Law Society of B.C. proposes new category of legal professionals

The Law Society of British Columbia wants to create a new class of legal service providers who would help increase access to the justice system.

The Law Society says "certified paralegals" would tackle issues in underserved areas of the law

The Law Society of British Columbia wants to create a new class of legal professionals who would provide low-cost services in underserved areas of the law.  (CBC)

The Law Society of British Columbia wants to create a new class of legal service providers who would help increase access to the justice system.

A recent report written by a task force led by the Law Society says "certified paralegals" would be lower-cost, credentialed and regulated professionals who can tackle issues within family law, advocate for clients before administrative tribunals and small claims courts, and handle residential tenancy disputes.

Those are all areas that many lawyers find uninteresting, or where many people end up self-representing because they can't afford a lawyer, said the Law Society's first vice-president David Crossin.

"A lot of lawyers, they spend a lot of time in law school, they think big, they're ambitious, they're not particularly interested in residential tenancy issues," Crossin told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"In the large scheme of things, it's not a big thing, but for the single mom who's fighting with her landlord, it is everything and those people need help, they're getting left behind, and we think that legal service providers — not lawyers — can fill that void."

Paralegals already exist in B.C., but they mostly handle minor legal tasks like drafting documents and assisting lawyers, said Crossin. As part of a pilot program that began in 2013, designated paralegals can also appear in court to speak to certain family matters.

However, Crossin wants B.C. to move even further towards Ontario's model, where roughly 6,000 paralegals can handle cases in small claims court or certain criminal matters in provincial court.

How "certified paralegals" will be credentialed and regulated, and the type of education they would need is still to be determined. Crossin said the Law Society is currently framing legislation to bring forward to the provincial government, asking it to change the Legal Profession Act in order to permit this new class of legal service providers.

To hear the full interview with David Crossin, listen to the audio labelled: Law Society wants to introduce new category of legal professionals

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