Marian Lippa’s application, which has now recently been heard on March 26, 2013, affirms the need for change. It cannot be ignored that the law is changing; by licensing and regulating the paralegal profession, this change is evidently underway. Now, regulation and the bodies governing paralegals (LSUC) must acknowledge such change and take the appropriate steps needed to ascertain a place for paralegals in the courtroom that is both equal and recognized. When speaking to Marian Lippa regarding the case, Lippa stated:
Very concerning comments were made by the judge and the opposing lawyers. All made reference to our inequality to lawyers because of our education level. This had nothing to do with the fact that we are asking for equality for our standing in the OCJ and sitting past the bar and being called first come first serve.
Equality is essentially relative to the recognition required in order for the paralegal profession to be respected before the courts. If paralegals are to be constantly viewed as “less worthy” because they did not attend Law School, it raises the question why regulation had been offered to them in the first place.
Paralegals Are Fighting to Be Equal Before the Courts
Marian Lippa’s application is not seeking the same accreditation as lawyers; she is merely fighting for a right to be recognized before the courts on a first come first serve basis, as well as to allow paralegals to sit past the bar. Paralegals were introduced as an affordable means to legal representation.
Now, those that ultimately are encouraged to seek a paralegal’s services are reminded of their financial capacity in having to wait for a roll call despite arriving on time and ready to present their case. What does this suggest? Well, as a client it can seem that services rendered by paralegals are undermined.
Changes Will be Needed if Paralegals Are to Sit Past the Bar
If paralegals are to be a licensed body governed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, changes are needed to have their class, abilities, and even further, the education required to be licensed and therefore capable and most importantly worthy of sitting past the bar, be recognized. Though the formalities of the courtroom are a tradition that embodies the legal profession, access to justice should be paramount. Recommendation 10 in the Attorney General’s Five Year Review had stated:
That the Law Society continues to actively pursue opportunities to facilitate greater access to justice through broadening of the scope of permissible paralegal practice, but that such broadening is directly linked to the recommendations above with respect to paralegal education, work experience, and professional conduct.1
How can LSUC facilitate greater access to justice when the courts have denied such a basic right of equality to paralegals? By not allowing a first come first serve change to be considered, as well as the opportunity for paralegals to sit past the bar, the courts will thwart the efforts of the paralegal profession to facilitate an affordable alternative for access to justice.
In addition, Recommendation 6 states:
That the Law Society undertakes a public education program that raises awareness of the legal services options available to Ontarians and the protection offered its consumers.2
The courts have the opportunity to lead a change that will raise awareness. With the Marian Lippa case, the courts can ascertain the presence of paralegals in the courtroom. In denying her application, the courts will only momentarily impede the changes in law that can no longer be ignored. Now that paralegals have been licensed, it is time that the courtroom recognizes their abilities, but furthermore considers them as capable legal representatives on behalf of their clients.
Whose Side Are You On?
The first come first serve consideration is one that will only grant further access to justice by servicing all clients, whether present with a lawyer or paralegal, equally. By allowing paralegals to sit past the bar, the courts have an opportunity to send a clear message that paralegals do have a justified place in the courtroom. However, by excluding paralegals, the courts will only fail to consider the Attorney General’s own recommendation that the language in statute that serves to exclude paralegals is amended where the exclusion fails to be justified.
The opportunity for change is now. Which side will you be lobbying for?
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 2 of this Article: Bringing Respect to Paralegals for a review of the Attorney’s Five Year Report and how it can be applied to improve recognition for paralegals.