Roles of paralegals and articled students to be expanded

In order to enhance the public’s access to competent and affordable legal services, the Benchers have approved a plan to increase the roles that paralegals and articled students can perform under the supervision of a lawyer.

The recommendations came from the Delivery of Legal Services Task Force (download the task force report), which is chaired by Art Vertlieb, QC. “Really rich people can get lawyers,” said Vertlieb, “and many really poor people can seek assistance through legal aid, pro bono and other providers. This change is designed to help those, such as the teacher, police officer or office worker, who can’t afford a lawyer despite the fact they're earning a good salary. They’re a really important part of our community and I think this is really going to help them.”

The approach focuses on incremental change. The object of these reforms is not to constrain existing practices; it is rather to enhance the public’s access to legal services.

The Benchers accepted the task force’s recommendation that articled students be allowed to perform enhanced functions, such as acting as Commissioners for Oaths. The Benchers have requested the statutory change to allow that. The Credentials Committee will further explore what those expanded duties for articled students will look like.

The Benchers also accepted the task force’s recommendation that paralegals be allowed, in certain circumstances, to give legal advice under the supervision of a lawyer. The Law Society will also hold future consultations with the province’s courts to determine whether, and if so in what circumstances, paralegals should be permitted to act as advocates.

Access to justice issues are complicated and will require a broad range of solutions; nevertheless, the Benchers believe this step is an important one in the right direction that will allow the profession to better meet the legal needs of the public it serves.

The Delivery of Legal Services Task Force was created to advance one of the strategies in the Law Society’s Strategic Plan, to increase the public’s access to legal services by developing a new regulatory paradigm that may broaden the range of persons permitted to provide certain legal services.