To whom it may concern:
My name is Margarita Dvorkina and I am a research assistant for the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP). I am writing to the organization of the Paralegal Society of Canada.
As you will know, Justice Annemarie Bonkalo recently released the Family Legal Services Review report, available here, which is now before the Law Society of Upper Canada. Although the report focuses on unbundled services and coaching by lawyers, as well as use of law students to provide services, the recommendations that have received the most publicity are those that would allow trained and licensed paralegals to deliver some family legal services.
The NSRLP strongly supports these recommendations. We believe, for reasons we set out in detail on our website, and in Dr. Macfarlane’s blog, that expanding the scope of paralegal practice in family law is a critical part of any comprehensive and effective access to justice plan in Ontario. As a regulated profession, it is our duty to maintain and advance the rule of law. The massive numbers of litigants appearing in our courts without counsel is a direct affront to this duty. The access to justice crisis is most pronounced in family law, with anywhere from 57-80% of litigants appearing self-represented.
Notwithstanding her careful focus on training and regulation, the reaction by some members of the bar to Justice Bonkalo’s report has been swift and intense. While we understand the investment in preserving the profession’s monopoly over legal services, given the public interest issues at stake, we believe the time has come for significant and meaningful change.
In light of the outcry to the report by many members of the bar, we are concerned that the Law Society will be reluctant to implement these recommendations. The Law Society has asked for feedback on the report by May 15, 2017. As part of the NSRLP’s response, we have prepared a petition in support of the paralegal recommendations, which can be found here.
I am writing now to ask if your organization will assist the NSRLP by helping us to widely distribute our petition. We are hopeful that pressure by the public and as many members of the profession as possible will lead the Law Society to at least agree in principle that some family services should be opened up to paralegals. In this way, we can begin a more reasoned, evidence-based dialogue about this issue.
If you agree with the NSRLP that the Bonkalo report is a step forward for access to justice in Ontario, and that the scope of paralegal practice should be expanded to include at least some family services, we would ask that you please consider the following:
- Sign our petition
- Share the petition broadly with your colleagues, members and networks
- Post the petition on your website and all social media platforms, and encourage your colleagues, members and networks to do the same
I believe it is particularly important that future paralegals weigh in on this important issue that will affect the market in which they practice. We are entering a profession in crisis. It will be up to us, future lawyers (like myself), and future paralegals to create a society where all Canadians have access to legal services. I hope you will join with me in committing to a kind of legal reform that is ultimately in the best interests of the most vulnerable users of the justice system.
Thank you for your time and I do hope you will join us in making our voices heard! Please do not hesitate to contact to me if you have any questions.
Dual J.D. Candidate 2019
University of Windsor
Detroit Mercy Law