The Evolution of Designated Paralegals in BC

March 18, 2016

Across Canada, the legal profession is faced with a critical challenge: find ways to increase access to justice — especially to citizens caught in the middle, who do not qualify for legal aid, but also can’t afford expensive legal fees.

Over the last few years, BC has undertaken an important program that helps address this access to justice crisis. The Designated Paralegal program allows paralegals working under the supervision of a lawyer to deliver competent, affordable legal help at significantly lower rates than traditional legal services.

As we work with so many talented, dedicated paralegals here at Dye & Durham, we think this program is worth calling attention to. Here’s a look at how it’s evolved in the short time since its inception:

June 2012: The Benchers of the Law Society of BC approve an expanded role for paralegals along with definitions that clarify what they can do.

January 2013: A 2-year Family Law Pilot Project kicks off, giving designated paralegals the ability to appear in certain family law courts. The pilot project is a partnership between the Law Society of BC, the BC Supreme Court and the BC Provincial Court.

Designated paralegals are also now permitted to give and receive undertakings and to give legal advice directly to clients (such as giving oral advice or preparing documents and giving them to a client).

December 2014: The 2-year Family Law Pilot Project meets its original end-date in the Supreme Court, but is extended in the Provincial Court until October 1, 2015.
December 2015: The Law Society of BC agrees to allow designated paralegals to represent clients at family law mediation, subject to certain conditions.
February 2016: The Law Society of BC is running “a short, voluntary survey to help determine how the program is working and whether improvements are necessary.” Lawyers and the designated paralegals they supervise are asked to discuss the program together before completing the survey. The survey is anonymous and will run until March 31st, 2016 — take it here.

What’s next for the designated paralegal in BC? A Paralegal Certification Project is underway at the Law Society of BC in consultation with the BC Paralegal Association. Will paralegals eventually become regulated in their own right, as they are in Ontario? Only time will tell!

Interesting in learning more?

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