Archive for the ‘International Paralegalism’ Category

Gambian Paralegals

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

As long as I’m on the topic of paralegal in Africa and access to justice (as I was in a post earlier this week) consider this from “The Point” on allAfrica.com:

Thirty-five students from the University of The Gambia Law Faculty recently concluded a four-day intensive paralegal training at NaNA Conference hall.

The training, which kick-started on Tuesday, was organised by National Agency for Legal Aid (NALA) in collaboration with the West African Law Institute, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In his official opening statement, the executive director of NALA, Sanna Dahaba, said access to justice being a fundamental right on its own and one without which other rights such as the right to a fair trial cannot be realized, is at the epitome of human rights. …

According to him, NALA has been engaged in the provision of legal advice and representation to poor persons in The Gambia since its inception.

However, he said challenges to provision of Legal Aid by NALA and other service providers are compounded by limited financial and human resources constraints thus making the services accessible to only a negligible number of deserving persons.

He said the establishment of a Paralegal Scheme in collaboration with Law Faculty of the University of The Gambia and FLAG, therefore, would go a long way towards bridging the human resources gap in the successful delivery of legal aid services countrywide.

They will operate from all legal aid centres across the country thereby ensuring accessibility to justices at even the primary stages of the justice system to the society as a whole. (Emphasis added.)

And that after all really is the point.

Tanzania: Paralegal Training Vital for Justice Execution

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

Even within the United States “paralegal” means different things to different people, leading to confusion even within the bar. However, within the United States there is overall agreement that paralegals assist and are supervised by attorneys. This is not the case in many other countries. In much of Canada and in Great Britain, there appear to be two categories of paralegals: those that work in supportive roles with attorneys and those who practice independently, representing clients in some limited capacity (limited in comparison to attorneys.) In Great Britain, for example, it appears paralegals have much greater leeway based on a common law right of British citizens to select there representatives. I have met with a paralegal who runs an independent office where he supervises other, less experienced and educated, paralegals. In one Canadian province, the second category of paralegal is licensed and regulated. (See the “Canada” category on this blog.)

According to a story on allAfirca.com, entitled, “Tanzania: Paralegal Training Vital for Justice Execution,” Tanzania appears to have been working more on the British model since the concept of paralegals was introduced in the 1990s:

COMPREHENSIVE training for paralegals if well utilised will facilitate the implementation of government’s ambitious plan to enhance access to justice to all.

Quality, effective, efficient and professional legal aid provision will remain a dream if it is not supported by well-organised and strategic training of paralegals, who play a significant role in the provision of legal aid in Tanzania.

This is because legal aid provision is a dynamic and demanding undertaking that requires practitioners to have requisite legal skills and education. It’s true that in the past, paralegal training was not given priority due to, among other things, a limited number of legal disputes, underdeveloped socio-economic, political settings and illiteracy among Tanzanians.

This resulted in having a number of uneducated and non-trained paralegals, who are still operating at the moment. Keneth Sudi, an experienced paralegal practitioner, said “accommodation of unskilled paralegals in legal aid provision stemmed from a huge gap, which existed due to high demand for paralegal services.” (The full story is interesting and well worth the read, but too long to be repeated here.)

The common thread in all jurisdictions is the sense that somehow paralegals can be a significant part of the solution to access to justice problems. In the United States that has generally taken on two aspects – (1) the use of paralegals in traditional law offices to reduce charges to clients from those that would be charged if lawyers charged their hourly rate for all work that must be done on a case and (2) utilization of paralegals in projects specifically designed to meet the needs of those who cannot afford attorneys.

Despite a recognized need for solutions to the access to justice problem and some fairly wide ranging proposals for a national model for access to justice, there have been few systematic, comprehensive attempts to use paralegals in the way Tanzania, Ghana, and others. The Washington state effort to legalize and license legal professionals who are not attorneys is really the closest we have. As yet that program is limited to only domestic relations cases and is really a “paralegal plus” program, working off a base of formally educated paralegals in the traditional sense, but adding additional law school provided training and examinations. (Most law schools require 90 semester credit hours to graduate. The ABA requires 83 semester credit hours to accredit a law school. The additional training for LLLTs in Washington is only about 10% of that.) I hope to write more soon about this LLLT program and will certainly monitor its progress in Washington state. I remain hopeful that my prediction that the paralegals profession (in some form) will end up being an essential and substantial part of the access to justice problem in the United States.

 

Monday, October 7th, 2013

While paralegals and lawyers in the Ontario, Canada, Law Society sometimes clash and some misgivings about the involvement of the Law Society in the regulation of paralegals, a recent assessment by the Ontario Attorney General concludes that overall the new system is working well. Now the Attorney General has introduced a bill to increase the number of paralegals on the governing body. MarketWired.com reports:

Today, [October 1, 2013] Attorney General John Gerretsen introduced amendments to the Law Society Act that, if passed, will enhance access to justice and the effectiveness of Law Society governance by increasing the number of elected paralegal directors on the Law Society board.

“We are grateful to the Attorney General for his commitment to furthering the development of the paralegal profession,” says Law Society Treasurer Thomas Conway. “This is important for both the protection of the public and access to justice.”

Currently, five paralegals are elected by licensed paralegals, as members of the Paralegal Standing Committee. Two of the five are elected as benchers (directors), who fully participate in and vote at Convocation, the meeting of the Law Society’s board. The amendments to the Law Society Act will see all five paralegals elected as benchers.

The article also notes that The Law Society  regulates over 5,000 paralegals practicing principally in Small Claims Court, traffic and other provincial offenses, landlord-tenant and various other tribunals, and minor matters under the Criminal Code.

Why Society Needs More Paralegal Practitioners

Monday, August 12th, 2013

The article from which I stole the title for this post is actually about Tanzania, but it seems to me a lot (but not all) of that article could and should apply to paralegals here in the U.S.:

“WHO are paralegals?” A youth was overheard asking a woman with whom they were engaged in a conversation.Truly, just like this youth, there could be many Tanzanians who have no who the paralegals are and what could be their role in society.

The paralegals are not educated lawyers, but have received training on human and legal rights. They help communities and individuals in need of legal assistance.

Their unique talent and knowledge, received outside the conventional education systems, contribute immensely to relieve many people who have been trapped in legal problems.

Paralegals are persons trained in basic legal skills, including, problem solving, counseling and statement taking. In essence, they provide first aid legal to those in need of such a service. A paralegal is sometimes described as a non-lawyer person who performs tasks which require some knowledge of law services and procedures. In most cases, paralegals perform their duties within lower section of the community, for instance, at district, ward, village and family levels.

Here’s the link to the article which goes on to provide an interesting description of the history and present status of paralegals in Tanzania.

Paralegals in Punjab

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

One of my areas of research is the development of the paralegal profession in other countries. In many paralegals serve a different function than that served here in the U.S. This article from the Punjab Newsline has an almost military tone when describing people volunteering to serve as paralegals:

4th batch Paralegal Volunteers given training in Ferozepur

Thursday, March 29, 2012 – 14:15
By Harish K Monga
FEROZPEUR : In the judicial complex of Ferozepur, the 6th session training of 4th paralegal volunteers was given to different category of people under the leadership of Rekha Mittal, District and Session Judge, Ferozepur, with the motive of training them as Paralegal Volunteers.

Karnail Singh, Civil Judge Senior Divison cum-Secretary District Legal Services Authority, Ferozepur gave the knowledge to the volunteers on cases relating to civil laws, cheque dishonour and the schemes being run under the District Legal Service Authority.

On this occasion, Harish Umar, Civil Judge, Junior Division, Surinder Sachdeva, ADA Legal, K.D.Syal, President Bar Association, Ferozepur were also present. Karnail Singh hailed the volunteers to work for the betterment of the society and motivated them to make people aware about the legal rights and duties. He said that these trained paralegal volunteers will be put on duty at legal aid clinics being opened at the village level and thirty volunteers were also issued the identity cards on this occasion.

There are some common threads in all countries though. For example, just as in Punjab, American paralegals are “hailed…to work for the betterment of the society and motivated them to make people aware about the legal rights and duties.” I and other bloggers such as The Paralegal Mentor and Chere Estrin of “The Estrin Report” do some of the hailing, but more so the various paralegal professional associations such as NFPA, NALA, and NALS, all of which feature these as parts of their ethical codes and mission statements. But I think the drive to work for the betterment of society and motivation to make people aware of their legal rights and duties is so common to those who chose paralegalism as a career (as opposed to as just a job) that it must be an inherent trait.

The Proper Tone of a Professional Communication

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Because paralegals are licensed in Ontario and can engage in limited practice of law without attorney supervision, they are subject to the “Paralegal Rules of Conduct” which can be enforced by the Law Society through the same process as is used to discipline lawyers. When the reports of discipline come out it seems there are far fewer for paralegal than attorneys, but I have no data to confirm that (and, of course, even if it is true there may be as many paralegal disciplinary proceedings portionate to the numbers practicing under each type of license, but those that do come through are generally fairly similar to those for lawyers. Here’s one that is a bit more interesting though:

KIMBERLY LYNN POLLOCK
From: City of Mississauga, Ontario
First hearing: November 21, 2011
LSUC Counsel: Jan Parnega-Welch
Paralegal not represented
Particulars of alleged professional misconduct from the Law Society’s Notice of Application filed June 7, 2011:
1. Contrary to Rule 2.01(2) of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct, you communicated with your former colleague, M.S., in a manner that was abusive, offensive or otherwise inconsistent with the proper tone of a professional communication from a paralegal, including three separate electronic communications on November 3, 2009.
2. Contrary to Rule 2.01(1) of the Paralegal Rules of Conduct, in your communication dated December 7, 2009, you attempted to mislead the Law Society when you unequivocally denied that you posted information about your former employer, C.R.S., on-line, when this representation was not true.

The result of the hearing:        Decision: The Paralegal was reprimanded.

More specifically the Law Society of Upper Canada website reports:

By Decision and Order dated November 21, 2011 the hearing panel ordered as follows:

The Paralegal is to be reprimanded.
The reprimand is to be administered to the Paralegal in person at the offices of the Law Society on December 19, 2011 at 1:00 p.m.
Costs of $1,000 to be paid by the Paralegal within one year of the Paralegal curing her administrative suspension.
Should the Paralegal fail to pay the costs within the one year period, the Panel orders that the Paralegal be suspended until such time as the costs are paid.
Should the Paralegal fail to attend to receive the reprimand on December 19, 2011 at 1:00 p.m., the Law Society shall be entitled to make further submissions as to penalty.

 Further information regarding the details of this matter do not appear to be available and is probably not real helpful anyway. However, I suspect that this rule, if applicable in the U.S., would get quite a workout!

Ontario Law Society Quandry: Does Disbarred or Suspended Attorney Have the “Good Character” to be a Paralegal?

Monday, November 28th, 2011

One aspect of the Ontario experiement in licensing paralegals that I posted about favorably here is the “good character assessment.” Commenting on an unusual case before a Law Society Appeal Panel, I noted,

The scary part is that there is nothing to prevent our own Nics from calling themselves paralegals here in the United States. We are hopeful that UPL laws will prevent them from operating independently, but depend on law firms to do the character assessment and background checks to keep Nic and his ilk out of the legal system. Unfortunately, this procedure all too often fails. Indeed, some paralegals are so un-reviewed and unsupervised that they are able to embezzle huge sums from the law firms themselves. One managed to grab $1.7 million before being caught!

Indeed, there is a concern that persons found unfit to be an attorney could become paralegals under our system, a concern I addressed in “If he smells bad there, he’ll smell bad here.” As noted in that post, it seemed that a paralegal licensing program that included a good character assessment would prevent corrupt attorneys from becoming paralegals after disbarment.

A recent article in the Law Times though makes it clear that not just any licensing regulations will do:

The Paralegal Society of Ontario says it’s “seriously concerned” about Law Society of Upper Canada regulations allowing disbarred and suspended lawyers to apply for paralegal licences, an issue that culminated in Mississauga, Ont., lawyer David Robert Conway’s successful appeal of his disbarment this month.

“As an organization, we’ve made it perfectly clear to the law society that we highly object to a lawyer applying to serve as a paralegal when they’ve been suspended or disbarred,” says Janet Wigle-Vence, treasurer of the paralegal society.

According to Wigle-Vence, while paralegals serve clients in a limited scope compared to lawyers, the regulator should hold both types of practitioners to a similar standard of character.

“If they can’t pass the test to serve as a lawyer, it doesn’t make sense that they would be allowed to serve as a paralegal,” she adds.

The problem lies in the particular way the regulations are written. They include “grandfather” and hearing provisions that do allow disbarred attorneys to have a hearing on a paralegal license application which could, in theory, find that they do not have the “good character” to be an attorney, but do have the “good character” necessary to be a paralegal!

The article implies, however, that this is more of a theorectical problem than a practical problem, noting through a statement by Harry Kopyto, himself a disbarred attorney, a subject of posts on this blog, and occasional communicator with this blog, few attorneys have been successful in taking this route back into legal practice precisely because of the good character requirement. Nonetheless, it seems odd that this would even be an option. The regulations should make it clear that disbarment or suspension as an attorney is itself sufficient indication that the applicant lacks the good character required to be a licensed paralegal.

Increasing Paralegal Use a “Win-Win” for British Firm

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

It ought to be a matter of simple math. Paralegals lower the cost of services for clients and increase law firm productivity, so it makes sense to use paralegals. This does not cost attorney jobs, but grows the legal profession. One major British firm has done the math, according to legalweek.com:

Addleshaw Goddard has grown the number of paralegals in its recently-formed transaction services team (TST) in Manchester to more than 40 as the national law firm prepares to send more chargeable work to the centre in a bid to keep costs down for clients.

The firm has increased staff in the team from five at the time it was piloted in November last year to 42, with the intention of boosting numbers to more than 60 as it is used by more practice areas.

The initiative was established to free up associates to work on client-facing matters by sending some administrative and process support work to the paralegal centre in Manchester.

Most of the work is due diligence and document management for the litigation and corporate practices, but Addleshaws is also looking to extend its remit to include more transactional support for the firm’s commercial and banking practices…

Addleshaws employment head Andrew Chamberlain, who oversees the project, commented: “Clients are telling us they don’t want to pay a lawyer hundreds of pounds an hour to do this type of work, but they also don’t necessarily want it to be sent overseas, either.

“This is the happy medium – we’re able to keep costs down and our associates are able to develop their skills in 
other areas.”…

International Understanding

Monday, August 8th, 2011

You may have heard that the ABA is holding its annual convention in Canada this year. ABAJournal.com announced today that “The ABA and Canadian Bar Put Their Special Relationship into Writing:”

The U.S. and Canada share perhaps the longest unguarded border of any two countries in the world, running from the Atlantic Ocean across the North American continent. There is an arch spanning one of the many border crossings in sight of the Pacific Ocean south of Vancouver. A message is printed on that arch: “Children of a common mother.”

If that message characterizes the relationship between the U.S. and Canada, it also describes the relationship between the legal communities of the two countries, said leaders of the ABA and the Canadian Bar Association at a special ceremony held today to commemorate that bond.

The ABA is also, according to the story, finalizing a cooperation agreement with the Korean Bar Association.

One thing the two legal systems does not have entirely in common is the utilization of paralegal as in many areas of Canada the term “independent paralegal” has real meaning whereas the ABA recognizes only paralegals working under the supervision of any attorney. Indeed, as many of the posts in the “Canada” category discuss, one Canadian province has started licensing paralegals for some services. Most United States bar associations treat any paralegal activity other than that supervised by an attorney as UPL.

The ABAJournal.com article reminded me that I also wanted to post about international cooperation among paralegals and paralegal associations. I’ve mentioned before the relationship between the New York City Paralegal Association and the Institute of Paralegal in England.  A recent (although not the current) issues of NYCPA’s Paralegal Buzz includes this news:

New York City Paralegal Association Board Members met with representatives from Japan Federation of Bar Association

WHAT’S NEW?
On June 28, 2011, a group of NYCPA Board Members met with the Japanese visiting scholar and representatives from Japan Federation of Bar Association (“JFBA”) on their study mission to the United States. In November 2011, JFBA will hold the 17th Symposium on Legal Practice Reform. At the Symposium, one of the topics of discussion will be “The Cultivation of Administrative Staff and Revitalization of Attorneys’ Services: Perspectives on How to Utilize the JFBA’s Training and Competence Accreditation System” on the reform of legal practice.

The mission of the visiting group is to gain a better understanding of the role of paralegals in the United States. During the two-hours meeting, we discussed the role of NYCPA in the community; why and how NYCPA was created; educational, networking and pro bono opportunities provided by NYCPA to its members and community; educational background and training opportunities for paralegals in NYC; accreditation system, work environment and job-based relationships between broad categories of administrative staff and paralegals and attorneys.

The efforts made by NYCPA to connect with their counterparts internationally is quite impressive. I suppose I should be more thrilled than I am with the ABA’s recent efforts. What would thrill me more though is a regular ABA Symposium on Reform of Legal Practice that focused on the utilization of paralegals to revitalize attorney services and help alleviate the access to justice problem.

 

Institute of Paralegals (England) News

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

As I’ve mentioned before, the New York City Paralegal Association, one of the premiere paralegal associations in the United States, has an on-going cooperative relationship with a paralegal association in England, the Institute of Paralegals. Thanks to that relationship the latest edition of the Institute’s Paralegal News is now available through this NYCPA link. I’ve had the good fortune to travel to London to do research on the paralegal profession and practice there and find the similarities and differences in the two systems to be quite fascinating. (Despite the fact that our law is based on English common law, our system of paralegal practice seems to have more in common with the system in France.)

H/T to James at the NYCPA LinkedIn Group.