Following-up on a recommendation from Convocation that elected paralegals become benchers, the Attorney General has introduced amendments to the Law Society Act. If passed, the number of elected paralegal benchers will jump from two to five, and paralegals will no longer be excluded under the Solicitors Act.
John Gerretsen introduced the amendments Oct. 1. Bill 111, an Act to amend the Law Society Act and the Solicitors Act, passed first reading.
In April, the Law Society asked that the proposed PSC amendments be made as soon as possible, so they would be in place for the upcoming paralegal election.
Five paralegals are elected by licensed paralegals as members of the 13-member Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC). Two of the five are elected by the PSC to serve as benchers, fully participating in and voting at Convocation. The amendments would see all five paralegals elected as benchers.
Cathy Corsetti chairs the PSC. She says the proposed amendment is a significant step in advancing the paralegal profession. “These enhancements to Law Society governance are an important first step in implementing the Morris report recommendations.”
The Bill also proposes that various provisions that have become “spent or obsolete over time” be repealed.
Section 1 of the Solicitors Act is to be amended. The restriction on non-solicitors acting in proceedings would no longer apply to “persons licensed under the Law Society Act to provide legal services in Ontario.”
The government says its changes will strengthen the Law Society’s hearing and appeals process for alleged cases of professional misconduct involving lawyers and paralegals. The Law Society would be able to recover legal costs from lawyers and paralegals who have been disciplined. Hearings would be explicitly able to receive information from any person in a hearing — including a client — that is solicitor-client privileged.
The Law Society began regulating paralegals in 2007. Almost 5,000 paralegals are now licensed and insured in Ontario. An independent five-year review by David Morris (The Morris Report) last year found that regulation has been a “remarkable success.” The report recommended revising the Law Society’s governance structure.
Bill 111 – An Act to amend the Law Society Act and the Solicitors Act
Gazette article about Bill 111
Convocation: Elected Paralegals Should be Benchers
Bencher Election Reforms Moving Forward
Paralegal Election Changes
Five-year Report Recommends Expanding Scope of Practice