More Paralegal Benchers Coming to Ontario

The Ministry of the Attorney General in Ontario announced today that they will introduce a Bill to change how legal professions are regulated in the province.

The proposed Bill would allow the law society to recover legal costs from discipline proceedings, and will allow information protected by solicitor-client privilege to be used in hearings.

The main thrust of the Bill appears to provide more equitable representation of paralegals within the law society, increasing the number of benchers at Convocation from two to five. The committee chair, who is elected by paralegal members, can attend Convocation but cannot vote unless they are also one of the elected paralegal benchers. A greater number of paralegal benchers at Convocation means that paralegals will have a larger vote and a bigger voice in the legal community.

The Morris Report made some strong comments about the disparities between paralegals and lawyers at Convocation:

Approximately 44,000 licensed lawyers elect 40 voting members of Convocation – a ratio of 1,100:1. Approximately 4,300 paralegals elect two voting members – a ratio of 2,150:1. This under-representation of paralegals is widely acknowledged, and is attributable to the underestimation of the number of practicing paralegals at the time of the introduction of regulation.
Proportionally equitable representation is not simply just from a governance perspective, it is critical in allowing the Law Society to act impartially as it drives the provision of legal services to the most accessible, appropriate level of the professions it regulates – as its duty-bound obligation to facilitate access to justice requires of it.

The Morris Report recommended amending the Law Society Act to provide more proportionate representation in the governance structure of the law society.

Thomas Conway, Treasurer of the law society, stated,

We’re delighted that the Attorney General has been able to move forward with a key recommendation of the Morris Report so quickly. This is the logical place to start in the evolution of the Law Society’s governance to accommodate the new paralegal profession.

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