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Diplock

Quick Note re: Paralegal Discussion

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Since there's a new section here, I feel like we should use it so I'm motivated to post something. But the only thing that comes to mind is a few general observations about why it was complicated to get this section up and running at all. And I hope people will keep the following in mind as we discuss stuff here.

 

First, Ontario is the only jurisdiction to formally regulate the paralegal profession. I do believe others will follow suit, and there may in fact be stuff in the works already elsewhere. If anyone knows of law societies that are in process of looking at this, that would be interesting to hear about. But I only know about Ontario. Here's a summary of some of the highlights of what regulation (in Ontario) means:

 

- Paralegals are licensed and overseen by the Law Society of Upper Canada, just as lawyers are. They have a different license and a different licensing process, but their relationship is similar. They do continuing professional development hours (often in the same classes as lawyers), have dues, mandatory insurance, are subject to discipline, etc. They also have some bencher seats.

 

- Paralegals' rights of appearance have been expanded and clarified in Ontario. I won't go into exact details (because I'm a bit vague on some areas) but basically they can do summary offenses, small claims, most (all?) administrative matters, most things (I think) involving immigration and refugee claims. Can't touch real estate (with all the potential liabilities) and currently can't do family. I think family law is a great area of potential expansion, personally. Point is, they can do a lot under their own licenses.

 

- Paralegals can form LLPs! Even in Ontario many lawyers don't realize this. But once they came under the LSUC, they qualified under legislation to form LLPs. Paralegals can either form LLPs with other paralegals or in partnership with lawyers. And yes, it's happening. It isn't common, but some law firms do quite a lot of business that depends on paralegal work and in a few cases particularly experienced, valued, or rain-making paralegals have become partners.

 

Second, even in Ontario the degree of exposure that lawyers have to paralegals (and the kind of exposure) varies considerably. I work in an area where I've had the chance to work with them fairly closely. Others may have limited exposure. Hence, perspectives vary considerably. I won't say that makes me right while other people are wrong, but it gives me a different set of experiences.

 

Third, outside Ontario paralegals are still unregulated, which I presume indicates that their profession is still very fuzzily defined. Time was, just about anyone who wasn't a lawyer but doing work in a law firm might be called a paralegal. There was no reason not to, because it didn't mean anything official. Now I'm not trying to dismiss any professionals working outside Ontario, but that suggests the experiences of paralegals elsewhere is going to be different from Ontario's, and it is becoming more different every year.

 

Finally, the challenges of entering into the paralegal profession and succeeding at it are very different from lawyering, even in Ontario. While paralegals are now regulated, there isn't nearly the same control on seats in paralegal programs or the number of graduates being dumped on the market. Right now it's closer to the American legal market, only you'd have to assume there are no really good schools (no T14 at all) where reputation can help you out. How this will go in the long run ... I truly don't know. But the challenge of breaking in and establishing oneself just can't be ignored. It's tough out there.

 

So with that context, I hope folks can have some interesting conversations here. As a lawyer in Ontario, I believe very strongly that paralegals are legal professionals too. And if there's room for them as benchers there's surely room for them on this board. I even consider this our one small contribution towards recognizing their greater role in Ontario. So hopefully we can keep it civil too.

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I would just like to thank the moderators for adding this section to the boards. I would also like to concur with everything that Diplock mentioned above and add a couple of things.

 

Specifically in Ontario, there will be more frequent interactions between lawyers and paralegals since some areas of law will overlap. I hope that lawyers will learn to respect what paralegals do in the legal profession. I understand that our credentials are not the same, and that certain things like a selective admission process into college programs and a challenging licensing exam will need to be established before lawyers treat paralegals fairly, but I will talk about that later in my post. I hope the days where a lawyer tells me that I can't print off a fax in the duty counsel office because I am not a law student or lawyer will end (A lawyer wanted a designation of counsel filed on their behalf by duty counsel, but found out I was at court already, so they wanted me to appear for them and file the designation. They wouldn't give me the fax although it was sitting in a bin and ready to go to court). Yes this happened to me in court. These things are minuscule in the bigger picture but can illustrate that even for simple tasks like printing off a fax, we are not viewed equally as professionals. Things like this still happen six years after paralegals have been regulated by the law society. I know that the majority practicing lawyers, and many of the practicing lawyers and law students on this site do not harbour the same kind of thoughts about paralegals. I am really glad that this site has become a place where law students, lawyers, paralegal students, and paralegals can discuss various issues about the profession without judgment.

 

Things do need to change though. Beginning with pulling the accreditation of programs from career colleges who are only really in it to make a buck. Standards for entrance into all programs need to be higher. I think you need to just have your high school diploma, pass grade 12 English, and have three other credits at the U/C/M level in grade 12. There should be a percentage cutoff similar to undergrad programs. This will hopefully establish some type of reputation where employers will be able to recognize the entrance standards and demanding nature of a specific program. We could also have the public colleges abolish the diploma programs all together and only offer degree programs. This will probably be Bachelor of Applied Arts, but will still be a four year program like undergrad. Or if we go that far, pull the plug on all programs and have universities offer a paralegal program as an undergraduate degree. This will definitely change admission standards, and at least give the student a well rounded university education, as well as integrating lengthly work placement to give the student a fighting chance in the legal market. 

 

I have heard that the new licensing exam for paralegals, which I think will be administered in February, will be much more difficult than in previous years. I remember when I wrote it, and honestly it was a joke. Ethics and accounting principles, and thats pretty much it. All open book. I think the law society realizes that there are tons of graduates flooding the market, and will be trying to weed students out at this stage, similar to where students are weeded out when they can not pass the bar in the U.S. The only difference is that a paralegal student may have spent $8,000 or $9,000 where an American student spends sometimes over $200,000.

 

The legal market is rough for everyone, and there are no exceptions to the challenges paralegals face. I would highly recommend to any paralegal students to take advantage of your work-placement at the end of your program. Look for firms that do the type of work you are interested in, and which show the intention of hiring a student following the work-placement. Think of it as your articling period, and do your best work. Hopefully you will get hired on, as it is really tough to hang your own shingle without having any real work experience in the legal field. I learned so many things in my work placement that I wasn't taught in school. Take advantage of this experience, as its not just for a credit so you can graduate, it can really kickstart your career as it did mine. I also highly recommend you shadow a lawyer or paralegal prior to taking an any educational obligations in order to see if you can see yourself working in the legal field.

 

 

A little background for those who haven't followed my post history

-I am a licensed paralegal, and have been practising for five years

-completed a BA while practising with the intention of going to law school

-I only wanted to attend law school after being exposed to the legal field 

-have gone through 2 cycles of applying to law school - lsat is too low

-Still uncertain about the future - applied to a bunch of Master's programs for next year as I do love my discipline

-law school will always be there - I may write the lsat again in a couple of years

 

If anyone has any questions about the paralegal profession or students looking for any input, feel free to send me a pm

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... I hope the days where a lawyer tells me that I can't print off a fax in the duty counsel office because I am not a law student or lawyer will end (A lawyer wanted a designation of counsel filed on their behalf by duty counsel, but found out I was at court already, so they wanted me to appear for them and file the designation. They wouldn't give me the fax although it was sitting in a bin and ready to go to court). Yes this happened to me in court. These things are minuscule in the bigger picture but can illustrate that even for simple tasks like printing off a fax, we are not viewed equally as professionals. Things like this still happen six years after paralegals have been regulated by the law society. I know that the majority practicing lawyers, and many of the practicing lawyers and law students on this site do not harbour the same kind of thoughts about paralegals. I am really glad that this site has become a place where law students, lawyers, paralegal students, and paralegals can discuss various issues about the profession without judgment...

 

Which court and in which jurisdiction? Every DC office I've been in has bent over backwards to accommodate. Many DC offices have paralegals so I am a bit curious as to where this occurred.

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Which court and in which jurisdiction? Every DC office I've been in has bent over backwards to accommodate. Many DC offices have paralegals so I am a bit curious as to where this occurred.

PMed you. And yes for the most part the DC offices are great to me. As mentioned in the PM it was a one off. Just an example of something happening to me in court regarding the attitude of some lawyers towards paralegals in Ontario.

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PMed you. And yes for the most part the DC offices are great to me. As mentioned in the PM it was a one off. Just an example of something happening to me in court regarding the attitude of some lawyers towards paralegals in Ontario.

 

Yeah I hated going outside of Toronto courts, Barrie for example, and have lawyers that would sign the docket after having arrived after any paralegals and still make paralegals yield their turn because lawyers had to be heard first.  

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Yeah I hated going outside of Toronto courts, Barrie for example, and have lawyers that would sign the docket after having arrived after any paralegals and still make paralegals yield their turn because lawyers had to be heard first.  

 

...That's the Barristers and Solicitors Act... Earlier call year means you go first. Duty counsel actually goes after paralegals too.

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...That's the Barristers and Solicitors Act... Earlier call year means you go first. Duty counsel actually goes after paralegals too.

 

 

Interesting, I assume you are talking about s. 13 "Precedence in the courts is in the following order: (d) other members of the Bar in order of their admission" however; in Toronto it is a first come first serve basis has been my experience.  If what you say is due to the order of call how do they know  that X paralegal was not called before X lawyer?  It seems to me that they do it by order of permit category.  P1's go last no matter what.

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Interesting, I assume you are talking about s. 13 "Precedence in the courts is in the following order...

 

Are you talking about the legislation in Nova Scotia? I thought we were all talking about Ontario.

 

I'd imagine the Ontario equivalent is s.3 of the Barristers Act, which basically says (1) federal/Ontario AGs, (2) QCs, (3) other "members of the bar" in "order of their call to the bar."

 

I have never understood paralegals to be "members of the bar of Ontario" as a matter of terminology. AFAIK they are licensed but not "called to the bar". I don't know what a paralegal license says, but my Law Society certificate says that I have been "admitted to practice at the Bar of Her Majesty's Courts in Ontario". If there is equivalent wording in documents issued to paralegals I'd be interested to hear about that.

 

ETA: All this seems like it would be secondary to practical issues, though, right? Last time I was in court, it was in an unfamiliar town, and the local counsel (much more senior) kindly offered to let my (brief) matter go first so that I could catch an earlier train home. I can easily imagine circumstances in which a P1 should leapfrog an L1 just as a matter of practicality.

Edited by whereverjustice
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Are you talking about the legislation in Nova Scotia? I thought we were all talking about Ontario.

 

I'd imagine the Ontario equivalent is s.3 of the Barristers Act, which basically says (1) federal/Ontario AGs, (2) QCs, (3) other "members of the bar" in "order of their call to the bar."

 

I have never understood paralegals to be "members of the bar of Ontario" as a matter of terminology. AFAIK they are licensed but not "called to the bar". I don't know what a paralegal license says, but my Law Society certificate says that I have been "admitted to practice at the Bar of Her Majesty's Courts in Ontario". If there is equivalent wording in documents issued to paralegals I'd be interested to hear about that.

 

ETA: All this seems like it would be secondary to practical issues, though, right? Last time I was in court, it was in an unfamiliar town, and the local counsel (much more senior) kindly offered to let my (brief) matter go first so that I could catch an earlier train home. I can easily imagine circumstances in which a P1 should leapfrog an L1 just as a matter of practicality.

 

Sorry yes that was my attempt at finding and citing the legislation but I guess google directed me to the Nova Scotia legislation and I failed to make sure it was for Ontario.  In any event, yes the Ontario legislation does say members to the bar according to their order of seniority of appointment.

 

You are right, my paralegal licence doesn't say that I am admitted to practice at the Bar of Her Majesty.  It actually says: "The individual named herein, having met all of the qualifications and requirements set out in the Law Society Act and the by-laws made thereunder for the issuance of a Class P1 Licence, is licensed to provide the legal services authorized under a Class P1 Licence.  This Licence is issued under the Law Society Act".  Paralegals are members of the LSUC but not members to the Bar. 

 

So I guess they are right to force paralegals to go after any lawyer that signs the docket after them :) lol.  Interestingly enough I have not seen that happen in Toronto.

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Yeah, there's what's technically right and then there's not being a dick. I'd never want to deny a paralegal's senority. It's just insulting.

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I volunteer to appear last and continue to collect the easiest billable hours possible... (just kidding, I volunteer to appear first and save my client money)
-It may come down to this at some point.

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Hi! I am a licensed paralegal in Ontario that is about to graduate from law school! PM me if you have any questions! I'll do my best to answer!

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Hi! I am a licensed paralegal in Ontario that is about to graduate from law school! PM me if you have any questions! I'll do my best to answer!

What sorcery is this?

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Hi - UPDATE!

 

It's been a few years and now I am a lawyer, who was a licensing exempt paralegal working in-house for a major corporation, who became a licensed paralegal working as agent for counsel, who graduated from law school, articled, who was called etc and is now a corporate lawyer. 

I think it was sorcery of sorts, for which I am forever grateful, and please PM me (as some have done), with your questions, etc, I continue to be happy to share whatever knowledge/experience I can.

On 10/6/2015 at 10:40 PM, leafs_law said:

What sorcery is this?

Pay it forward, as they say. :)

 

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On 10/24/2018 at 8:19 PM, samsamsam said:

Hi - UPDATE!

 

It's been a few years and now I am a lawyer, who was a licensing exempt paralegal working in-house for a major corporation, who became a licensed paralegal working as agent for counsel, who graduated from law school, articled, who was called etc and is now a corporate lawyer. 

I think it was sorcery of sorts, for which I am forever grateful, and please PM me (as some have done), with your questions, etc, I continue to be happy to share whatever knowledge/experience I can.

Pay it forward, as they say. :)

 

I know a number of paralegals in similar situations. 

One completed his degree in the UK and is going through the NCA process right now. He is licenced as a paralegal with the LSO and works in private practice. 

A few others I know are in law school right now. 

Congrats. Hope you are enjoying it. 

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On 10/24/2018 at 8:19 PM, samsamsam said:

Hi - UPDATE!

 

It's been a few years and now I am a lawyer, who was a licensing exempt paralegal working in-house for a major corporation, who became a licensed paralegal working as agent for counsel, who graduated from law school, articled, who was called etc and is now a corporate lawyer. 

I think it was sorcery of sorts, for which I am forever grateful, and please PM me (as some have done), with your questions, etc, I continue to be happy to share whatever knowledge/experience I can.

Pay it forward, as they say. :)

 

I sent you a message! I also personally know of 2 paralegals who eventually went on to law school. People here say that paralegal experience doesn't help law school applications, but it seems common for paralegals to get accepted into law school when practicing as a paralegal for a while. Would love to hear your input! 

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Could anyone clarify? So my gpa was poor but my second LSAT was pretty good, so I could get into a mediocre law school, or I could wait to be a mature student and apply to a nicer one. I work as a investment banker now but I'm only 21 so I was thinking I could work as a paralegal in the mean time and be a more likely law school applicant. 

 

I'm hearing some people say its not worth it, some say it will actually harm my chances because people don't respect paralegals, and some say that it will make it more likely. I am conflicted on what I should do. I could definitely get into a UK law school and then just come home, but everyone keeps saying that's the cowards way out too. Any advice would be appreciated!  

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45 minutes ago, sanfordian said:

Could anyone clarify? So my gpa was poor but my second LSAT was pretty good, so I could get into a mediocre law school, or I could wait to be a mature student and apply to a nicer one. I work as a investment banker now but I'm only 21 so I was thinking I could work as a paralegal in the mean time and be a more likely law school applicant. 

 

I'm hearing some people say its not worth it, some say it will actually harm my chances because people don't respect paralegals, and some say that it will make it more likely. I am conflicted on what I should do. I could definitely get into a UK law school and then just come home, but everyone keeps saying that's the cowards way out too. Any advice would be appreciated!  

how poor is your GPA and how good is your LSAT?

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On 11/3/2018 at 3:38 PM, sanfordian said:

Could anyone clarify? So my gpa was poor but my second LSAT was pretty good, so I could get into a mediocre law school, or I could wait to be a mature student and apply to a nicer one. I work as a investment banker now but I'm only 21 so I was thinking I could work as a paralegal in the mean time and be a more likely law school applicant. 

 

I'm hearing some people say its not worth it, some say it will actually harm my chances because people don't respect paralegals, and some say that it will make it more likely. I am conflicted on what I should do. I could definitely get into a UK law school and then just come home, but everyone keeps saying that's the cowards way out too. Any advice would be appreciated!  

I'm not sure if this post is serious or you are trolling. 

I am going to take you at your word that you are an investment banker, even though I find that hard to believe. 

Have you looked into what it takes to become a paralegal in Ontario? Have you looked at the employment prospects for recently licenced paralegals? 

You are making an awful lot of assumptions in your post. Perhaps do some research. 

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