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Editorial: 'Lawyers will regulate paralegals'

Another strong opinion about regulating Canadian paralegals:

"Ontario has passed a law that will regulate paralegals. This is good news. Until now, what has it taken to be a paralegal? Call yourself one. That's it. No training required. No liability insurance. No minimum standards. No discipline for bad ones.

"I've seen some good paralegals. I've seen some bloody awful ones too. Of course, the skeptics will say the same about lawyers. At least lawyers have certain minimum training, have passed competency exams, pay liability insurance in case they screw up, and they can get booted out of the profession if they are unethical. Until now, there was virtually nothing you could do about a bad paralegal.

[snip]

"With the Law Society in charge [PDF link], it will have to strike a balance that protects the public and preserves the roles of both paralegals and lawyers. I'm hoping that it will find the right balance.

"I don't consider paralegals to be competition for me in my practice. We are simply not going after the same work. On the other hand, there are paralegals doing some things that are way out of their league.

"In my view, paralegals should never be doing separation agreements or family law. They should not be doing wills and estate planning. They should not be doing real estate transactions. These are areas of law where the amateurs think that it is just filling in the blanks on a 'standard' form. It isn't."

By Ian Johncox, a partner with the Mason Bennett Johncox law firm in Whitby, Ontario.

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