Paralegals working in four courthouses across Ontario will soon have expanded roles with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO), to increase legal services access for low-income Ontarians.
A select group of five paralegals took part in a seven-month LAO study examining how inter-professional teams of lawyers, paralegals, and legal aid workers can work together to provide clients with better, more cost-effective services.
“This study has demonstrated that LAO paralegals, working within their scope of practice, can provide clients with quality legal assistance,” according to David McKillop, Vice President Policy, Research, and External Relations.
Makes Sense to Include Paralegals
“Paralegals are licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, so it only makes sense that LAO include them in our service mix to provide clients with faster access to immediate frontline legal help.”
Kirsti Mathers McHenry, Director, Strategic Initiatives & Planning, called the project a success. “We are thrilled to support our staff paralegals as they expand their role. The five paralegals participating in the study exhibit a strong commitment to access to justice and are making contributions both to their local teams and to the development of LAO’s paralegal capacity.”
The paralegals participating in the study have been matched with lawyer mentors. The mentors have completed training on criminal law and the paralegal scope of practice. Paralegals in the study took part in exercises to ensure quality services for clients.
The paralegals were selected for their suitably to take on expanded roles and deliver services that meet or exceed LAO’s expectations, McHenry said.
“The five paralegals participating in the study exhibit a strong commitment to access to justice and are making contributions both to their local teams and to the development of LAO’s paralegal capacity,” McHenry said. “The fact that we have more options to meet the needs of our clients is a tribute to the training these paralegals have received, their understanding of our clients’ needs, and their ability to contribute to their teams.”
Working under the direct supervision of a lawyer, the paralegals participating in the study are now providing clients with legal advice, advice on diversion services and, in Ottawa, providing service to clients on pleas, among other duties.