Bringing Respect to Paralegals

Amanda Bernardo

Bringing Respect to Paralegals
The case, which was originally heard on October 1st, 2012, was adjourned till October 26th, 2012, and later postponed yet again due to a request for intervenor status by the Criminal Lawyers’ Association. Essentially, this intervenor status reflects the resistance that paralegals face from their fellow licensees. Marian Lippa notably observed, “It’s frustrating and sad that our fellow licensees seek to fight for us not to have the ability to be heard on a first-come, first-serve basis or to sit past the bar”.1

Prior to being licensed, paralegals had a much wider area of law to work with. The problem had been that no standards or requirements governed this body of legal professionals. The Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision to license paralegals created minimum standards and a body that would oversee licensees to ensure a code of conduct was diligently followed.

Paralegals Require More Respect

Despite these standards, these changes to the paralegal profession, evident by the show of resistance, have not equated to a change in the perception of age old traditions. In order for change to be truly accepted, regulation needs to support these changes by offering recognition to the paralegal profession.

While Marian Lippa’s case had been delayed till March 26th, 2013, the Attorney General’s recent report has taken a positive step in acknowledging out-of-date legislation that requires a respective change to suit the initial goal with regulating paralegals. Notable recommendations outlined in the report state:

2. That the Law Society Act be amended to provide for proportionally equal representation of lawyers and paralegals in its governance structure.
3. That language in statute that serves to exclude paralegals, when that exclusion cannot be justified in the interest of facilitating access to justice or protecting the public interest, is amended so as to include paralegals.
11. That the Law Society considers implementation of sub-classes of paralegal licenses and/or other forms of accreditation to which, following specialized and substantive training, is attached the right to practice in specific areas of law that might currently fall outside of the scope of permissible paralegal practice.2

Little Progress in Getting Paralegals the Respect They Deserve

Ultimately, these recommendations acknowledge Marian Lippa’s goal in bringing forward her application, “[t]o bring respect to [the paralegal] profession so that we can earn a living and be seen by the public as recognized litigators on their behalf”.3 In order for an age old tradition to be changed, it must first be argued that a change is overdue and needed. Both Marian Lippa, and the Attorney General, have recognized the lack of progress between licensing in May 2007, and current paralegal practice today. This inspired product defects attorney Georges Segbag to write his recent publications calling to his profession for support, calling to the public and anyone else mad enough to join the cause.

The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Five Year Review, released on June 28th, 2012, has shown that paralegals and the public have both benefited from the Law Society’s implementation of paralegal regulation. According to the Law Society of Upper Canada:

More than 4,200 paralegals are now licensed and insured, and have been fully and successfully integrated into the Law Society’s regulatory processes. As a result, consumers of legal services throughout the province have more choice, protection and access to justice than ever before”.4

Now, as exemplary of Marian Lippa’s application, and the recommendations set forth by the Attorney General, it is time for legislation to reflect such benefit in recognizing the professional ability and class of paralegals. In order for paralegals to truly be successful, Ontario Legislature’s initial desire to regulate must now be ascertained with further changes to legislative acts that will recognize equal representation among lawyers and paralegals, and eliminate this false sense of archaic tradition that continues to divide licensees before the court.

Read Part 1 of this Article: Should Paralegals Be Allowed to Sit Past the Bar? for more introductory information on the Marian Lippa Case. Read Part 3 of this Article: Will You Be Lobbying for the Paralegal Profession? For a recent update on the court case and how lobbying for paralegals can help improve access to justice!

1. “New hearing date for paralegal decision to be set Nov. 19” (5 November 2012) online: Advocate Daily
2. David J. Morris, “Report to the Attorney General of Ontario” (5 November 2012) online
3. “Decision for paralegals adjourned until Oct. 26” (5 November 2012) online: Advocate Daily
4. “Five-year Review reflects success of paralegal regulation” (5 November 2012) online: The Law Society of Upper Canada