Are Canadian Lawyers Affected As Paralegals Start To Practice?

Published December 10, 2013
Supreme Court Room. Photo credit here.

Supreme Court Room. Photo credit here.

With paralegals now able to practice law in certain circumstances under the supervision of lawyers, the question arises as to whether lawyers will be affected in a negative way by this change. According to the Law Society of Alberta, CA:

In Alberta, there is already a robust and expanding independent non-lawyer legal services market that is unregulated and is projected to grow. There are areas where low income Albertans (those earning under $50,000) are not able to pay for legal services delivered by lawyers or by independent non-lawyers.

Alberta isn’t the only province experimenting with other-than-lawyer legal service providers; particularly paralegals. Other places in Canada are also experimenting with letting paralegals, or other legal professionals, represent clients and essentially practice law under a specific set of circumstances, and generally under the supervision of a lawyer. The goal of this change is to make legal services more widely available; while noble, there is definitely some opposition to the law, particularly from the legal community.

The Prices For Legal Services Will Stagnate If Not Fall

With increased competition, mostly from lower cost providers, the price of legal services will definitely stagnate, flat line, or perhaps even fall as a result of this change. You’re increasing supply at (theoretically) a faster rate than that of demand. This change should, as designed, make these services more accessible to the masses.

Paralegals in Ontario, for example, will now have the ability to represent clients in:

  • Small claims court
  • Traffic and other offenses
  • Hearings before tribunals (Landlord vs. Tenant for example)
  • Minor criminal charges under the criminal code

For these smaller, less significant events the use of a paralegal over a lawyer may help save thousands of dollars for the average Canadian. While this is indeed good news, it isn’t all positive.

Are People Accepting Paralegals Instead Of Lawyers Getting A Lower Level Of Care?

The training to become a lawyer is obviously much more substantial than that of a paralegal (Details here: How long Does It Take To Become A Lawyer). Additionally, lawyers have been tested more so than paralegals in entrance exams, law school, and the general competitive nature of a post-secondary professional degree. The weak have generally fallen out, and what is left is a group of highly-skilled, highly-motivated people who have put in the hours to get to where they are. A paralegal, on the other hand, may have just done a quick online course or something similar; hardly comparable.

This change, whether positive or negative, is happening and starting to catch on. With fewer people taking the plunge to get into law, the trend will apparently continue and grow. While it hasn’t yet spread to other countries, like the United States, it will surely, in some form, rear it’s heard there as well.

Whether or not lawyers will be negatively affected due to this change is yet to be seen. On one hand, the change is a response to increased demand that lawyers were apparently not meeting. On the other hand, that increased demand would have insured a nice price inflation for legal fees in the forseeable future and beyond; something that may not happen now. This will directly affect the bottom line of lawyers to some degree. The question is, how much?

No Response to “Are Canadian Lawyers Affected As Paralegals Start To Practice?”

Comments are closed.