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.
I continue with my series of videos where I reach out to introduce myself to you and reflect with you on matters that are important in this election.
In the previous video I started a conversation on the topic of scope. I emphasized the importance of approaching the expansion of scope not as a matter of competition or self-interest, but as a matter of expanding paralegals’ competence including pre-licensing education and even further back, to selection of qualified candidates for this profession. In this video, I continue on the subject of the recent Family Law update.
I have made my concerns known as far as the Family Law license for paralegals through various conversations and social media articles. I have expressed my views that the Convocation decisions on the FLSP fell not only short of the expectations, but in fact, fell short of the standard of the Law Society’s duty to act in interests of access to justice…
Not a single bencher in the December Convocation acknowledged that this step had any chance of solving the problem of access to justice in Family Law, and then they passed it.
I have criticized and I remain critical of accepting that “something is better than nothing” when we know in our hearts that paralegals could do more in Family Court.
Without any transparency, the crucial Convocation decision inexplicably took a view that suddenly went sharply inconsistent with the Chief Justice Bonkalo report on the role of paralegals in Family Law.
It is also my position that the Law Society has repeatedly rejected many other well thought-out, meticulously analyzed, and data-driven paralegal scope proposals delivered to the Law Society at the request of the Law Society by some of the top legal scholars and judiciary starting from Professor Ron Ianni, Justice Peter Cory, Justice Zuker, to name a few.
When elected a bencher, I will continue to make it my job and my passion to promote evidenced-based awareness of the excellent work that paralegals are capable of, and I will continue to promote the expansion of access to justice through strengthening paralegals’ competence, with the view to empower the Law Society to support a strong, competent paralegal profession with a wide scope to serve the interests of access to justice and the interests of the public.
But my concern with the Family Law scope is not only how limited and impractical it is. It is also my view that access to justice is not served when paralegal profession is fragmented with different classes of paralegal licenses.
Who wants to ever hear a question asking whether you are quote-on-quote a full scope paralegal, or just a basic P1? Who wants to spend thousands of dollars and several months in college every time a small expansion of scope is introduced? Especially who wants to be required to learn more than lawyers ever had to just be able to do a fraction of their work for a fraction of their billings?
It is my view that fragmenting the paralegal profession by adding different classes of licenses, requirements, and costs represents barriers to providing legal services and frustrates the cause of access to justice.
It is my position that introduction of a separate Family Law license is not only putting paralegals into separate groups, but most importantly separating us from access to justice…. “divorcing us” from access to justice, not bringing us any closer.
A very narrow, limited Family Law scope does not contribute to our professional development beyond turning a paralegal into a source of referrals for family lawyers. It does not support development of a strong and independent paralegal profession. On the contrary, it contributes to confining paralegals to subservient roles, keeping us overburdened with requirements yet perpetually undereducated. It is my position that a paralegal who is undereducated and overwhelmed cannot meaningfully contribute to access to justice.
Not only that, but it also adds to costs and inefficiencies of governance.
The Law Society will now have to be concerned with regulating multiple professions, the lawyers, the paralegals, the FLSPs. And now that the precedent is set, potentially additional other professions that could come within the same scheme of multi-tier licensing of paralegals.
It is my view that the expansion of scope is best approached holistically, which means through strengthening foundational competencies at pre-licensing level. Building upon a strong foundation of understanding our legal system, advocacy, research, and practice management skills, is the best way to move forward into exploring additional areas of providing legal services by paralegals.
It is my position, and hopefully that of many of us, that access to justice and public interest is best served by avoiding a multi-tier licensing scheme for paralegals, such as adding FLSP license.
As for those of us already licensed, who are already sworn to abide by the Paralegal Rules of Conduct, who are sworn officers of the Court, we can and should be trusted to catch up to the new scope through self-education, and by adhering strictly to the standards of our duty of competence in our chosen field of legal services, just like we honour other duties and obligations, which fall upon our own self-discipline as legal service providers. Just like we have been grandfathered before.
When elected a bencher, I will stand to support creating programs with rather voluntary certification opportunities for bringing up-to-date every paralegal who wants to serve in the new area of scope.
And to protect the public interest, I will stand for promoting and enforcing the standards of the paralegals’ duty of competence.
Those are some of my views on the Family law. Thank you again for taking the time to reflect on them with me.