The Law Society of Ontario voted in favour of a commitment to allow paralegals in Ontario to provide services in the field of family law.
The Toronto Star reports that the Law Society of Ontario will begin the process of creating a specialized licence for paralegals, which would allow them to provide additional services and representation to Ontarians in the field of family law. This initiative will allow Ontarians access to more affordable legal representation in the field of family law, where more than half of litigants are self-represented.
This commitment is part of a joint initiative with the Ministry of the Attorney General to increase access to representation in family law for Ontarians. This change comes on the heels of a Law Society of Ontario report written by Justice Annemarie Bonkalo, which found that 57% of Ontarians didn’t have representation in family court in 2014-2015. The report noted that unrepresented litigants lost their cases by a high margin and experienced high levels of stress and trauma. Half of unrepresented litigants stated that they were self-represented because they couldn’t afford to hire a lawyer.
Bonkalo’s report recommended the creation of a special licence for paralegals which would allow them to provide services to clients in the areas of custody, child support, and divorces that don’t involve property, among others. This licence would require an additional education component for paralegals to complete before they could offer clients such services and represent them in court.
The report’s findings were presented to the Law Society of Ontario on December 1, 2017. Although the law society voted in favour of implementing Bonkalo’s recommendations, there is no firm deadline for putting them into action. Instead, the committee dealing with this issue within the law society will be consulting with family law experts on how to provide training to this end.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.