Paralegal SCOPE presents the first in a series of Q & As for the PSC Election 2014. All answers are posted at the same time. Candidate names will be rotated, to ensure “alphabetical fairness.”
Question 1: Which governance decisions from the past four years have affected paralegals the most?
I believe that the governance decision which most positively affected paralegals was the decision to increase the number of paralegal benchers from two to five, effectively making all paralegal members of the Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC), Benchers (Bill 111).
This decision was made with virtually no opposition at Convocation. I understand that some paralegals feel that this is insignificant, but having the experience of being both a non-bencher member and a bencher member of the PSC, I can assure you this is a big deal.
When I was a non-bencher member of the PSC, I was not invited to Convocation, and if I did attend, I did not have the ability to speak or vote. I was unable to participate on certain committees and I was hindered when trying to build relationships with the lawyer/lay benchers and staff. I can compare the feeling to being a “second-class citizen.”
Since that time, two Treasurers, including the current one, have seen the detriment this created and openly invited non-bencher elected paralegals to attend Convocation and voice their opinions. However, this did not rectify the issue of not being able to vote.
Having all five members of the PSC holding bencher positions will increase our ability to influence and lobby the lawyer/lay benchers, voice our positions in a unified manner at Convocation, and participate fully in all aspects of the job. We have more than doubled the number of paralegal votes.
This was a significant step and shows the profession the progress we have made at the LSUC over the past seven years, and the LSUC’s support for the recommendations made in the Morris Report. There is much more to accomplish, but this has set a positive tone at Convocation, and especially among the paralegal members of the PSC.
This is a difficult question. There have been so very many decisions and changes; each has affected our profession in innumerable ways.
However, after careful review of the Convocation Reports and Decisions since 2009, I have selected: “unbundling” of services.
The unbundling of services has broadened opportunities and possibilities for paralegals. Limited-scope retainers have fostered new relationships between lawyers and paralegals. Many business models are being developed, based on this singular decision. It has increased public access to justice, through affordability of “partial” services. In addition, the Courts have benefited, through the injection of professional representation, when a self-represented person finds himself or herself overwhelmed by the complexity of the system.
Further, the unbundling of services speaks to the level of professionalism and competency of licensees, in being able to transition in and out of a given matter.
This singular decision has changed the way many licensees provide services.
In reviewing governance decisions over the last four years, my choice is: the decision to revise the licensing examination.
Until now there have been occasions where it was obvious that there is no uniformity, nor adequacy, of education in some colleges. Both paralegals and the public suffer the consequences.
As our profession rapidly develops, it is destined to play an ever-expanding role in the legal affairs of the citizens of this province. To assure that expansion, it is imperative that we employ all available means to ensure both the trust and acceptance of the citizens who will become our clients.
It is necessary and logical to require that each paralegal who graduates from an accredited college will possess the requisite training and knowledge to properly assess the case and diligently represent a citizen in a designated legal arena.
A challenging, substantive examination is needed.
As long as every paralegal has access to appropriate educational courses, the public will be protected and the administration of justice will be enhanced. The Law of the Marketplace will then decide an individual’s level of success.
I believe the governance decision that affected paralegals the most in the past four years, is the Five Year Review of paralegal regulation, and ultimately the David Morris report.
The reason I picked this item is that, with this report, we now have a strong foundation to proceed with the expansion of the paralegal profession. As Chair of the Morris Report working group I’ve already seen advancements in the profession. The 11 recommendations will allow us to proceed on important changes embraced by the government and the legal profession.
Bill 111 is a perfect example. We have already accomplished Recommendation #2, increasing the number of benchers from two to five, and in Recommendation #3, the legislative amendment of the Solicitors Act.
I am looking forward to working on many of the other recommendations, for example: the exclusion of some exemptions present in By-Law 4, the new licensing exam, expansion of our scope of practice, and other legislative amendments.
To read more about the Morris report: http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/about/pubs/paralegal_review/default.asp
How can the Paralegal Standing Committee be effective, given that only five members are paralegals?
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Candidate Q&A is available to all Candidates. Listed Candidates demonstrate support for the profession and for new licensees.
Take part in the Candidates’ Page? and the Q & A, and have your positions available to the most-likely voters, in an impartial, moderated publication.