Ontario paralegals seek to avoid government regulation

Paralegals in Ontario, Canada, have asked the state government to allow them to continue to practice unregulated for another five years while they develop guidelines for self-governance, in a bid to allay the fears of lawyers.

Canadian paralegals carry out administrative or technical tasks within law firms and also set up in practice on their own to advise clients on matters such as immigration and land planning consent applications.

Some Canadian lawyers are concerned that paralegals are increasingly taking their work and want them tightly regulated by the provincial government.

It commissioned a report which, seven years ago, recommended ways of restricting the practice areas of paralegals and concluded: “Independent paralegals should be allowed to deliver a limited range of legal services within a newly regulated environment.”

The Paralegal Society of Ontario, which represents about 140 paralegals, has drawn up a proposal to work with the Law Society of Upper Canada on constructing an interim “memorandum of understanding” to set out acceptable limits on para- legal services.

In the proposal, the paralegal society says self-governance should be introduced slowly over five years. The first step would be the introduction of a registration system.

Spokeswoman for the Attorney General, Eleanor Taylor, said the provincial government had not yet had a chance to review the proposal and would not comment on it.

However, she said that waiting another five years for regulations to be fully implemented “does not seem reasonable”.