Independent review notes “remarkable success” of paralegal regulation

An independent review of paralegal regulation conducted for the Attorney General of Ontario describes paralegal regulation by the Law Society as an “unqualified success.”

Released by the Ministry of the Attorney General on November 1, 2012, the Report of Appointee’s Five-year Review of Paralegal Regulation is the second of two progress reviews conducted following five years of regulation and was prepared by appointee David J. Morris, a professional writer, communicator and strategist.

The first report, conducted by the Law Society of Upper Canada, was delivered to the Attorney General on June 28, 2012.

Both of the reviews are required under the Law Society Act and are designed to help ensure that paralegal regulation has been implemented successfully.

Quick Facts
Mr. Morris’s findings show that:
• satisfaction levels are generally high among members of the public
• regulation has elevated the reputation and image of the paralegal sector
• the Law Society has proven to be the appropriate regulatory authority
• fees compare favourably with other sectors.

Many of his recommendations for the future support the strategic direction already undertaken by the Law Society. This includes assessing the paralegal training and examination scheme and leaving the current scope of permissible paralegal practice as it is — pending improvements in the standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct of the paralegal sector.

Convocation has already approved an upgrade to the licensing process, with tougher examinations being developed for 2015.

Other areas identified in the report that the Law Society is already working on include:
• reviewing the licensing exemptions now that the Integration Process is wrapping up
• working on the governance structure — as a first step, all five paralegal members of the Paralegal Standing Committee are welcome to attend and speak at Convocation
• being on the record regarding the need to amend provincial statutes such as the Solicitors Act and Barristers Act, so that exclusionary language that unnecessarily impedes access to justice is amended.

The report also notes that more public education is needed to raise public awareness of the kinds of legal services paralegals can provide.