It is not possible for lawyer to be a paralegal bencher. If a paralegal bencher becomes a lawyer, they cease to be a bencher.
A law degree itself does not necessarily lead to the possibility of becoming a lawyer. Foreign law degrees, especially by distance learning are not even eligible for writing a bar exam without a long, costly, and arduous accreditation process.
However, if a paralegal bencher candidate intended to become a lawyer, it would have been a fair concern for the voter. This would have been a fair question if asked in an open-minded and respectful manner.
One of the proxies of the Coalition for Good Governance chose a more confrontational tone attacking my character and motivation.
“How can you state you want to represent the paralegal profession when it is obvious you are aiming to become a lawyer and abandon our profession.”
Even though in essence, a question about my legal studies has been already asked and answered in several forums, it’s worth making a separate post on it to deal with it once and put it to rest.
I have never made it a secret that I am a student in an undergraduate laws program at the University of London distance learning. I am proud of my legal education. It will make me a better paralegal and a better bencher. But I will not be unique. There are many paralegals with a foreign law degree.
However, I have never made it at all “obvious” that I was, as the person suggested, “aiming to become a lawyer and abandon our profession”.
Those were baseless speculations. This question was not aimed to get to know me as a candidate, but instead it was framed to disparage and defame.
As a matter of fact, at this stage of my life, I am actually aiming for a career in academia and possibly tribunal adjudication while remaining a paralegal, I am not aiming for a career as a lawyer.
But let me still assure the voter that even if I wanted to become a lawyer, I am committed to serving the full term as elected. And I will go a step further, and I will also assure you that I am committed to continuity as well.
Secondly, you may or may not know that not all LLB programs make the graduate eligible for an L1 application. My program, for example, which is foreign distance learning, does not qualify for admission to the Ontario Bar. While not impossible, there would be a very long and expensive NCA process to do it, and it is ridden with many contingencies that can derail a foreign LLB graduate’s L1 application.
I’ll walk you through it.
First, a foreign law graduate needs to apply for NCA accreditation. Generally, with an LLB from the University of London, the NCA would require an applicant to complete a 2-year in-person LLM. The cost is approximately $60,000, which may be higher. The applicant also needs to have graduated from the LLB program with a high enough average to even be considered for LLM.
Of course, you don’t know me, and you are entitled to receive every assurance from me that I am committed to completing my bencher term. I am giving you and every paralegal here my word for that commitment.
But in addition to my good word, you can take extra assurance in the fact that at my current stage in the program, I would not even physically be able to get an L1 until after the end of my bencher term anyway.
In my particular case, even if I decide to go through the accreditation, in the most successful outcome and assuming I graduate this year with a high enough average grade, I could not even begin my LLM program sooner than in the Fall of 2024. This means I could not graduate from the two-year LLM sooner than the Summer of 2026. Between articling and writing the bar exam, in the most successful scenario, I would not be able to get called to the Bar until about the Spring of 2027 which puts me right at the end of this Bencher term.
I am, however, fully committed to serving as a bencher, as a said. I have put all proverbial eggs in that basket. As a matter of fact, I have already put off my law school exams this year, so chances are, I would not even have been ready for the Spring of 2027 call.
This brings me to the question of continuity. I have been asked about this also, and I can assure you that even if I complete an LLM as a backup plan, when the time comes, in 2027, I intend to run for reelection.
Continuing my work and building my legacy as a bencher would be of far greater importance for me than becoming a new lawyer at the age of 58.
Here is the best part.
There are obvious benefits to having a law degree when you are a paralegal bencher building bridges with 40 lawyers. Being on an equal footing with those lawyers at least by way of education, while presenting a paralegal perspective, I consider an advantage and an asset.
I hope it addresses my commitment to the paralegal profession.
I will conclude with this. I am proud of my legal education. It will make me a more competent paralegal. It will make me a more competent bencher.
Conversely, paralegal candidates who are coalition members have made what appears to me the most illogical and unnecessary pledge I have ever seen from any aspiring leader, which is their collective vow of self-limitation, a vow to avoid obtaining a higher legal education.
I am referring to the websites of coalition paralegal candidates where they have collectively imposed upon each other a strange and unnecessary commitment not to apply or go to law school.
Does the coalition think that a less educated paralegal is better for good governance than a paralegal who would dare to pursue a law degree?