Paralegal SCOPE presents the fourth 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.”
How do the different roles of the professional associations and the PSC fit together, and how do you see that relationship evolving over the next four years?
I believe that the professional associations and the PSC should complement each other. Especially now that the associations are earning the respect both at the Law Society and with government, we can build a dynamite team and I hope to see this relationship grow over the next four years!
I believe that the associations are paralegals’ advocate bodies.
The associations need to continue to lobby the government to expand our scope of practice, and to amend legislation. This would complement the work that we do on the PSC. Over the last four years, the associations have become important stakeholders, meeting with the Law Society. This is such a step forward, that the paralegal organizations are being consulted and have a seat at the table. This is a privilege that has advanced our profession. It needs to be continued and developed.
I have always been a member of several paralegal associations, worked together with the association leaders, and have attended and spoken at their functions.
When re-elected, this will be my goal, to continue fostering these relationships and friendships.
The relationship between the various associations and the PSC is firmly established. Associations are an invaluable resource for the development and advancement of the profession; there is a history of co-operation between the PSC and paralegal associations.
The roles of the PSC and the associations diverge when it comes to their mandates. The PSC has a duty to adhere to the Law Society Act. Associations are not required to work within the confines of a legislative framework. Professional associations have more freedom. They are free to present policy papers to the government, to promote the profession, and to petition legislators for change.
It is important that the PSC and all the associations work closely together as we move forward to create the highest standards in the profession. With the merger of the PSO and LPA, the new professional body will represent a good number of paralegals throughout the province. Not all paralegals belong to an association; their voices are equally important to the profession and the PSC has an obligation to listen to all stakeholders. Over the next four years, the PSC should continue to canvass opinions and invite paralegal associations to the table.
However, one should keep in mind that, on occasion, recommendations will be made that require petitioning for legislative change. This will by necessity take time and effort. That demands patience and persistence.
Learn more about Paula Callaghan
Paralegals have clashed with lawyers over expanding paralegal practice scope into family law. This left family lawyers up in arms. I get calls regarding simple Family Law questions on uncontested divorces, which I am mandated to not answer. I believe there is room for compromise to revisit this issue. Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress, and working together is the meaning of success.
Growth is not per chance. It is anticipated, and a result of working together. A cohesive paradigm and practice of collaborations, supersedes any traditional solo act. The energy of many good people working together, is delightedly contagious!
A sustainable field of paralegals creates an environment of prosperity. Five paralegal benchers shall enhance access to justice and the effectiveness of Law Society governance.
Serious concerns exist about LSUC regulations that allow disbarred and suspended lawyers to apply for paralegal licences. If you can’t pass the test to serve as a lawyer, it doesn’t make sense to be allowed to serve as a paralegal.
Paralegals provide a valuable choice. One wonders how many people have not had access to justice for fear of undermining the role of lawyers in, for example, immigration?
I have been in court, heard a lawyer say, “You are only a paralegal….” After winning the case on which we were both representing, I walked away and said, proudly, ‘I am licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, with a world that may be 50/50 on any given issue, working together, we can offer 100 percent!’
We must take the best ingredients and cook up our own recipe to continuing education, high standards, and an indelible code of ethics to uphold. A good team, is like a good show, comes into being with the separate individuals working together to create, in essence, a higher entity.
The team show is always better than any of those individual productions. Our public audience expects the best performance. We must be well-rehearsed, communicate effectively, and offer it without fail!
It is important to remember that the Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC) is a governing body. Benchers are elected by the licensees in the same way that a city council is elected by the citizens of the community.
In relation to the PSC, the professional associations (PAs) are lobby groups. The PAs offer support to licensees and a means to have their voices heard on important issues. Each PA should bring a unified voice on issues under debate and consideration by the PSC. When offering perspectives and recommendations, the PAs can assist the PSC with the facts to be relied on when the PSC makes its arguments at sub-committees and Convocation. The PSC can work with the PAs as a conduit for information to be disseminated to the licensees.
Over the next four years, the PAs will continue to develop and define themselves. What the relationship is between the PSC and the PAs will largely depend on who is at the helm of each.
There is no doubt that properly constituted and managed professional organisations will be an invaluable resource for the Paralegal Standing Committee, especially when it comes to identifying issues of importance to paralegals who work in the various areas of practice.
We should bear in mind that our profession is in its infancy, as is the professional relationship with the Paralegal Standing Committee and the representative organisations. We must also remember that the majority of Ontario paralegals are not members of any professional organisation.
It is vital that the professional organisations’ representatives and the Standing Committee establish and maintain a connection built on demonstrable trust and mutual respect. This will ensure the continued protection of the public and the interests of all paralegals. To do that, the PSC and the organisations must pay close attention to matters of mutual concern. Working together, the PSC and organisations will benefit the profession as a whole.
I know that Cathy Corsetti, Michelle Haigh, and I stand by our election statements; we are dedicated to spending the next four years working with the professional organisations, and other concerned parties, to bring about positive changes.
Learn more about Brian Lawrie
The relationship between the paralegal organizations and the PSC over the next four years is critical.
The paralegal organizations have to come together and put pressure on the Law Society to expand our scope of practice. The PSC then has to make the relevant bylaw changes to make it happen.
Many people have said being an executive of a paralegal organization and a member of the PSC is a conflict. Think about it for a moment. The paralegal organizations are promoting, advocating and educating their members. They promote so that the public becomes aware of what paralegals can do, they educate so the paralegals provide competent legal service, and they advocate to expand the scope so that the public can have access to justice. How is that fundamentally different than the Law Society?
The paralegal organizations are the first to know about the issues that paralegals are experiencing — everything from mentorship, to employment, to discrimination. The paralegal organizations then meet 3-4 times a year with Law Society staff, to inform them of the issues. Those issues then must become part of the PSC’s agenda.
The paralegal organizations never come in and say, “paralegals don’t make enough money.” They present issues relating to access to justice, which is the Treasurer’s top priority.
I think it would be wise for the five elected paralegals to meet regularly with the paralegal organizations in order that they become aware of what the REAL issues are. I respect the opinion of the leaders of the paralegal organizations, people like John Tzanis and George Brown, who have their finger on the pulse of the paralegal profession. The PSC can easily work in conjunction with them, in order that paralegals feel as though they are being heard and their issues are being addressed.
In conclusion, transparent communication between the the paralegal organizations and the PSC is the key to our success and the public’s success.
Learn more about Robert Burd Election Statement
A legal professional “… accepts individual responsibility for personal ethics but also a collective responsibility for ensuring that the profession as a whole discharges its role appropriately and ethically.”
- ”Elements of Professionalism,” Chief Justice of Ontario Advisory Committee on Professionalism
Are paralegals living up to this standard? What can the paralegal PSC members do, to encourage professionalism?
Visit the Candidates’ Q & A pages, to learn more about where these candidates stand on specific issues:
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