Business Structures
Accreditation and Audit Changes Coming
Morris Report – Five Years
Bill 111 Passes – Five Paralegal Benchers
LSUC 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.
Paralegal SCOPE Home Page
Paralegal, Publisher – Paralegal SCOPE Magazine
Paralegal SCOPE Home Page