Canadian Paralegals Can Now Practice Law Under Supervision
Paralegals in some Canadian provinces are now able to practice law, with limitations, under the supervision of a lawyer. While Canadian citizens will still need the services of a lawyer for big issues such as criminal matters, family matters, administrative law, and wills, paralegals can offer representation in a variety of smaller areas.
This change could prove to be beneficial to people in need of legal services, without the extra income to be able to easily afford it. Those who were unable to afford legal fees charged by lawyers may be able to afford the services of a paralegal, which are generally much lower. Though unlikely, as there are limitations to the types of law a paralegal can practice, some lawyers are concerned that the new rule could impact their practices in a financially negative manner.
According to the Law Society of Upper Canada, paralegals in Ontario are able to represent clients in the areas of:
- Minor criminal charges (see the Criminal Code in the Ontario Court of Justice)
- Hearings before the Workplace Safety Board, the Landlord and Tenant Board and other tribunals
- Cases heard in Provincial Offences Court, including traffic offences
- and Small Claims Court litigation.
In a recent article on the Wall Street Journal blog, the author discussed startling statistics that are affecting law schools around America: the number of students taking the LSATs, the law school admission tests, which were taken in October, has dropped almost 11% since last year. The number of students taking the test has dropped 45% since October 2009.
These statistics could show that fewer students are interested in becoming lawyers. This year’s number of 33,673 students who took the exam is the lowest number of test takers seen since 1998. It’s the second lowest number if you go all the way back to the 1980s.
It would not at all be surprising to see these numbers decline further as more Canadian provinces, and possibly US states in the future, allow paralegals to take on some of the workload that was previously left to lawyers.
These changes could prove to be fruitful for both paralegals and students who are successfully graduating from law school. Paralegals will be able to take on more responsibilities and earn a better living, while the drop in the number of law students will provide better chances for graduate job placement and security- as well as better salary and work options- in areas that only lawyers can practice.
The real winner in this situation is the citizens who can benefit from this wide range of services. No longer will the public be required to pay lawyers’ fees they are unable to afford for less dire matters such as traffic incidents and small claims court, while still getting the same quality of care and service they have come to expect from legal representation.