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.
Expansion of scope has always been a big issue for paralegals, and every candidate is going to promise to you that they will tackle it head on. But if you have attended my accredited CPD on Paralegal’s Role in Governance, or if you have watched it on-demand, then you know, not every issue is even within the powers of the Law Society. Sometimes what we need to do is develop and present our proposal to the Government, ensure support of all the stakeholders including the judiciary and relevant agencies, and then sometimes we have to take it to the Cabinet, the Attorney General, and all the way up to the Legislature.
From April 19 to April 28, you will need to decide which candidate is best prepared and best suited to advocate for paralegals’ role in access to justice through all levels. From the Committees and the Convocation floor to working with the stakeholders and with the Legislature and the Cabinet.
To introduce myself I have started working on this series of videos where I reach out to you, and reflect with you on matters that are important in this election. I am going to offer to you several videos on the topic of expansion of scope, and I will start with this.
A prominent family lawyer reacted to paralegal family law licensing by asking, “Could this be the beginning of the end of lawyers in Ontario?”
Well, my question is, could this exact sentiment and preoccupation with competition be the reason why paralegals ended up with such an impotent family law scope?
Does expansion of paralegal scope take some work away from lawyers? I am sure it does. But wouldn’t it be contrary to the Law Society’s mandate to be concerned with regulating competition?
Competition and self-interest should never inform voting decisions for either lawyer or paralegal benchers. But then, we have also heard at the December Convocation that it was the judiciary who had concerns over the paralegals’ insufficient competence. This is why when I am elected a paralegal bencher, I will approach the expansion of scope not as a matter of competition or self-interest, but as a matter of expanding paralegals’ access to competence.
I have been for some time, and as a bencher I am going to remain concerned with eliminating that very reason for judicial feedback that prevented the Law Society from making a better access to justice decision in December of 2022. I am going to remain concerned with the availability of tools for paralegals to acquire and maintain top competence and quality of service.
But also, I would like to share my view that developing competence starts long before the licensing process. I have spoken to a number of paralegal students and college instructors, and they shared with me their experience that a great number of students are being recruited into the programs without a clear understanding or an accurate expectation of the outcomes.
This means we must offer educational institutions the tools for recruiting the right people for the profession. It means, paralegal education, much like lawyers’ education must begin with a reasonable pre-screening. Even though the Law Society does not regulate colleges, it is the regulator’s direct function to oversee standards of education, which means it falls upon the regulator to provide the educational institutions with the tools to assess the aptitudes for the barrister type work that paralegals do in provincial courts and tribunals, and giving the aspiring paralegals the tools to self-evaluate before they commit to the studies.
Conversely, it also includes ensuring that raising the bar does not unfairly raise the entry barriers for the right individuals to join the profession.
So, of course I am going to remain concerned with expanding our scope, but doing so as a matter of strengthening our access to competence as a profession.
I am very clear that expansion of scope cannot be successful in a lawyer-dominated Convocation just as a matter of paralegal interest. But I am also confident that it can be successful when paralegal interests are synergistic with concerns for public interest and expanding access to justice. And access to justice requires a continued development of a strong and competent paralegal profession in Ontario.
I am aware of other candidates who emphasize expansion of scope, including expansion into appeals and judicial review work at the Divisional court level for paralegals. And I am committed to supporting that and putting my very best efforts behind it.
I just want to be very clear and very realistic for which is the carriage and which is the horse, and which one comes first. And the first priority for me when elected a bencher, will be standing for raising paralegals’ competence through every tool possible, pre-licensing education, mentorships, continued education, alleviating and lifting the anti-competitive barriers that Private Career Colleges face, supporting educational initiatives of the local and the diversity paralegal associations.
And these are my thoughts reflecting on the foundation that we need establish in order to even begin having a meaningful conversation on the expansion of scope.
In the future videos on this subject, I will share my concerns about the FLSP license and my views on expanding the Family Law scope in a more sensible way, I will share my approach to recognizing our scope for immigration, and also on recognizing our scope in a number of other areas where we already possess the core competencies and where the By-Law 4 could be amended not as a matter of adding completely new fields, but as a matter of recognizing an existing reality.
Thank you again for taking the time to reflect on these matters with me.