Beyond the Big Three: Paralegals are missing out on hundreds of areas of practice
During my time as a paralegal, I have worked in criminal, personal injury, immigration, provincial offences, small claims and have referred many cases to colleagues working Land Lord Tenant Board matters. The focus over my first three years of practice was small claims. As my practice grew and I began to connect with others in the industry, I was soon introduced to the little-known world of administrative tribunals.
I vaguely remember one administrative tribunal class during my paralegal studies that essentially covered practice and procedures for all of the tribunals in Ontario. During those few months, students paired up and presented research projects on a chosen tribunal. Students were required to visit the tribunal, interview staff (if possible) and conduct background research on the purpose of and process for bringing matters before their chosen tribunal. There were about twenty students in the class, so we covered 10 tribunals.
I attended a one year accelerated program in 2015. Things may have changed as far as instruction is concerned but, based on a quick review of the school’s website, there is still only one tribunal course.
Did you know there are over 500 provincial boards, agencies and commissions in Ontario? According to Ontario’s Watchdog, “many of these are administrative tribunals, which have been granted the authority to make decisions under a statute or regulation.” And many individuals appearing before these tribunals need representation.
There are over 500 provincial boards, agencies and commissions in Ontario.
Many individuals appearing before these tribunals need representation.
What we learn in school and the areas in which most paralegals frequently practice is severely limited in comparison to our actual scope of practice.
This means what we learn in school and the areas in which most paralegals frequently practice is severely limited in comparison to our actual scope of practice. Paralegal students and new paralegals are also limiting their options for learning and job opportunities due to limited exposure to these tribunals.
Am I an advocate for expansion of scope? Yes, but I also recognize that this will take time. It won’t happen overnight. Over the next four years, my goal is to push for tangible and actionable change in the paralegal profession and change that will significantly benefit the people of Ontario (which is the LSO’s key mandate).
As your elected paralegal bencher, one of my first goals is to advocate for greater LSO encouragement, promotion and support of non-traditional practice areas for paralegals beyond the Big Three.
What does this look like?
College courses with greater focus on the already existing paralegal scope (which happens to quite expansive)
Experiential training programs focused on non-traditional areas of practice to build competencies
An LSO campaign that builds public confidence in the paralegal profession and provides additional information on how paralegals can help (funding for previous campaigns was cut over the last four years by the existing slate)
LSO supported and promoted networking events for new and existing paralegals to make mentorship/sponsorship connections in underrepresented areas of practice
LSO supported career fairs and panels across all regions (not just Toronto!)
These are just a few ways we can help solidify the profession and show the people of Ontario why the paralegal profession is necessary. I’ll also be advocating for:
parental leave (as it relates to payment of fees)
opportunities for internationally trained legal professionals to more easily obtain a P1 license
Please vote for me this April, to see these changes happen. Mark your calendar! Voting information will be available during the third week of April. The last day to vote is April 28 at 5:00pm.
I am running with the Good Governance Coalition and four other paralegals who have pledged to advocate for real change at the Law Society of Ontario. The Coalition is a group of lawyers (paralegal friendly) and paralegals who have committed to the good governance of the LSO. We won’t vote as a slate, but rather are individuals with similar values, one of which is returning decorum and good governance to the LSO.
This April, #voteforgood.
Interested in learning more about my platform? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in further exploring your scope as a paralegal? Check out this non-exhaustive list of Administrative Tribunals and Agencies: