Designated Paralegals: Court Pilot Project
|Update: This pilot project ended in the BC Supreme Court on December 31, 2014 and in the Provincial Court on October 1, 2015.|
About the pilot project
Beginning January 1, 2013, the Law Society, the BC Supreme Court and the BC Provincial Court partnered to create a two-year pilot project giving designated paralegals a limited right of appearance in court. The goal was to identify whether lawyer-supervised paralegals are able to perform certain procedural applications in court in an efficient and competent manner.
- Designated paralegals only appeared in family law proceedings
- In Supreme Court, the pilot project was limited to the Vancouver, New Westminster and Kamloops registries
- In Provincial Court, the pilot project was limited to the Cariboo/Northeast District and Surrey
- Designated paralegals dealt primarily with non-contentious procedural matters
- Supervising lawyers were required to provide the designated paralegal with an affidavit to be filed on first appearance.
- If the courts were concerned the designated paralegal was not prepared or competent to speak to the matter, the courts could require the supervising lawyer to attend. Supervising lawyers were required to be available to the designated paralegal by telephone on the day of appearance.
- The pilot projects in each court was to be evaluated.
- Paralegals appearing in the Provincial Court were required to complete the first portion of the information form in advance and hand it to the court when the case was spoken to. The presiding judge then completed the form and provided it to a judicial secretary for transmission to the Office of the Chief Judge.
- The Law Society also engaged in an evaluation process and collected information from two sources.
- In 2013 the Law Society added questions related to designated paralegals to the Annual Practice Declaration.
- This information was supplemented by a voluntary survey of lawyers who participated in the pilot project.
Pilot project discontinued
The pilot project did not garner enough participation to allow the courts to determine whether it provided a benefit. At present, although the BC Code permits designated paralegals to appear in court as permitted by the court, the courts do not currently permit appearances. The courts have exclusive discretion to permit appearances by designated paralegals in the future.
See also: Notice to the Profession, Family Law Pilot Project to end in the Supreme Court of BC