Look for More Law Students in POA, Small Claims Courts

Photo: LSUC

Photo: LSUC

Changes to Law Society of Upper Canada’s Bylaw respecting summer law students mean that paralegals can expect to see more first- and second-year law students providing services at Paralegal Scope of Practice forums.

Professional Development and Competence Committee Report recommendations were adopted at Convocation, Sept. 25.

The change reflects a policy change adopted in 2008. Convocation approved a policy to permit law students to represent clients in such proceedings as small claims court trials and administrative tribunals, while employed as summer students at law firms. Before then, summer law students were not allowed to act on behalf of a person in a proceeding before an adjudicative body, including courts or tribunals, except with the express authorization and instruction of a lawyer or paralegal licensee, in respect of scheduling or routine administrative matters.

By-Law 7.1 — Operational Obligations and Responsibilities — was not changed in 2008, to reflect the approved policy. Several meetings since that time, including a joint meeting in February with the Paralegal Standing Committee and through a small working group, led to the amendments approved Wednesday.

After their first or second year of law school, summer law students can now appear in court and tribunal proceedings, whether they work in clinical settings or law firm settings. The ability is subject to “appropriate supervision,” as determined by the supervising licensee. A court or tribunal has the right to refuse to allow a summer law student to appear before it.

At Convocation, Licensed Paralegal Association President Robert Burd, a member of the Paralegal Standing Committee, spoke by phone to the motion. Burd raised concerns about unskilled law students “echoing” the mandate of the Paralegal Scope of Practice, providing services for clients who may face severe penalties. He suggested that law students be restricted to pro bono cases, but the motion passed easily, with no amendments from voting Benchers.

With the amendments to Bylaw 7.1, a supervising licensee must give the non-licensee express instruction and authorization before permitting the non-licensee to act on behalf of a person in a proceeding. The client must consent to the assignment of a matter to a student, and the supervising licensee must be able to take independent actions necessary to comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct.

3 comments

  1. Wow.

    Here’s my problem with your comment, and one paralegals are struggling with across Ontario. In the course of completing a bachelor of arts degree, law students have proved to be capable of research and solid writing.

    While your point may have some merit, it’s impossible to tell because it’s so badly written that it does more to disparage the paralegal profession than defend it. In fairness, your comment may not be truly representative of your communication skills. In essence, it’s tough to try to paint law students as uneducated or unsophisticated, when the certification for paralegals involves a mark of 60 from a private career college.

    With all that being said, I’m certainly not trying to paint a wide brush across the Ontario paralegal profession — those who work hard truly suffer under the carnival game of Step right up – everbody wins!”

    1. Your comment concerning the grammatical content of the first critique, while valid, also presumes a command of the English language most bachelor of arts students do not demonstrate in their assignments (even the much lauded “pre-law” set). What is troubling is that the LSUC has decided to undercut the paralegal profession that it collects license fees for. That is the problem. It cannot make ethical demands of its practitioners that it fails to uphold in its own practices. Either stop allowing colleges to issue the degrees and let the paralegal die or allow them the dignity to practice within their scope without the constant belittling of their training.

  2. This is ridiculous. Let’s talk about the parts the law society provides for regarding fairness. I completed my paralegal studies and get my license in a few weeks. How is it fair an unlicensed member can practice in a tribunal but I cannot. When half the students at law that show up at court wear jeans and tanks and don’t follow the general protocol and standard they should. This I feel is rather disrespectful to paralegals and makes it more of a discrimination at paralegals. I guess we are just a lowly kind not worthy of rights or intelligence.

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