Vote Vladimir

9. Ontario Paralegal Part TWO. Channeling the brain drain

I am Vladimir Reznik and I am running for paralegal Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario in the 2023 election. 

Running on a platform of being a candidate who makes sense.

In the previous video I identified an urgent crisis of paralegal retention, and the need for a holistic approach, not a band-aid piecemeal approach to solving it.

I gave an example of a clinical approach to education, which law schools like Osgoode Hall have been utilizing for years.  And it made Osgoode Hall one of the most sought-after law schools in Canada.

And then I thought more about law schools. Since the beginning of my campaign, I have been monitoring my growing network of LinkedIn connections, and I have been seeing a very high number of licensed paralegals who are either studying for a law degree, or already have a law degree and going through the NCA process.  And I imagine it’s not just about money.  It’s about the gaps in competence, and wanting to learn more, and wanting to do more.  And then it results in brain drain as far as the paralegal profession is concerned.

But what if it was encouraged by the Law Society for paralegals to obtain higher legal education together with some retention incentives?

What if instead of complaining and helplessly acquiescing to the “paralegal-to-lawyer pipeline”, we rewarded paralegals who took to higher legal education and recognized a special status of paralegals with a Common Law law degree, and allowed a wider scope for them?   The Divisional Court scope that all of us would love to see, if successful, will take at least another decade, certainly not any less than the Family Law took, and by that comparison, unlike the Family Law expansion, I see no evidence of any political will to support it at any level. 

But if we are going to fragment the profession through different classes of licenses like the FLSP, wouldn’t it make better sense to recognize a greater scope for those paralegals who already went through the extra studies?  And that includes lawyers from other Common Law jurisdictions like India, Pakistan, or Nigeria and South Africa, Jamaica and British West Indies? 

And how much better would that serve advancing access to justice for the racialized communities?  How much better would that serve the values of diversity and inclusion…? instead of some performative diversity index, which has more to do with the looks rather than the actual inclusive and equitable access to justice.

And by the way, this measure wouldn’t only benefit foreign lawyers.

Did you know that a qualifying undergraduate law degree by distance learning from the University of London, for example, could be obtained in two years with no LSAT requirements for admission?  As an Ontario paralegal, you could be studying independently on your own schedule, and at a total cost of under 10,000 dollars Canadian including books and tuition.

And this is not a diploma mill.  I am talking about a qualifying law degree, a degree which would actually allow you to become a solicitor or a barrister in England and Wales.

The problem is, you still can’t go from that degree to writing a bar exam here.  If that’s your goal, then you would have to spend almost another three years plus somewhere in the range of another 50 to 60 thousand dollars to become a lawyer in Ontario.  And not every LLB graduate or a foreign-educated lawyer will even be able or willing to go through that accreditation.  But as a paralegal with a real law degree from a recognized law school, shouldn’t you be allowed to do more of what you always wanted to do, which is to do more for access to justice and for your community, and without necessarily becoming licensed as a lawyer?

So, if we are going to fragment the profession by adding different classes of licenses like the FLSP, then maybe that would be a model to look at.  Raising professional growth ceiling for paralegals while solving the retention problem, and enhancing access to justice, and serving the needs of diverse communities all at the same time. 

Now.., what exactly should be included in the expanded scope for law degree paralegals?  Is it appeals and judicial reviews in tribunal and small claims court matters?  Is it family law?  It is drafting contracts? Or is it other legal services like drafting wills?  All of that requires further research, and planning, and consultations with stakeholders. 

Now it’s just a wonderful vision, and it’s going to be a lot of committee work to get it done.

And right now, I don’t have every answer.  I don’t even have every question that needs to be answered.  But I am looking forward to getting them answered together with my colleagues on Access to Justice Committee and on the Paralegal Standing Committee.

And this is not necessarily the only solution to the problems we need to solve. 

But the overarching end goal is to advance access to justice in public interest.  One of the main means of doing that is by raising the limits of competence, and raising the scope, the recognition, the value and prestige of the paralegal profession.  That includes addressing the brain drain, and channeling those paralegal resources who are only leaving the profession because there is no middle ground.

And I understand that not all of my ideas would necessarily meet the approval of other benchers.  Or maybe not right away.

But I can be relentless, and persuasive, and researched…  and then again, it’s not about proving me right.

It’s about this fresh perspective, this willingness to take a birds-eye view on the problem, this holistic approach to problems, innovative thinking, out-of-the box thinking, that with your help, I aspire to bring to Convocation and to Committees.

And I thank you once again for taking the time to get to know my campaign.

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