Friday, October 06, 2006

Paralegal Aid

Some paralegals can do a very good job with the routine work of law practice where giving a legal opinion usually isn't needed.

But some of them are real fly-by-night operators who know nothing of law except how to bill. And bill. And bill. Leaving their clients worse off than before, their rights prejudiced and in need of a real lawyer to clean up the mess, if it can be cleaned up.

Hopefully, those jerks will be put out of business, and soon, in Ontario:

Attorney General Michael Bryant says the public needs to be protected from the hordes of untrained and unlicensed people hanging out shingles and calling themselves paralegals.

Final debate began yesterday on Bill 14, which will regulate paralegals for the first time in Canada. It is expected to pass next week.

"The regulation of paralegals would increase access to justice by giving consumers a choice in qualified legal services while protecting people who get legal advice from non-lawyers," Bryant said.

"Not surprisingly, some paralegals don't want regulation, but that's perhaps because they don't want the rules, the oversight and the accountability that comes with it," he said in the Legislature during second reading of the bill.

"Paralegals found to have engaged in misconduct would be subject to the same types of penalties lawyers face, including the loss of their licence," he said.

The Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body for Ontario lawyers, will be responsible for regulating paralegals.

Paralegals will be required to complete an approved college program and pass a licensing exam. Those who have been working in the field for some time will only have to pass the exam.

Paralegals will be limited to working in small claims court, tribunals and on things like traffic cases and workers' compensation claims, said law society spokesperson Roy Thomas.

Paralegals won't be allowed to do things like land transfers, divorces or other family court matters, he said.

About time, too. Paralegals do have a place in the profession, just not as pretend lawyers.

Source: Toronto Star

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