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The office of the Attorney General of Ontario took a step toward restoring respect across the paralegal profession Thursday after releasing a report that recommends updates to out-of-date legislation, says Toronto paralegal Marian Lippa.
“This is a win for us,” says Lippa.
The report contains the province’s response to the Law Society of Upper Canada’s (LSUC) five-year review of paralegal regulation, which was released in June. Read Attorney General Report
“The office submitted its report from (consultant) David Morris and it states that any act that excludes paralegals in it will now include paralegals and it specifically mentions the Barristers Act,” says Lippa.
The recommendations cannot officially be adopted until the legislature resumes sitting, says Lippa, estimating it could be a year before the changes are made.
But the news remains a victory for Lippa, who has been fighting a related matter in court. Read Prior Story
She launched a Certiorari application in Newmarket Superior Court to overturn JP G.M.K. Forrest’s decision banning paralegals from sitting past the bar and for requiring paralegals be called in accordance with the Barristers Act to handle criminal matters.
In its current state, the Act says precedence in court is to be set by year of call to the bar, which effectively means paralegals are left to go last, even if they turn up in court and sign in first at 9 a.m. See Barristers Act
Lippa plans to continue with her application and seek an interim decision until legislature sits. Her hearing is scheduled for Nov. 19.
“This strengthens the application now because it’s moot point,” says Lippa. “I’m excited by the progress and now paralegals’ recognition and respect in the court is solidified.”
In the report, Morris writes that certain references predate the introduction of paralegal regulation, which can end up excluding paralegals entirely.
“Provision in the Barristers Act with respect to the order of precedence at the bar, for instance, could prejudice clients’ right to be heard if they exercise the right to be represented by a paralegal,” the report says.
Lippa says she was eagerly awaiting the office’s response, which she felt would be positive.
“I anticipated it would be a favourable outcome and it has proven to be,” she says. “I’m hoping court administrators will now recognize this is on its way.”
Lippa says since Forrest’s decision on June 10, 2010, the practice of disallowing paralegals to sit before the bar and wait to be called – often last – has spread province-wide.
In her affidavit, Lippa says Forrest told her “court traditions required that counsel be given precedence before the court. The Justice remarked that I may not have been aware of those traditions, but that for ‘hundreds of years’ seating past the bar was reserved for counsel.” Read Affidavit
The matter was scheduled to be dealt with last month, but was adjourned to Nov. 19 after the Criminal Lawyers’ Association stepped in to seek intervenor status.