With five paralegals elected to the Paralegal Standing Committee (PSC) getting set to begin their four-year terms, some licensees are still uncertain about some details. Misinformation and rumours spread during the campaign could leave doubts in licensees’ minds.
The five who were elected March 31 are now benchers with full voting rights at Convocation. The PSC includes five paralegals, five lawyers and three lay-benchers. The full committee will elect its chair later this month, at the first meeting of the new PSC.
The new PSC members will be able to take part in the next Convocation, April 24. Convocation is the monthly meeting of Law Society benchers — the 53 directors who govern the Law Society.
Here are some recent claims, and the facts behind them:
Paralegal Benchers Owe a Duty to Those Who Elected Them
- Paralegal benchers are elected to act on behalf of the public. They are part of the Law Society of Upper Canada, which exists to protect the public interest by ensuring that lawyers and paralegals meet standards of learning, competence and professional conduct that are appropriate for the legal services they provide.
Remember that the Law Society does not act on behalf of lawyers or paralegals. That’s what professional organizations, such as the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) do. That is a different role.
As members of the Paralegal Standing Committee and Convocation — the “board of governors” of the Law Society — elected paralegals have a duty to act in the best interests of the Law Society. That means being true to its mandate to govern in the public interest and avoiding conflicts of interest between their roles as paralegals and their roles at the Law Society.
It is an Abuse of Process to hold PSC Meetings in Private
- Because the work being done in all committees is not the final product of the Law Society, that work is “in camera,” and is confidential.
This is because the discussion at committees is intended to fully engage committee members in the expression of their views and ideas about the merits of a matter or an approach to an initiative that is being proposed. This assessment allows for well thought-out policy decisions.
There is No By-Law Mandating In-Camera Meetings
- Under By-Law 3 (s. 134), no person other than a member of the Committee may attend a meeting of the Committee, although the following, who are not members of the Committee may attend a meeting of the Committee: a bencher, an officer or employee of the Society, a person with the permission of the Committee. This also applies to all other standing committees.
The results of committee and task force proceedings are in most cases public; committee reports go to Convocation as the public result of the committees’ work.
The PSC Sets LSUC Policy
- Convocation is the only body charged with the responsibility of making policy relating to the governance of the legal professions in Ontario. The role of committees is not to make policy, but to assist Convocation in doing so.
Committees identify all reasonable policy options and implications to inform Convocation’s decisions.
Paralegal Standing Committee, like all Law Society policy committees, develops policies related to the governance of licensed paralegals in Ontario, for recommendation to Convocation. This involves all members of the committee: the five paralegals, the five lawyers and the three lay members.
Convocation is the decision-making body.
It is Difficult to Find Out What Goes on at the PSC and Convocation
- The fact is, the PSC, LSUC and individual members continue to provide information about reports, decisions, task forces and working groups that affect paralegals. The current PSC helped to develop Paralegal Update, at the LSUC site. This augments information in the Gazette, the Treasurer’s blog, and email notices sent to licensees.
Convocation meets in public, in accordance with By-Law 3 (s. 79), which says that Convocation open to public, but is to be held in the absence of the public to deal with certain sensitive matters. There is a media room where the press can watch proceedings live, and the transcript of proceedings is posted on the Law Society web site.
Of course, Paralegal SCOPE also reports on paralegal issues at Convocation. These are posted at social media groups that have not banned or censored Paralegal SCOPE, or otherwise interfered with the provision of unbiased news and information.
Associations Have Pushed for Years to Get Legal Aid Certificates for Paralegals
- Association members have met with LAO staff, to discuss contract work for paralegals — not certificates.
Before 2010, PSC members were appointed. Paralegals have had the privilege of electing one PSC, in the past four years. Five paralegals are now benchers. A legislative amendment that passed last December makes this possible. It is the first time since 1970 that the number of LSUC benchers has increased.
More Information about the PSC:
Election Standings and PSC mandate
Editorial: Election Realities
Editorial: No One Expected the Spanish Inquisition