The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) has committed to expanding the paralegal scope of practice over the next four years.
Presented to Convocation Dec. 4, the Priority Planning Committee strategic plan report to Convocation outlines significant changes that will have a dramatic effect on the future of legal services in Ontario. The changes are “robust and ambitious,” affecting paralegal education entry standards, mentoring, professional development, and competence assurance, in addition to expanding the scope of practice.
Paralegal-specific measures in the Strategic Plan 2015–2019 include:
- Working to ensure that high quality instruction is being offered by the accredited institutions that educate paralegal licensee candidates
- Examining enhancements to the paralegal licensing requirements, including possible additional education and training prior to entering an accredited paralegal program
- Exploring the expansion of areas of practice and delivery of services by paralegal licensees
Under the heading of “lifelong competence” for licensees, the report suggests post-licensing testing may go hand-in-hand with any expanded practice. Paralegal education, including setting entry-level standards for students, is also set to change. The four-year priorities include CPD changes, beefed-up formal mentoring and mental-health supports for all licensees.
Measures in the plan include increased services in “un-served and underserved” areas. Reasons for the changes include ensuring that all licensing applicants, “regardless of where they are educated or trained,” have comparable competence at licensing. This will signal that the public “has assured, competent, honest practitioners who are supplying legal services efficiently,” and reduce the number of complaints from the public about licensee service issues, according to the report.
The plan includes a proposal to enhance entry-level standards testing, which could include looking at entry-level examinations and skills testing. Post-licensing “competence assurance” activities are also on the table. Practice restrictions for new licensees will be considered.
This report is for information. It comes out of a strategic planning session the Law Society held in October. Moving forward, Convocation’s Priority Planning Committee will consider any new policy issues that may be added to the Plan. Annual reports will update benchers on the status of the priorities.
To learn more about paralegals and the current work we are licensed to provide to the public, see: “Do I Need a Paralegal?”