Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

Paralegal UPL in Canada

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Licensing of paralegal does not, apparently, entirely eliminate the concern regarding UPL by paralegals, but may shift that concern to paralegals performing activities that go beyond their license as indicated by this report:

A disciplinary panel has reserved its decision to a later date whether to grant a former North Bay councillor her licence to continue practising as a paralegal.

The Law Society of Upper Canada which oversees paralegals and lawyers in Ontario held a four-day good character hearing in North Bay last month to determine if Maureen Boldt should be granted a licence.

Lawyers for the law society and for Boldt gave their closing arguments Tuesday at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

Boldt started working as a paralegal in 1992 and has three law society convictions for the unauthorized practise of law by performing tasks that only licensed lawyers in Ontario are allowed to do.

The last conviction put her in contempt of court for ignoring an injunction to stop illegally practising law. She was sentenced to four months house arrest and lost her seat on city council when she missed too many consecutive meetings.

The law society began issuing licences to paralegals in 2008 and it has allowed Boldt to continue practising pending the outcome of the hearing.

More on the Canadian Example

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

I’ve posted previously on the paralegal licensing program in Ontario asking, “Is Canada Leading the Way?” Today’s post deals with another aspect of licensing – disciplinary hearings and the possibility of losing a license. Here’s the first few paragraphs of a story on www.northernnews.ca:

The organization that oversees the paralegal profession in Ontario is giving a former North Bay paralegal more time to prepare for a disciplinary hearing that could revoke her licence.

Maureen Boldt was found in contempt of court in 2007 for violating a court order that banned her from the unauthorized practise of law after a superior court judge found she prepared a separation agreement, which is something only licensed lawyers in Ontario are allowed to do.

She was sentenced to four months house arrest, which cost her a seat on city council last year because she missed too many consecutive meetings.

The injunction came after Boldt admitted years earlier to illegally practising law by offering legal advice when preparing wills and separation agreements.

Boldt was at Osgoode Hall Monday morning at the start of what was supposed to be a disciplinary hearing that could see her lose her paralegal licence.

As is usually the case, there are differing opinions on what this story illustrates. Some will say it shows the dangers of licensing. No one wants to be in the position of losing their ability to work, i.e., their license, because they made a mistake. Other will look at it as an opportunity to improve the profession and protect the public by providing a way to remove those who should not be in the profession from the profession. They will point out this was not a mistake, but an apparently flagrant violation of the law – a second time violation at that. Those opposing regulation will point to the fact that this woman has already been punished the court’s contempt order.  However, this situation is confronted by attorneys all the time. Should it not also apply to paralegals?

How does the profession acheive the right balance of allowing paralegals the maximum amount of independence to maximize their benefit to the legal system and the public on the one hand, with the need to protect the profession, the legal system and the public from those who cannot or will not handle the responsibility that goes with that independence?

Read the full story at the link above and let me know what you think.

A Professional Is Ethical

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Here I’m not talking about the legal ethics you studied in class, although for attorneys the rules governing their professional conduct are often referred to as “Rules of Professional Conduct.” Certainly every attorney will want you to know, respect and apply the rules of legal ethics demanded of them by the court or other body that supervises and disciplines them as professionals. They will require you do to so even if they are not naturally inclined towards following them simply to avoid discipline. Most attorneys are aware that they are responsible for what their staff does even if they do not understand the particular role of a paralegal and their special obligation to supervise paralegals.

What you need to show your attorney is not only that you understand the ethical requirements of the legal profession, but that you have and follow a personal ethic that raises you to the level of a professional. Now I am not suggesting that non-professionals are not ethical or never have to make ethical choices. My remarks are made in the context of our discussion of you as a paralegal having or wanting more responsibility – responsibility reserved to professionals as a result of their specialized knowledge and experience. With that responsibility comes more opportunity for non-ethical choices and an higher expectation for ethical behavior.