The Paralegal Scope of Practice vs. The Law Society AGM: My Reflections

I attended the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Annual General Meeting last night in support of a withdrawn motion to explore the expansion of the paralegal scope of practice. B After some discussion during the meeting and after with colleagues, I am reminded of a quote from Shakespeare’sB Macbeth when Banquo counsels the Thane of Cawdor:

“–And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths; win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.”


First: B The group of Paralegals were, quite frankly, unprepared. B This, being the second time that Paralegals have pulled their motion at the eleventh hour does not help us to advance the expansion of the paralegal scope of practice. B I have made comments in other posting groups that set out what we have done with this motion. B We put the cart that has no wheels in front of the lame horse.

Second: B Lawyers still regard Paralegals as incompetent. B Paralegals have remained off of their radar since regulation, and it would have remained so, but for the scratching away at their turf B by Paralegals. B The Lawyer’s foundation of their argument lies in the belief that Paralegals and Lawyers are not equal. B There are exceptional Paralegals who could and should pass as lawyers; there are also terrible Paralegals that embarrass us to no end. B The same can be said of Lawyers; there are good ones and bad ones.

Third: B Paralegals are divided as well. B The motion in of itself was brought without the support of all Paralegals and I did take note that John Tzanis of the Paralegal Society of Ontario did not rise to speak as did the President of the Ontario Barristers Association to “extend the olive branch.” B A missed opportunity. B Mr. Tzanis B explained to its members the reasons why the motion was pulled. B The President of the Paralegal Society of Ontario felt that he did not have a mandate from its own members to push this resolution through. B If Paralegals want an expanded scope of practice, then it has to be engaged with its leaders, and leaders have to have the vision to create exactly what their members want.


Expanding the paralegal scope of practice needs deep foundation work. B Not for one moment do I believe that I could take on a ‘simple’ will or a ‘simple’ divorce without going back to school and undergo additional training B in those areas of law. B It is the key argument of every Lawyer in that room. B Their answer: B go to law school and become a lawyer. B Our answer: B ? B What would be the limit to where we would go in family law? B To what extent can we draft wills or power of attorney documents? B The Law Society should not have a mandate of: B “Paralegals should be in family law and wills/estates because of Access to Justice, and let’s ask a lot of questions about it.” B It should be a mandate of: B “Access to Justice has to address the problem of family law [for an example], this is where we [paralegals] think we fit in, so let’s vote on this plan of action.” B That plan of action, by the way, has to address how we paralegals are going to train up to meet the task we have agreed to take on.

Paralegals have to accept the fact thatB we are not equal. B That is a bitter pill to swallow. B It is only the arenas that we have access to, and the rules of those arenas that create equality between Lawyers and Paralegals. B At the Law Society’s AGM, the Treasurer B Thomas Conway expressed that as licensees, we are equal. B I respectfully submit that we are not. B The by-laws have separate elections for Lawyer Benchers and Paralegal Benchers. B The only Paralegals that can be Benchers are those Paralegals elected to the Paralegal Standing Committee. B Is that equal?

I remember a Barrister speaking at the AGM complaining about paralegals being described as “lawyers” or “advocates” when translating it to another language from English. B I posit that there is no other word for “paralegal” , other than the French “parajuriste”, that exists in other languages.

Paralegals need to get their house in order. B Part of it can be explained away. B The Paralegal Society of Ontario and the Licensed Paralegal Association are still in the throes of a merger. B I attribute no fault there. B However, once the merger is complete, the newly constituted PSO has to act and behave more like the Ontario Bar Association in its presentation of issues it wishes to champion–and champion them from the beginning to where it wants to be. B The extremes of old-guard, lone-wolf paralegals who wore the badge before regulation versus the young pups of those who hold paralegal diplomas with passion and pride since regulation have to give up the notion that running headlong into a brick wall, shake it off, then try again until you achieve success is not effective. B It’s not worth the headache. B We should be selling a complete program, not a part of one. B When one buys a car, you seldom buy one a piece at time; a motor here, a wheel there, a horn on layaway. B People like to see a complete Cadillac.

Lawyers are still unprepared to look at new ways at approaching the problems faced by the legal profession as a whole. B With the “extremist” bickering by the barristers & solicitors, they seem content on facing unrepresented litigants and accept the status quo, especially in family law.

When the Attorney General for the Province of Ontario decided that regulation of Paralegals were to be governed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Minister created another stake-holder in the justice system. B Lawyers do not seem willing to acknowledge that quite yet.

Honest Trifles

When evaluating the results of last night’s non-vote on a withdrawn issue, two things seem clear to me.

Paralegals are becoming more engaged with their profession. B This is a good thing. B It was the Paralegals that closed the room last night, nary a lawyer in sight. B Paralegals excitement to provide Access to Justice is definitely building.

What was also clear was that, when other Lawyers were trying to remember a more contentious issue before the AGM, Paralegals have awoken a self-absorbed and complacent legal profession. B We are now starting to control the Agenda and must continue the debate thereafter. B So much so, that the name Paralegal must be synonymous with Access to Justice.


Your comments on this subject are always appreciated.

6 Replies to “The Paralegal Scope of Practice vs. The Law Society AGM: My Reflections”

  1. Why should the Law Society ‘give’ Paralegals anything?

    We have a body of Paralegals representing us ALREADY at the Law Society. Why didn’t ANY of this go before them?

    I am embarrassed by the way that this was handled, and that these ‘prominent’ Paralegals (as they referred to themselves), took it upon themselves to represent me, in any way, without my consent.

    I AGREE that Paralegals should not get ANYTHING more to work on outside the current scope, until they learn to organize themselves and behave in a fair and orderly fashion, sort of like they want to be treated by Lawyers and the Law Society.

    And as for the new Paralegals coming out, try concentrating on getting some experience in the areas where we ALREADY have access. You have no right to be demanding anything right now. You don’t know anything yet.

    1. Why should the Law Society bgiveb Paralegals anything? Because Mr. Bryant, remember him made that happen. Now you as a paralegal work at their discretion.

  2. As a former paralegal I found your blof interesting. How? Nothing has changed. I was in the “profession” until the LSUC put thier claws into our “profession.” The issue of unity was always the problem since certain paralegals were co-opted by the LSUC to believe they could become ‘equals.’ I never bought that nonsense because I was older than five years of age.
    If something does not happen, such as the LSUC losing their mandate to control paralegals nothing will happen, only time wasted. When the Ontario government, no matter the party, decides to establiish authority that truly protects the public interest, nothing of substance will ever be accomplished.

  3. Simon, thanks for a very thoughtful and reasonable analysis of the scope of practice issue and the LSUC AGM. However, I offer one point of clarification. When I made my comments about “equality” at the AGM, I said that paralegals and lawyers are “equal” in the sense that they must meet the same good character standards as lawyers, they must maintain the same ethical standards as lawyers and they must meet the same standards of competence in their defined scope of practice as lawyers do in the practice of law. I also said in essence that paralegals and lawyers are not equal in the legal services they are licensed to provide the public. Lawyers can practice law in any area in which they are competent; paralegals can provide legal services only within their defined scope of practice. In this respect, they are certainly not equal, and shouldn’t be, as you have pointed out.


    Thomas G. Conway, Treasurer

    1. I take the position that, when paralegals are acting within our justifiably limited scope of practice, we ought to be treated as equal to a lawyer acting in that same area. When I face off with a lawyer in Small Claims Court, I don’t have any problem with being treated differently based on our relative levels of experience, but our responsibilities to our clients and our responsibilities as professionals are, as Mr. Conway points out, absolutely equal. So, we ought to be treated with the same degree of respect.

      I am not always afforded an equal degree of respect by lawyers and Deputy Judges, but regulation of paralegals is still relatively new, and the legal world is typically slow to adapt to changes. So, I usually chalk the disrespect up to being rooted in a misunderstanding about what paralegals are and what we do. However, I have never experienced the kind of disrespect that was on display by some of the lawyers at the AGM. I must say that it was very disappointing. I am doing my best to see the derogatory comments as flowing from those on the fringe of the legal professions, but I am not yet convinced that this is true.

  4. Excellent analysis. As a 2013 paralegal licensing candidate, I am thrilled to see the profession moving ahead with such passion. I totally agree with your Cadillac example. Furthermore, I agree that training will be critical for any hope at practice expansion. I think that niche specialties could be incorporated into any expansion as well. Specialized training for specialized professionals. It’s only logical. Anyway, first time reading you blog, and I will be following it moving ahead. Thanks and take care.

    Nick M.

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