Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

Ontario Paralegal and Law Society on Same Immigration Page

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Since many Ontario paralegals are licenses and practice independently of attorneys, issues can arise over potential competition between the two. As previously discussed here, some paralegals there object to the fact that paralegals are regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada on this basis, i.e., lawyers regulate their competition. I’ve argued that in the United States, licensing paralegals for limited tasks would help solve the access to justice prob lem without causing competition because most of people with an access to justice problem simply cannot afford attorneys and are not serviced by them in any case.

A recent article in the Law Times, however, indicates that the Law Society of Upper Canada has successfully lobbied MPs to exempt paralegals from regulation as immigration consultants. According to the report, the paralegal society and the law society were “on the same page” on this. This may just be an example of the “common enemy” rule in practice, though. The issue is who is going to regulate paralegals providing immigration services. According to the article,

Bill C-35, the cracking down on crooked consultants act that’s currently winding its way through Parliament, is the federal government’s response to a string of controversies involving unqualified and unethical consultants who exploited prospective immigrants to the country.

The bill tightens up the rules on who can charge fees for immigration advice. In the meantime, hearings are underway to find a governing body to regulate consultants and thereby replace the Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants.

So people providing immigration services are going to be regulated by someone and the Law Society was essentially saying the turf was already covered:

After the government announced the legislation in June, the Paralegal Society of Ontario wrote to the federal government to request an exemption given the LSUC’s regulation of paralegals.

“We provide a valuable choice for the public and are recognized as a valuable provider of legal services,” wrote paralegal society president Chris Surowiak.

“Individuals wanting to immigrate to Canada can be assured they will have a qualified representative when they retain the services of a paralegal member of the law society.”

Last month, the law society backed him up, sending Treasurer Laurie Pawlitza to make the pitch for paralegals at the standing committee on citizenship and immigration.

She pointed to the law society’s 200-year track record of successful regulation and discipline and noted paralegals must carry professional liability insurance.

Surowiak tells Law Times the exemption will save paralegals who practise immigration law more than $3,000 per year in fees paid to remain members of CSIC.
Of course, not everyone is happy.

 “Sergio Karas, a past chairman of the Ontario Bar Association’s citizenship and immigration section, sees the whole bill as an erosion of lawyers’ territory but finds the law society’s move on paralegals particularly galling.

“I think it’s a scandal because it is invading areas that are traditionally the province of lawyers,” he tells Law Times. “The law society is undermining the role of lawyers.”

One does wonder how many people have not had access to justice for fear of “undermining the role of lawyers” and an unwillingness to buck tradition.

NYCPA

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

A while back I was invited to join the New York City Paralegal Association Advisory Committee. Thus far I have been of little assistance to the group. However, while in NYC last week I did have the pleasure of meeting with four members of the NYCPA Executive Board: Mariana Fradman, President, Cynthia Bynum, Vice-President, Nicole DeMent, Treasurer, and Channet Jusino, Secretary.  These Board Members reflect the NYCPA as a whole: remarkably diverse, knowledgeable, competent, and professional. And they pretty much cover the range for the paralegal profession, including a single attorney law office, a very large law office, corporate in-house counsel office, and a “hybrid.”  While the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the association’s involvement in access-to-justice programs, I also learned a lot about NYCPA. I was impressed.

This relatively new paralegal association appears to exemplify the best of professional associations. The creation of a nation-wide advisory committee is just one example. The association also provides CLE programs designed to meet the needs of the membership – no small task given the diversity of the membership, networking events, newsletters, and the other standard benefits of a professional association. This association also goes further providing pro bono opportunities through NYC Housing Court and immigration access-to-justice programs. It also has entered into at least one international agreement with the goal of establishing standards for paralegal practice. 

Thanks in particular to the contribution of one of the members of the Board, the association also seems to have a unique sense of branding. I left the meeting with one example, a notebook/pen set bearing the NYCPA logo.

 All-in-all the group seems to be admirably living up to its Mission Statement:

New York City Paralegal Association, Inc. (NYCPA) primary objectives are education: providing members with career guidance and Continue Legal Education (CLE) seminars; network opportunities; global, national, and state proficiency standards; and Professional recognition. The NYCPA is dedicated to promoting the professional growth of paralegals and the advancement of the paralegal profession. Our vision is to develop a strong association that encourages interaction among students, entry-level and experienced paralegals to facilitate the exchange of insightful information, advice, and guidance to build successful careers.
One final note. There are some virtues of an association that cannot be easily ascertained from the websites, event lists, and other indicia of accomplishment. The members of the Board with whom I met exhibited a level of personal interest in and support of each other, as well as their profession, that is really the bedrock of any successful organization.