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The submission states that in order for the Law Society to provide a meaningful appraisal of the proposal, further details are required, including: the choice of offences to be transferred; whether the penalty would in some circumstances include demerit points; the details of the dispute resolution system, including the opportunity to dispute; the design of the online process; and the qualifications and choice of hearing officers. The submission also states that access to justice issues require more information, including on any impact on individuals rights, public safety, and on the availability of any new system to the public, including different language groups and those without access to electronic communications.
The Law Society plans to participate in further consultations.
Issues addressed include: solicitor-client privilege; the need to define “representative”; concurrent regulation of both representatives and recruiters; and protecting the public from unauthorized practice.
The submission notes: “In Ontario, lawyers and paralegals practise law and provide legal services within the scope of activities defined for them by the Law Society. The Law Society seeks to ensure that the Bill reflects this with respect to immigration law.”
The Committee’s mandate is to develop and recommend policies to govern and regulate licensed paralegals in the public interest. There are 13 people on the PSC: five paralegal benchers, five lawyer benchers and three non-lawyer (lay) benchers. The five paralegal benchers were elected last March.
LSUC staff had reviewed randomly selected licensees’ documentation to confirm dates, times, receipts and materials from CPD actitives. The outcomes of the CPD compliance audit programs suggest that there is no further need to continue with the CPD Compliance Desk Audit Program. The number of licensees with CPD record keeping deficiencies is extremely low. In addition, the Law Society now has very robust reminder processes and sanctions, including the application of late fees, to ensure that licensees maintain their CPD requirements.
David A. Wright, committee chair, presented the Tribunal Committee’s annual report to Convocation April 23.
The Law Society Tribunal website was created and launched just over a year ago. Internet presence through an independent website has dramatically increased the profile and transparency of the Tribunal, Wright said. It allows for ease of access to Tribunal information by the public, media and parties. The website contains a wealth of information about the Tribunal and its activities. More decisions have been written and published in the past year. Many decisions are published at CanLII.
Mortgage fraud, failing to co-operate with Law Society investigations, and issues around financial record-keeping were the primary focus of complaints last year. Overall, complaints were down in 2014.
The Law Society Tribunal is an independent adjudicative tribunal within The Law Society of Upper Canada. Since it was formally established in March 2014, through implementation of the Modernizing Regulation of the Legal Profession Act, 2013, the Tribunal has made changes to underscore its independence and promote an open process. The committee continues to develop proposals about its processes. Lawyers, paralegals and members of the public can receive email updates and consultation documents from the Tribunal by asking to be included on the Tribunal’s Stakeholder’s List.
The Law Society wants to develop a compliance-based, entity regulation system, to regulate firms in addition to individual licensees. Such a system would proactively in address issues of public protection and the quality of services, focusing on management principles and ways to improve practise, while controlling risks. It would also enhance the autonomy of licensees and firms, according to a report presented to Convocation.
Law firms are the only type of entity permitted by the Law Society right now. The current regulatory process is generally reactive and rules based. It focuses on the individual licensee, the report notes. Entity regulation would permit a more proactive, compliance based approach for firms. “In other jurisdictions, compliance based regulation has been found to have a significant positive effect on the number of complaints received about a firm and its licensees. Establishing regulatory objectives for entities may improve practice and therefore better protect clients and the public interest.”
With entity regulation, designated persons from firms could be responsible for responding to information requests from the LSUC, and to establish “ethical infrastructures” for the legal entity. The Law Society could assist firms to achieve compliance by providing tools and templates, and working with firms if they are non-compliant.
No recommendations have been made, and the committee will continue to update Convocation on its work.
Paralegal Suzanne Cwalino has been permitted to surrender her licence, after being found to have engaged in conduct unbecoming. She was convicted of drug-related charges in Australia in 2008 and is serving a sentence for attempting to import cocaine and methamphetamine into that country. The Order was made Feb. 6.
Maria John Hamdani has been suspended for one month, for professional misconduct. A hearing panel found she had failed to co-operate with a Law Society investigation and failed notify the Society of changes to personal and business contact information. The costs order is for $4,000.
Mississauga paralegal Satheesan Kumarasamy has been suspended for two months, starting April 20. Kumarasamy was found to have engaged in conduct unbecoming a licensee, and professional misconduct. A hearing panel ordered that he take counselling. He had been found guilty in 2013 of two assaults, and of mischief, in Whitby. He failed to inform the Law Society that he had been charged with seven criminal offences. Kumarasamy is to pay costs of $3,000 by 2017.
The Law Society has refused a paralegal licence for disbarred lawyer Harry Kopyto. His “good character” hearing found Kopyto ungovernable. He advised the panel that if granted a Class P1 licence, he intended to continue to disregard By-Law 4 insofar as it restricted the scope of paralegal practice – and that, if a paralegal licence were denied, he intended to disregard the law and continue to provide legal services” as he had “hundreds of times.” The former lawyer had applied for a paralegal licence in 2007 and had filed several applications and motions before courts and tribunals related to paralegal scope of practice and his application.
- Diane Lynn Smith, of Barrie, has had her licence revoked. She had been found to have failed to complete work for a client, not return messages, failed to file a statement of claim, missed deadlines, misled client, failed to respond and be candid with a client, failed to account for funds, or provide an account, and other issues. A Hearing Panel found: “Given the nature, duration, and repetition of the misconduct, the Paralegal’s previous suspension for similar misconduct, the number of clients adversely affected, the likelihood of future misconduct, and her complete lack of co-operation with the Law Society, revocation was the only appropriate penalty – The Paralegal’s licence to provide legal services was revoked and she was ordered to pay costs of $12,000 to the Law Society.”
The Law Society Tribunal Hearing Division has obtained an interlocutory suspension against a Toronto lawyer. Erwin John Weisdorf is the subject of five separate investigations by the Society, including complaints that involve paralegals. In addition to a complaint that Weisdorf allowed a paralegal to handle family law matters without adequate supervision, the investigations include missing files, mishandled trust funds, allegations of fraud, and a police investigation into staged accidents and SABS claims.
The lawyer’s licence is suspended until such time as a conduct application can be heard, and a final order on the merits of the proceeding is made by the Hearing Division.