LAO paralegals expand scope of services in four criminal courts
Posted: Monday, August 25, 2014
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) paralegals working in four courthouses across Ontario will soon be expanding their role to increase direct frontline services for low-income Ontarians.
For the past seven months, a select group of five paralegals has been part of an LAO study examining how inter-professional teams of lawyers, paralegals, and legal aid workers can work together to provide clients with better, more cost-effective services.
“We are thrilled to support our staff paralegals as they expand their role. The five paralegals participating in the study exhibit a strong commitment to access to justice and are making contributions both to their local teams and to the development of LAO’s paralegal capacity,”
The paralegals participating in the study have been matched with lawyer mentors, who support their development, and have completed training on criminal law and the paralegal scope of practice. These paralegals have participated in unique exercises to ensure the quality of services clients are receiving. As expected, these paralegals—who were selected for their suitably to take on these expanded roles—are delivering high quality services that meet or exceed LAO’s expectations for our staff.
“We are thrilled to support our staff paralegals as they expand their role. The five paralegals participating in the study exhibit a strong commitment to access to justice and are making contributions both to their local teams and to the development of LAO’s paralegal capacity,” said Kirsti Mathers McHenry, Director, Strategic Initiatives & Planning, who is leading the study. “The fact that we have more options to meet the needs of our clients is a tribute to the training these paralegals have received, their understanding of our clients’ needs, and their ability to contribute to their teams.”
Working under the direct supervision of a lawyer, the paralegals participating in the study are now providing clients with legal advice, advice on diversion services and in Ottawa our most experienced paralegal will be providing service to clients on pleas, among other duties.
“This study has demonstrated that LAO paralegals, working within their scope of practice, can provide clients with quality legal assistance,” says David McKillop, Vice President Policy, Research, and External Relations. “Paralegals are licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, so it only makes sense that LAO include them in our service mix to provide clients with faster access to immediate frontline legal help.”
Paralegal services are being provided in Ottawa, Brampton, Hamilton and London. LAO will continue to work with local managers and the integrated courthouse teams to ensure ongoing quality of service, training, and support.
Paralegals are licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, the same governing body that regulates lawyers, to provide services in summary conviction matters where the accused faces no more than six months imprisonment and in provincial offence matters. In accordance with the Legal Aid Services Act, all non-lawyer staff at LAO work under the supervision of lawyers.
Kirsti Mathers McHenry
Director, Strategic Initiatives & Planning
Corporate Services Division
Legal Aid Ontario
Phone: (416) 979-2352 x6404