Substantive Exam, Step One: Do Not Panic

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Stay calm and carry on. Changes are coming, to both the accreditation and audit processes for paralegal programs, and to the paralegal licensing examination — but there is no need to panic.

Information available from the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) suggests that the changes, which have been in the works since 2012, will pose no difficulty for the vast majority of schools and graduates.

The current examination tests Candidates on professional responsibility, ethics and practice management. The new format will include substantive and procedural law questions. It is being introduced with the August 2015 writing. Program accreditation requirements are being tightened, audits more frequent, and cost-recovery will be implemented, beginning in the fall of 2015.

Core paralegal competencies to be tested, after consultation, research and surveys involving colleges and licensees
College curricula must address 303 competencies; those will be incorporated into the new exam. The Law Society worked with psychometricians and experienced paralegals, to develop new substantive law competencies that can be examined. Paralegals were invited to take part in an online survey last fall. Results helped to determine the most-critical and frequently performed competencies required by an entry-level paralegal.

    Changes Approved in 2012

Colleges have been updated about the changes, over the past two years. Information has been available at the Law Society site and at Paralegal SCOPE Magazine. Details about the new exam are being finalized and will be made public later this month.

Substantive law issues have formed a part of the competencies requirements for the colleges since paralegal regulation began, in 2007. Colleges are expected to deliver training that provides candidates with the competencies to be examined. As with the current exam, Candidates will get study materials before the licensing exam. Adding substantive and procedural questions is part of the evolution of paralegal licensing, Law Society information explains.

Changes promote quality & consistency of paralegal education at accredited schools across Ontario
Among the things that will not change is the purpose of the exam: to determine whether a candidate is competent to provide legal services to the public.

The exam is not retroactive. Paralegals who are licensed after the August 2015 examination will carry no distinction or specialization, compared to previously licensed paralegals, the Law Society notes. Ensuring one’s competence is the responsibility of individual licensees.

    Quality, Consistency, Protection

The exam is just one part of the licensing process, the Law Society notes. Candidates complete an application that includes a “Good Character” requirement. These changes to the accreditation, audit and examinations systems are designed to “promote quality and consistency,” according to the Law Society.

Accredited paralegal education programs are mandated to provide a paralegal education that meets the minimum accreditation requirements, offer students a legal education within the paralegal scope of practice, and provide a Field Placement that includes exposure to scope-related activities.

The Law Society regulates legal services providers, in the best interest of the public. It has regulated paralegals since 2007.

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