I have no cataclysmic events to report for the year 2017 in the Paralegal world.
As of today we are still struggling to expand the scope of paralegal practice in Ontario. I believe this will be a long and drawn out process, however, the good news is that Paralegals are gaining traction as a profession and we are no longer considered a fringe element we once were!!!
More and more young highly trained Paralegals are being graduated from reputed institutions in Ontario such as Humber, George Brown and Seneca Colleges. The unfortunate part in all this is that many of these young Paralegals are finding it difficult to find employment. Law firms habitually under employ these young people and they lack the opportunities in these places to perform to their capacity, they are also underpaid for what their qualifications merit. Many of them become glorified law clerks with the added caveat that more is expected of them.
Those that go out on their own and become self employed or join an established group of Paralegals find that this is a hard road to ho unless they are of an ethnic origin and are able to rely on that group for prospective clients or if they happen to have a well developed network of people who are able to refer clients to them otherwise they find it difficult to establish in the profession.
A conversation I recently had with a young lawyer shed further light on the reasons why some members of the Bar and the Law Society appear to hold such bias towards the Paralegal profession. Aside from the fact that we are a threat to sole practitioners in the outlying areas and small communities, there is a worry that if Paralegals become well accepted in all the areas of the profession and the scope of practice is expanded then no one will want to attend law school and the legal profession will effectively be overtaken by the Paralegal profession!!
I am not sure how much credence should be assigned to this hypothesis but the law is an ever evolving entity and no one knows what the future holds, however, with the advent of technology it will definitely become easier for individuals to source legal documents and to attend to rudimentary legal matters on their own or with minimal assistance in which case there might be reason to credit the above noted hypothesis.
I urge all of us to assist young Paralegals to advance their careers in whichever manner we are able either through mentoring or just by simply being there to provide support or a kind word of advice. Assisting our upcoming colleagues in this manner can only help to bolster the profession and create a stronger more vibrant future for all Paralegals.
Now a days when I attend at many of the local Court houses I see many of the same Paralegal practitioners in attendance. This to me tells the tale that some of us have established well in the profession. Hopefully we are all making a living as many Paralegals undercut their fees just to get the business and then doing the case becomes unaffordable for the Paralegal. This action has wide reaching implications not just for the Paralegal in question but for all other Paralegals because a precedent for this low price has now been set.
A wise rule to follow in the industry, as in any industry for that matter, is to ALWAYS GET PAID WHAT YOU THINK YOU ARE WORTH. In other words don’t under sell yourself because not only will you not be able to make a living neither will the rest of us!