Paralegals in the Henhouse

27 04 2010

I just wanted to comment on an upcoming “storm” on the legal horizon in Ontario. The Law Society has been regulating paralegals for awhile now and they are mostly bound by the same rules as lawyers including utilization of trust accounts, rules against conflicts of interest, ethics, professional responsibility, and of course competence.

The stage is set now for a Motion to be heard at the Annual General Meeting of the LSUC on May 5th, 2010 There will be lots of lawyers and paralegals in attendance and both have their agendas. The paralegals want to expand the scope of their practice to include things like “preparing family law documents, representing before the family court for certain matters, drafting incorporations, and drafting uncontested divorces.” Licensees must attend to vote, (all the good stuff is contained in By-law 2) and you cannot vote by proxy.

A few things of note. Firstly, regardless of the vote, Convocation doesn’t have to do anything. Secondly, the future of law and the legal landscape is changing and lawyers may need to embrace some change. Paralegals are here to stay and clients are demanding more service for less money. Lawyers need to worry less about paralegals and more about how they can deliver service to clients in a more cost effective way. The days of the six minute increment are fading into the twilight and there needs to be more innovation. Clients are getting more sophisticated and they are unlikely to keep paying for creating the wheel over and over. Where are the extranets, the virtual law practices, the cloud delivery and the Web 2.0 toolboxes?

Competition is supposed to be a good thing but from the conversations I have heard lately about rallying lawyers to prevent paralegals from successfully voting for the motion and causing a review of their scope seems . . . paranoid and short-sighted.

These are just some thoughts and I am neither for nor against the motion. I will attend the AGM but I will likely abstain from voting. The views expressed in this post are solely my own and not those of my employer and there is a possibility of rain tomorrow.

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