The Law Society of Upper Canada (“LSUC”) held its annual general meeting last night. The meeting garnered more attention than it otherwise might have due to the mysterious last minute pulling of a motion that was received on March 28, 2013. This motion dealt with a study to enlarge the paralegal scope of practice. You can read the motion here.
There has not yet been an explanation behind the pulling of this motion–a motion that was proposed well in advance of the meeting.
So we are left to speculate.
It has never made any sense to me as to how LSUC, which is run by a majority of lawyers, can regulate both lawyers and paralegals. In a profession that claims to have “core values” which include the avoidance of conflicts, it is hard to comprehend how LSUC can in good conscience, and in accordance with the profession's core values, regulate a competitor. I realize the folklore around this matter suggests that LSUC was forced, or asked, to regulate paralegals by the government of Ontario. Given the obvious conflict of interest, the proper response should have been “We hold dear to our core values, one of which is the avoidance of conflicts – so we are unable to regulate a competitor.”
Unfortunately Ontario Benchers chose to ignore a core value of the profession and jumped at the opportunity to regulate a competitor – arguably to better preserve the interests of lawyers.
LSUC is supposed to regulate in the public interest. Yet, the majority of Benchers are lawyers, many of which are elected by lawyers and lawyers are seen to be the constituents of Benchers – so LSUC has now become an organization that focuses on the wants and needs of lawyers, rather than what truly serves the public interest. We have already seen LSUC struggle when the interests of the public do not align with those of lawyers – the MDP fiasco comes to mind, as does the constant "studying" of outside investment in law firms.
And because LSUC ignored a core value of the profession in connection with paralegals, it now finds itself in a pickle.
Enlarging the scope of paralegal practice would clearly help address the access to justice problem in this province – this is in the public interest.
Yet, enlarging the scope of paralegal practice will take away business that is currently the sole purview of lawyers – this is not in lawyers’ interests.
It's therefore not hard to connect the dots on why the paralegal motion was pulled from the agenda – clearly a vocal section of the profession who do not want the paralegal scope of practice to be expanded, brought pressure to bear on LSUC to have the Motion removed from the agenda.
Does this reflect poorly on the profession and upon LSUC?
Only the people of Ontario can answer this question.