How Does The New Rule That Paralegals Can Practice Law Affect Lawyers?


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Today, paralegals are now able to practice law under certain circumstances in Canada, assuming that lawyers are there to supervise their actions. This new ruling will certainly change the culture of the law profession in Canada, but to what extent remains the subject for hot debate.

The Growth of Paralegals Practicing the Law

In Alberta, there are already a growing number of independent legal services that are not rendered by lawyers. The growth of this non-lawyer approach was facilitated by the fact that many low income residents simply cannot afford to pay for legal services as delivered by lawyers. Other provinces are now experimenting with this approach, particularly with using paralegals to represent clients and practice the law under a certain set of circumstances. The overall goal is to make legal services more widely available to the public in general.

In the city of Ontario, paralegals can now represent clients in the following manner;

       Traffic Court

       Small Claims

       Hearings before Tribunals: Such as in tenant vs. landlord disputes

       Certain minor criminal charges

The main advantage of using paralegals in these situations is that they can save thousands of dollars in legal bills for the average person. This is because they (paralegals) are paid substantially less than their attorney counterparts. However, not everyone is embracing the changes.

The Effect on Lawyers

For many lawyers, the areas in which paralegals can now represent clients are taking away a substantial part of their business. For many lawyers, they may be asking themselves was their time spent studying wasted if those with far less education can do their job. This is especially true in the lawyer profession where the rigorous courses and tough competition have only left the best and the brightest to hold successful practices. A paralegal on the other hand may have only completed a few online courses which is hardly the same thing.

The result may be the citizens do not get the full representation they deserve depending on the court case. However, they will save a considerable amount of money, so how exactly will lawyers react to this change is still being evaluated. But it is safe to say that such practices may spread to the United States and beyond where paralegals will represent clients in matters where serious ramifications, such as jail time for example, will be handled by lawyers instead.

What is clear is that when people are use to paying smaller fees for certain legal services, they may balk at having to pay the higher fees that lawyers charge. This could results in lawyers having to lower what they charge which in turn may have more questioning if becoming a lawyer is worth the expense of going to law school. These are just some of the long range ramifications that will have to be sorted out in this process. If the number of students entering law school continues to drop, the effects may be felt along higher educational lines as well since fewer people would be willing to rack up the debt to become a lawyer when their salaries will be lower.

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