Foreign trained lawyers moving to Canada: Do you want to be a lawyer or do legal work as a paralegal?

Modern day global mobility

We live in a world of global mobility. This includes the ability of people to “pick up” and immigrate to other countries. This also includes the ability of businesses to outsource work to other countries. We have all had the experience of calling “Bell Canada” and talking to somebody, in a Call Centre, somewhere else in the world. It is now possible for law firms in North American to outsource legal research. This means that the “work product” of Canadian lawyers includes work done by legal researchers (lawyers or not) which has been done by people NOT licensed to practise law in Canada. The same is true of other professions.

The legal landscape in Canada – Less and less legal work is being done by lawyers and more and more work is done by “paralegals” (or specialists in specific areas of law)

I am privileged to know a Canadian lawyer who graduated from law school in 1955. She continues to practise law and has practised law for more than 60 years. Think of it – 60 years.  In one of our earlier conversations she commented to me:

“So much of what used to be handled by the courts is now handled by specialized tribunals.”

I can see this trend in the years since I graduated from law school. Think of how much is now handled by administrative boards or specialized courts (tax tribunals, landlord tenant tribunals, small claims courts, etc., private arbitrators, etc.). Note that these areas of laws are handled NOT by lawyers but by people who specialize in that particular area of law. The jurisdiction of Ontario “small claims court” is now $25,000.00. That is more than sufficient for the damages in many civil disputes.

To put it simply: a huge percentage of “day-to-day” legal problems can easily be solved WITHOUT lawyers. What is needed is a specialist in “small claims court”, “landlord tenant”, etc. (Note that “landlord and tenant appeals” that go the “Divisional Court of Ontario” will likely require the services of a lawyer.)

The reality is that: Lawyers are very costly, often inefficient and often NOT the most knowledgeable people in certain routine areas.

To put it simply:

Lawyers have often “priced themselves out of the market”. To be fair, Canadian Law Societies have imposed high regulatory costs on lawyers. These costs must be passed on to clients. But, clients don’t care about the “overhead costs” of lawyers. Why should clients pay these costs if they can get their work by “paralegals” done less expensively?

Much of what lawyers used to do is now done by paralegals

In the Province of Ontario “Paralegals” are licensed and regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada – specifically Bylaw 4. The range of activities that a “Paralegal” is permitted to do is quite extensive.

Bylaw 4 – What is a Paralegal, a “P1 licence”  and what is a paralegal permitted to do?

LICENCE TO PROVIDE LEGAL SERVICES

Classes of licence

5. There shall be the following classes of licence to provide legal services in Ontario:

1. Class P1.

Scope of activities

Class P1

Interpretation
6. (1) In this section, unless the context requires otherwise,

“claim” means a claim for statutory accident benefits within the meaning of the Insurance Act, excluding a claim of an individual who has or appears to have a catastrophic impairment within the meaning of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule;
“party” means a party to a proceeding;
“proceeding” means a proceeding or intended proceeding,

(a) in the Small Claims Court,

(b) in the Ontario Court of Justice under the Provincial Offences Act,

(c) in a summary conviction court under the Criminal Code (Canada),

(d) before a tribunal established under an Act of the Legislature of Ontario or under
an Act of Parliament, or

(e) before a person dealing with a claim or a matter related to a claim, including a mediator, a person performing an evaluation, an arbitrator or the Director acting under section 280, 280.1, 282 or 283 or 284, respectively, of the
Insurance Act; “Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule” means the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule within the meaning of the Insurance Act.

Activities authorized

(2) Subject to any terms, conditions, limitations or restrictions imposed on the class of licence or on the licensee and subject to any or der made under the Act, a licensee who holds a Class P1 licence is authorized to do any of the following:

1.Give a party advice on his, her or its legal interests, rights or responsibilities with
respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding.

2. Represent a party before,

i. in the case of a proceeding in the Small Claims Court, before the Small
Claims Court,

ii. in the case of a proceeding under the Provincial Offences Act, before the Ontario Court of Justice,

iii. in the case of a proceeding under the Criminal Code, before a summary conviction court,

iv.in the case of a proceeding before a tribunal established under an Act of the Legislature of Ontario or under an Act of Parliament, before the tribunal, and

v.in the case of a proceeding before a person dealing with a claim or a matter related to a claim, before the person.

3.Anything mentioned in subsection 1 (7) of the Act, provided the activity is required by the rules of procedure governing a proceeding.

4. Select, draft, complete or revise, or assist in the selection, drafting, completion or revision of, a document for use in a proceeding.

5. Negotiate a party’s legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding.

6.Select, draft, complete or revise, or assist in the selection, drafting, completion or revision of, a document that affects a party’s legal interests, rights or responsibilities with respect to a proceeding or the subject matter of a proceeding.

The scope of work that paralegals are permitted to do is astounding! In fact, the scope is broad enough to include many of the activities that “general practitioner lawyers” used to do.

Bylaw 4 – How does one get a P1 (Paralegal) license?

Requirements for issuance of Class P1 licence: application received after June 30, 2010

13. (1) The following are the requirements for the issuance of a Class P1 licence for an applicant who applies for the licence after June30, 2010:

1. The applicant must have graduated from a legal services program in Ontario that was, at the time the applicant graduated from the program, an accredited program.

2. The applicant must have successfully completed the applicable licensing examination or examinations set by the Society by not later than two years after the end of the licensing cycle into which the applicant was registered.

As always, there are some exceptions, exemptions and descriptions of “special circumstances”. (To learn about them, I suggest you read the entire rule.)

That said, given the amount of legal work that paralegals are allowed to do, coupled with the possible difficulty of achieving a License to practise law:

Would it make sense for some immigrants to Canada, who are lawyers licensed to practise law outside of Canada to become “Paralegals” in Ontario? It may make sense for those who wish to “practise law” and don’t care whether they are called “lawyers”. It would NOT make sense for those who wish to call themselves “lawyers”.

Please note that I am simply letting you know about the option of becoming a Paralegal. It may or may not be a good idea for you. That said, I think that it is worth considering.

Some thoughts on “Paralegals” in Ontario:

Please note that Ontario is the only Canadian province that specifically licenses “paralegals”. In other provinces, “paralegals” are not licensed  by the provincial “Law Society”.

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One thought on “Foreign trained lawyers moving to Canada: Do you want to be a lawyer or do legal work as a paralegal?

  1. Pingback: Accreditation path offered to Foreign-trained accountants should be offered to Foreign-Trained lawyers | Pre-Law Forum Toronto – Becoming a lawyer in Canada

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