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.