What are Paralegals and What Can They Do For You?

About 20 years ago, paralegals began to make their appearance in Ontario. Although much time has passed, there is still confusion about what a paralegal is, especially how a paralegal fits into the legal profession, and how can a paralegal help.

A paralegal is a person licenced by the Law Society of Upper Canada to provide legal Services in Ontario (see Note 1 below).

In order to provide legal services in Ontario, a paralegal must be issued a licence (see Note 2 below). To obtain this licence, the applicant must have graduated from a Law Society of Upper Canada approved paralegal program and have successfully written a licencing examination (see Note 3 below).

 

When providing legal services to a client, the paralegal must:

  1. act competently (see Note 4 below);
  2. advise clients in an honest and straightforward way (see Note 5 below);
  3. keep in strict confidence all information that the client discloses, even when the legal services have been completed (see Note 6 below); and
  4. act honourably and resolutely when representing the client in a court of law or tribunal (see Note 7 below).

 

A licenced paralegal can represent anyone:

  1. in Small Claims Court;
  2. in the Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act;
  3. on summary conviction offences where the maximum penalty does not exceed six months’ imprisonment; and
  4. before administrative tribunals.

 

The legal services that a paralegal can provide include:

  1. giving legal advice concerning legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding;
  2. drafting or assisting with drafting documents for use in a proceeding; and
  3. negotiating on behalf of a person requiring legal assistance (see Note 9 below).

Additionally, to protect the public, paralegals are required by the Law Society to carry legal insurance (see note 8 below).

 

In summary, paralegals can and do provide a professional, effective, and often less expensive services for people faced with legal concerns.

 

NOTES

The “Rules” refer to The Paralegal Rules of Conduct

“By-law” refers to a By-law of the Law Society of Upper Canada

 

1. Rule 1.02 – Citation and Interpretation

“Law Society” means the Law Society of Upper Canada

“licensee” means, (a)  a person licensed to practise law in Ontario as a barrister and solicitor, or (b)  a person licensed to provide legal services in Ontario

“paralegal” means a paralegal licensee of the Law Society

 

2. By-law 4, s. 5 – Classes of Licence

There shall be the following classes of licence to provide legal services in Ontario:

  1. Class P1.

 

3. By-law 4, s. 13. (1) – Requirements for issuance of Class P1 licence: application received after June 30, 2010

The following are the requirements for the issuance of a Class P1 licence for an applicant who applies for the licence after June 30, 2010:

  1. The applicant must have graduated from a legal services program in Ontario that was, at the time the applicant graduated from the program, an accredited program.
  2. The applicant must have successfully completed the applicable licensing examination or examinations set by the Society by not later than two years after the end of the licensing cycle into which the applicant was registered.

 

4. Rule 3.01 (1) (4) – Competence

A paralegal shall perform any services undertaken on a client’s behalf to the standard of a competent paralegal.

A competent paralegal is one who has and applies the relevant skills, attributes, and values appropriate to each matter undertaken on behalf of a client including,

(a)  knowing general legal principles and procedures and the substantive law and procedures for the legal services that the paralegal provides;

(b)  investigating facts, identifying issues, ascertaining client objectives, considering possible options, and developing and advising clients on appropriate courses of action;

(c)  implementing, as each matter requires, the chosen course of action through the application of appropriate skills, including,

(i)  legal research,

(ii)  analysis,

(iii)  application of the law to the relevant facts,

(iv)  writing and drafting,

(v)  negotiation,

(vi)  alternative dispute resolution,

(vii)  advocacy, and

(viii)  problem-solving ability;

(d)  representing the client in a conscientious, diligent, and cost-effective manner;

(e)  communicating with the client at all stages of a matter in a timely and effective manner that is appropriate to the age and abilities of the client and engaging the services of an interpreter when necessary;

(f)  answering reasonable client requests in a timely and effective manner;

(g)  ensuring that all applicable deadlines are met;

(h)  managing one’s practice effectively;

(i)  applying intellectual capacity, judgment, and deliberation to all functions;

(j)  pursuing appropriate training and development to maintain and enhance knowledge and skills;

(k)  adapting to changing requirements, standards, techniques and practices; and

(l)  complying in letter and in spirit with these Rules

 

5. Rule 3.02 (1) – Advising Clients

A paralegal shall be honest and candid when advising clients.

 

6. Rule 3.03 – Confidential Information

(1)  A paralegal shall, at all times, hold in strict confidence all information concerning the business and affairs of a client acquired in the course of their professional relationship and shall not disclose any such information unless expressly or impliedly authorized by the client or required by law to do so.

(2)  The duty of confidentiality under subrule (1) continues indefinitely after the paralegal has ceased to act for the client, whether or not differences have arisen between them.

 

7. Rule 4.01 (1) – The Paralegal As Advocate

When acting as an advocate, the paralegal shall represent the client resolutely and honourably within the limits of the law while, at the same time, treating the tribunal and other licensees with candour, fairness, courtesy and respect.

 

8. Rule 8.04 (1) – Duty to Obtain and Maintain Insurance

8.04 (1) All paralegals practising in Ontario shall obtain and maintain adequate errors and omissions insurance as required by the Law Society.

 

9. By-law 4, s. 6(2) – Activities Authorized

Subject to any terms, conditions, limitations or restrictions imposed on the class of licence or on the licensee and subject to any order made under the Act, a licensee who holds a Class P1 licence is authorized to do any of the following:

1.  Give a party advice on his, her or its legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding.

2.  Represent a party before,

i.  in the case of a proceeding in the Small Claims Court, before the Small Claims Court,

ii.  in the case of a proceeding under the Provincial Offences Act, before the Ontario Court of Justice,

iii.  in the case of a proceeding under the Criminal Code, before a summary conviction court,

iv.  in the case of a proceeding before a tribunal established under an Act of the Legislature of Ontario or under an Act of Parliament, before the tribunal, and

v.  in the case of a proceeding before a person dealing with a claim or a matter related to a claim, before the person.

3.  Anything mentioned in subsection 1 (7) of the Act, provided the activity is required by the rules of procedure governing a proceeding.

4.  Select, draft, complete or revise, or assist in the selection, drafting, completion or revision of, a document for use in a proceeding.

5.  Negotiate a party’s legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding.

6.  Select, draft, complete or revise, or assist in the selection, drafting, completion or revision of, a document that affects a party’s legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding.

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