Three weeks in March could go down in the history books for paralegals.
During that time, Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC) members will be elected entirely online and — pending passage of a Bill now in second reading — all five elected members will become benchers.
Materials related to the election, including nomination forms, are now live at the Law Society of Upper Canada’s website.
Electing paralegals is crucial to the governance of the profession. The Law Society encourages all licensed paralegals to take part by nominating colleagues, running for election and, of course, voting. Paralegals whose licences are suspended are not eligible to run, or to vote.
The five elected paralegals will be members of the PSC, which includes five lawyer bencher members and three lay bencher members. The committee recommends policies related to the governance and regulation of licensed paralegals.
Legislation Would Add to Bencher Numbers
In the past, the PSC has itself elected two of the paralegals to serve as benchers, taking part in Convocation meetings, and with the right to make motions and vote. Paralegal members of the PSC sit on hearing and appeal panels to consider cases related to the licensing, competence, conduct and capacity of paralegals.
The Law Society amended its bylaws in April, increasing the number of paralegal benchers from two to five, by making each of the five lected PSC members also benchers. To be effected, legislative changes must be made; Bill 111, introduced Oct. 1, includes the bencher amendments, among other changes.
Updates on the status of the Bill will be provided to candidates as they are received.
Voting begins the second week of March 2014, and will close at 5 p.m. March 31. The election will be conducted entirely online, so paralegals must ensure that the Law Society has their current email address on record. Voting instructions will be sent by email.
A nomination package is available online. It includes:
- Letter to Candidates
- Candidate Instructions
- Nomination Form
- By-Law 3 VII.1
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Sample Candidate Page Format for Voting Guide
- Fillable Candidate Page for Voting Guide
For paralegals thinking about running, a free webcast with Jim Varro, the Law Society Elections Officer, is scheduled for Nov. 25, from 5-6 p.m. Register online before Nov. 20.
What Does it All Mean?
Elected PSC members will begin to serve with the April 2014 Convocation, for a four-year term. Benchers are not salaried. Their expenses are reimbursed and they are compensated for their time serving on behalf of the public, and only after first contributing 26 days without remuneration. Paralegal benchers devote two or three days a month to Convocation duties, overall.
PSC paralegal members may take part in Law Society committees, task forces or working groups. The Standing Committee’s mandate is to develop policies for Convocation’s approval, related to the regulation of paralegals. This includes such issues as licensing qualifications, rules of professional conduct, trust account and financial record-keeping requirements, professional competence standards, continuing legal education requirements, practice reviews, and business structures.
The Law Society is governed by a board of directors, known as “benchers.” Lawyers, paralegals and lay persons (non-lawyers and non-paralegals) serve as benchers on the board, which is called Convocation. It meets at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.
Convocation meets most months of the year, to make policy decisions and deal with matters related to the governance of Ontario’s paralegals and lawyers. The chair of Convocation and the head of the Law Society is the Treasurer, currently Tom Conway. He was acclaimed for another term at June Convocation.
The staff and day-to-day operations of the Law Society are overseen by the Chief Executive Officer, currently Robert Lapper, and his senior management team.
- Nomination forms must be received by the Law Society by 5 pm Jan. 17, 2014
- Nominees need signatures of at least five paralegals whose licences are not suspended at the time they sign the nomination form
- Election statements must contain no more than 350 words, including headings
- Election material and statements must not be libellous, must be in good taste, and comply with the Paralegal Rules of Conduct
- By-Law 3 governs the election process
Related coverage in SCOPE includes:
PSC Candidates listed at SCOPE – and links to Candidate Q & A
PSC Paralegals Should Be Benchers
Bill Would Increase the Role of Paralegals