In an effort to make legal fees more affordable and reasonable for regular people, some of the decision makers at the Law Society of BC and the BC Government are looking to license paralegals to provide some legal services and advice. The general consensus is that these licensed paralegals would be able to provide legal services in a limited number of areas – and the LSBC is pushing for family law to be prime among them.
Beginning in 2007, Ontario has allowed the Law Society of Ontario to license and regulate paralegals. This has meant that they can provide legal services in the following areas:
- Small Claims Court ($25,000 cap)
- Provincial Offences
- Tribunals created by Parliament or the Legislative Assembly
- Summary Criminal matters
This means that paralegals can give legal advice, represent someone, prepare documents, and negotiate on any matter within their limited scope. Paralegals in Ontario have typically charged significantly cheaper fees than lawyers, allowing more people to be able to reasonably afford to get legal services. It also creates a group of professionals who are more likely to practice in areas that aren’t financially lucrative for lawyers – like residential landlord and tenant law.
BC has done a lot of work in the last decade to make the justice system easier to access. Many of the tribunals and boards that exist are easier than ever to use, but many regular people still don’t understand or want to argue their own case. These people should have a cheaper, regulated alternative to a lawyer.
Many of the cases that one might consider hiring a paralegal for wouldn’t be worth the time of a lawyer. If someone needed to recover $5000, they may spend more than that in legal fees hiring a lawyer. Hiring a paralegal would make more sense.
BC already has Notaries Public, who are independent professionals that provide services separately from a lawyer. These professionals provide services like writing certain agreements, wills, or other documents. Regulated and licensed paralegals in BC would be similar professionals who could provide other services.
In Ontario, the wheel has already been invented. There is already an educational frameworks to start from. There is already a scope of practice that works.
When it comes to paralegals, BC would be wise to replicate what Ontario has already done.
Bryan Crockett is a paralegal student at Durham College in Oshawa, ON. He has previously resided in BC.