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Less Help for Families

May 1, 2007 permalink

Families unable to hire a lawyer have been able to use the services of lower-priced paralegals in child protection cases, not to make sophisticated legal arguments, but to fill out basic forms and affidavits giving them an opportunity to present their case to the judge.

No more. The ironically named "Access to Justice Act" prevents paralegals from working in family law cases. Now families lacking the funds to hire a lawyer (most of them) will have to use no representation at all, or go with legal aid, which experience shows is often worse.



Paralegals now required to have licence to do auto insurance, immigration cases

Peterborough Examiner, By SARAH DEETH, Monday, April 30, 2007 - 00:00

Local News - New legislation that will regulate paralegals through the Law Society of Upper Canada is creating controversy among paralegals.

Don Menzies, a director for the Paralegal Society of Ontario, said the province's legislation is the first of its kind in North America.

It comes into effect Tuesday.

"We're not opposed to regulation but we would rather see the law society regulate lawyers and the paralegal society regulate paralegals," he said, adding that paralegals have always been in favour of self regulation.

The title of the legislation, Access to Justice, is almost an oxymoron, he said.

"They call it 'Access to Justice' but it will deny a lot of people justice," he said.

The Law Society has laid out rules dictating where paralegals can and can't work, Menzies said.

Paralegals can work in Provincial Offences court and in any legislation created by the province, such as disability and pension issues.

Paralegals can also work in auto insurance and immigration, Menzies said, but those areas will require a special licence.

"It's what we're not allowed to do that's creating contention," Menzies said. "We cannot do family law and we cannot do wills and estates."

There has always been a lot of work for paralegals in those areas, he said.

"A lot of people are going to be out of business effective (Tuesday)," Menzies said.

"Paralegals generally represent people who can't afford lawyers. People will fall through the cracks because they can't afford a lawyer."

The Paralegal Society is trying to keep its members up-to-date on the situation, Menzies said, and his e-mail has been flooded with people asking questions.

In addition to turning paralegals away from some areas of law the legislation is going to increase business costs, he said.

Paralegals will have to pay a fee in order to apply to the Law Society of Upper Canada, Menzies said, and will have to pay the cost of an exam scheduled for later this year.

Paralegals will also be required to have a minimum $1 million insurance policy, he said.

"A lot of paralegals don't have insurance," he said.

Paralegals who have practiced in a certain area for more than three years will be able to side-step some of the process by being "grandfathered" in, Menzies said.

This involves proving that you've worked in that area for three years, he said, and the deadline for that process is in November.

It's going to be hard for anyone hoping to start a career as a paralegal, he said, especially someone who's not sure where their career path will take them.

"We're in favour of regulation but it's a question of who's regulating," he said.

(Online at 8 p.m. Monday.)

Source: Peterborough Examiner